Knowing the Caveats in Cloud Computing

Cloud computing has become such a buzzword in business circles today that many organisations both small and large, are quick to jump on the cloud bandwagon – sometimes a little too hastily.

Yes, the benefits of the cloud are numerous: reduced infrastructure costs, improved performance, faster time-to-market, capability to develop more applications, lower IT staff expenses; you get the picture. But contrary to what many may be expecting or have been led to believe, cloud computing is not without its share of drawbacks, especially for smaller organisations who have limited knowledge to go on with.

So before businesses move to the cloud, it pays to learn a little more about the caveats that could meet them along the way. Here are some tips to getting started with cloud computing as a small business consumer.

Know your cloud. As with anything else, knowledge is always key. Because it is a relatively new tool in IT, it’s not surprising that there is some confusion about the term cloud computing among many business owners and even CIOs. According to the document The NIST Definition of Cloud Computing, cloud computing has five essential characteristics, three basic service models (Saas, Paas and Iaas), and four deployment models (public, community, private and hybrid).

The first thing organisations should do is make a review of their operations and evaluate if they really need a cloud service. If they would indeed benefit from cloud computing, the next steps would be deciding on the service model that would best fit the organisation and choosing the right cloud service provider. These factors are particularly important when you consider data security and compliance issues.

Read the fine print. Before entering into a contract with a cloud provider, businesses should first ensure that the responsibilities for both parties are well-defined, and if the cloud vendor has the vital mechanisms in place for contingency measures. For instance, how does the provider intend to carry out backup and data retrieval operations? Is there assurance that the business’ critical data and systems will be accessible at all times? And if not, how soon can the data be available in case of a temporary shutdown of the cloud?

Also, what if either the company or the cloud provider stops operations or goes bankrupt? It should be clear from the get go that the data remains the sole property of the consumer or company subscribing to the cloud.

As you can see, there are various concerns that need to be addressed closely before any agreement is finalised. While these details are usually found in the Service Level Agreements (SLAs) of most outsourcing and servicing contracts, unfortunately, the same cannot be said of cloud contracts.

Be aware of possible unforeseen costs. The ability of smaller companies to avail of computing resources on a scalable, pay-as-you-go model is one of the biggest selling points of cloud computing. But there’s also an inherent risk here: the possibility of runaway costs. Rather than allowing significant cost savings, small businesses could end up with a bill that’s bound to blow a big hole in their budget.

Take for example the case of a software company cited on InformationWeek.com to illustrate this point. The 250-server cluster the company rented from a cloud provider was inadvertently left turned on by the testing team over the weekend. As a result, their usual $2,300 bill ballooned to a whopping $23,400 over the course of one weekend.

Of course, in all likelihood, this isn’t going to happen to every small and midsize enterprise that shifts to the cloud. However, this should alert business owners, finance executives, and CEOs to look beyond the perceived savings and identify potential sources of unexpected costs. What may start as a fixed rate scheme for on-demand computing resources, may end up becoming a complex pricing puzzle as the needs of the business grow, or simply because of human error as the example above shows.

The caveats we’ve listed here are among the most crucial ones that soon-to-be cloud adopters need to keep in mind. But should these be reasons enough for businesses to stop pursuing a cloud strategy? Most definitely not. Armed with the right information, cloud computing is still the fastest and most effective way for many small enterprises to get the business off the ground with the lowest start-up costs.

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Competencies, Roles and Responsibilities of Lead Assessors

Any organisation that opts for energy audits, Display of Energy Certificates and Green Deal Assessments needs a lead assessor to review the chosen ESOS compliance routes. The Derivative provides that energy audits should be carried out independently by qualified and accredited experts. Additionally, these audits should be implemented as well as supervised by independent authorities under the national legislation.

Lead assessors undertake several roles in ESOS assessments. He or she is the one responsible to take the lead of the entire assessment team, prepare the plan, conduct the meetings and submit the formal report to governing authorities. Nevertheless, selecting an appropriate lead assessor is an important element that every organisation should carefully consider.

Competencies Requirements of Lead Assessors

Lead assessors should be knowledgeable enough with in-depth expertise in carrying out energy efficiency assessment. They should also possess foundational, functional and technical competencies to deliver the task effectively. Likewise, consider the assessors? sector experiences, familiarity with your business? technologies and properties, and accreditation with prescribed standards.

As you choose your lead assessor, contemplate on the skills and qualifications that would give your organisation benefits.

Roles and Responsibilities of Lead Assessors

The business organisation is responsible for the overall legal ESOS compliance. Moreover, here are some of the roles and responsibilities that lead assessors should assume in ESOS assessments.

The lead assessor agrees on the audit methodologies that the organisation would undergo in new audits. He or she agrees with the ESOS participant regarding the audit timetable, sampling approach and visits required. It is also the lead assessor?s role to identify the opportunities on energy saving and assist in calculating the cost savings from the measures taken. During the ESOS audits, the lead assessor determines the energy use profiles, presents the recommendations and reviews the entire assessment as a whole. Furthermore, he or she should maintain the evidence pack of the ESOS to uphold the audit’s credibility, its findings and recommendations.

