Revolutionary or harlot? The stark choice over cloud

Workers want to move to the cloud - but there's a lot of debating to be done first

Have you heard, the workers are revolting?

Yes, I know, I know  – it's an old joke but IT staff up and down the country must be muttering under their breath about the presumption of employees - with words that are considerably stronger than 'revolting'.

But change is definitely in the air. According to a survey from Virgin Media, nearly two-thirds of staff wish that they could work with their applications in the cloud.

What the survey didn't reveal is why there was this desire: was it because these employees were so wedded to their work that they wished they could work at all hours. Or perhaps the delivery is unimportant but want to work on their own devices. But, perhaps, and this is the clincher, workers just want to be away from the IT department.

Make no mistake about it: there's plenty of dislike for IT departments out there. The techies are seen as rude/unhelpful/restrictive/obstructive(strike out words that do not apply) and, of course, the feeling is mutual – the Bastard Operator from Hell and The IT Crowd aren't purely figments of imagination.

So, it's not surprising that workers are looking for a chance to strike out on their own, without the dread hand of the IT department stopping them. The idea of having access to a variety of applications at the touch of a key is an attractive one to employees who have been used to hearing the answer “no” to any request made to the IT department.

But any idea that a wholesale move to cloud will free up workers from any problems in the future is going to be very wide of the mark.

There will be a a multitude of issues to cope with: the integration of legacy applications, device security, perimeter security, data retention and liability. Someone is going to have to deal without the support around them and as the average user can't be trusted to sit the right way on a toilet (as an IT manager I know rather succinctly put it), it's easy to see how it can all end in disaster,

A journalist colleague of mine, Ian Murphy suggested another problem - what happens when there's a massive loss of data at a Virtual Cloudsvider. Sooner or later, there's certain to be one and then what? Who's liable for any loss? What backup and restore procedures are in place? The users? The service provider? The head of IT (who may have had no or little say in the decision to move to the cloud)?

There's a battle for hearts and minds going on here. Workers calling for cloud applications see themselves as forward-thinking revolutionaries: changing the way that IT is delivered, providing a close alignment between IT and business, saving costs and freeing up the workplace for generations to come as they seize power for themselves, striking a blow for workers' freedom.

All that's true and in many cases, the IT departments will work harmoniously with business executives to produce a smooth transformation of IT practice. But as the Virgin survey shows, demand for cloud services by users exceeds buy-in by their bosses and if workers go it alone, what are the implications?

There's a real danger that a move to the cloud without considering the wider implications could have serious consequences for an organisation.

Knowledge workers might like to think that they're a revolutionary movement but IT workers can be forgiven if they conjure up a different image that of power without responsibility; the prerogative, as Stanley Baldwin pointed out, of the harlot throughout the ages. Let cloud create new opportunities but let's not start a war.

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