Finding Lead Assessors

Energy and environment professionals would only be able to demonstrate their expertise as lead assessors upon registering in a professional body accredited by the Environment Agency. Any business that needs a lead assessor is advised to check on the EA?s website to see the details of approved registers.

Lead assessors can either be in-house experts or external professionals. However, they should be able to provide proof of membership as an approved register to take the role of a lead assessor. If the organisation has an internal lead assessor, the company should then take the final ESOS assessment to two board-level directors that would sign the formal report.

Indeed, the lead assessor is an organisation’s partner when it comes to delivering great results. With good professional conduct and excellent management of an assessment team, the lead assessor can help achieve breakthrough energy efficiency strategies. More than anything else, the organisation will benefit from maximum energy savings opportunities ahead. Thus, every qualified business enterprise should invest in finding the best lead assessor to guide them towards success.

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User-Friendly RASCI Accountability Matrices

Right now, you’re probably thinking that’s a statement of opposites. Something dreamed up by a consultant to impress, or just to fill a blog page. But wait. What if I taught you to create order in procedural chaos in five minutes flat? ?Would you be interested then?

The first step is to create a story line ?

Let’s imagine five friends decide to row a boat across a river to an island. Mary is in charge and responsible for steering in the right direction. John on the other hand is going to do the rowing, while Sue who once watched a rowing competition will be on hand to give advice. James will sit up front so he can tell Mary when they have arrived. Finally Kevin is going to have a snooze but wants James to wake him up just before they reach the island.

That’s kind of hard to follow, isn’t it ?

Let’s see if we can make some sense of it with a basic RASCI diagram ?

Responsibility Matrix: Rowing to the Island
ActivityResponsibleAccountableSupportiveConsultedInformed
PersonJohnMarySueJamesKevin
RoleOarsmanCaptainConsultantNavigatorSleeper

?

Now let’s add a simple timeline ?

Responsibility Matrix: Rowing to the Island
?SueJohnMaryJamesKevin
Gives Direction??A??
Rows the Boat?R???
Provides AdviceS????
Announces Arrival??AC?
Surfaces From Sleep???CI
Ties Boat to Tree??A??

?

Things are more complicated in reality ?

Quite correct. Although if I had jumped in at the detail end I might have lost you. Here?s a more serious example.

rasci

?

There?s absolutely no necessity for you so examine the diagram in any detail, other to note the method is even more valuable in large, corporate environments. This one is actually a RACI diagram because there are no supportive roles (which is the way the system was originally configured).

Other varieties you may come across include PACSI (perform, accountable, control, suggest, inform), and RACI-VS that adds verifier and signatory to the original mix. There are several more you can look at Wikipedia if you like.

Which Services to Share?

It often makes sense to pool resources. Farmers have been doing so for decades by collectively owning expensive combine harvesters. France, Germany, the United Kingdom and Spain have successfully pooled their manufacturing power to take on Boeing with their Airbus. But does this mean that shared services are right in every situation?

The Main Reasons for Sharing

The primary argument is economies of scale. If the Airbus partners each made 25% of the engines their production lines would be shorter and they would collectively need more technicians and tools. The second line of reasoning is that shared processes are more efficient, because there are greater opportunities for standardisation.

Is This the Same as Outsourcing?

Definitely not! If France, Germany, the United Kingdom and Spain has decided to form a collective airline and asked Boeing to build their fleet of aircraft, then they would have outsourced airplane manufacture and lost a strategic industry. This is where the bigger picture comes into play.

The Downside of Sharing

Centralising activities can cause havoc with workflow, and implode decentralised structures that have evolved over time. The Airbus technology called for creative ways to move aircraft fuselages around. In the case of farmers, they had to learn to be patient and accept that they would not always harvest at the optimum time.

Things Best Not Shared

Core business is what brings in the money, and this should be tailor-made to its market. It is also what keeps the company afloat and therefore best kept on board. The core business of the French, German, United Kingdom and Spanish civilian aircraft industry is transporting passengers. This is why they are able to share an aircraft supply chain that spun off into a commercial success story.

Things Best Shared

It follows that activities that are neither core nor place bound – and can therefore happen anywhere ? are the best targets for sharing. Anything processed on a computer can be processed on a remote computer. This is why automated accounting, stock control and human resources are the perfect services to share.

So Case Closed Then?

No, not quite. ?Technology has yet to overtake our humanity, our desire to feel part of the process and our need to feel valued. When an employee, supplier or customer has a problem with our administration it’s just not good enough to abdicate and say ?Oh, you have to speak to Dublin, they do it there?.

Call centres are a good example of abdication from stakeholder care. To an extent, these have ?confiscated? the right of customers to speak to speak directly to their providers. This has cost businesses more customers that they may wish to measure. Sharing services is not about relinquishing the duty to remain in touch. It is simply a more efficient way of managing routine matters.

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