Cloud Computing: Friend Or Foe? The End User Blues

This is the final post in the three-part series, Cloud Computing: Friend or Foe? The second installment in this series, ‘Cloud Computing? Friend or Foe? Thoughts from the C-Suite,’ can be found on the MyTechology blog & ITeas.

cloud computing

End users are often unwitting consumers of the cloud. Employees, for example, consume the cloud through personal or company-purchased smarthphones and tablets, while customers use streaming video services, free email hosting and thousands of other access points, and in many cases don’t realize they’ve ever come in contact with the cloud. This kind of ubiquitous adoption suggests a full-on best friends forever (BFF) relationship between end users and the cloud, but this only scratches the surface: Is the cloud friend or foe to the front-line employee and their customer counterpart?

Power to the People

More computing power is now consumed for front-line employee apps like customer relationship management (CRM) software and personal entertainment services than any kind of high-level IT programming. The result is a commensurate shift in power: IT admins are no longer the gatekeepers, able to grant or deny access to technology based on (from the end user’s perspective) arbitrary rules. In fact, most IT professionals are attempting to ensure corporate security through robust access protocols and sensible network use, but many employees see this as a needless restriction on their freedom. Customers, meanwhile, may become frustrated with continued requests for them to authenticate their identity for purchases, or have concerns over what exactly happens to their personal information after being entered into a company website.

The simple answer for end users is to leverage their inherently close relationship with cloud computing  – via smartphones and available 4G networks, for example, or using insecure wireless hotspots – to bypass IT controls and do whatever they think is best. In many cases, C-suite execs turn a blind eye to this practice, known as “shadow IT,” since cloud computing lowers costs and they assume any minor issues caused by users can be fixed by IT admins.

So in a world where employees and customers hold the Lion’s Share of technology power, what’s not the like about the cloud? Simply put, users don’t really know how to use it.

Here’s Your Problem

It’s almost become a truism: The next generation (think twenty-somethings and college students) have a far better grasp of computers and technology than existing IT professionals or any employees who started their careers during the desktop age. A recent article, however, disagrees, arguing that while this new generation can perform some basic computing tasks such as searching Google for answers or downloading hilarious pictures of cats, they lack the ability to troubleshoot even the basic tech issues. Smartphones, for example, are nothing more than miniature computers disguised to look like phones or music players. They become obsolete very quickly, and what’s more obfuscate their file systems and other high-level functions, presenting users with a stripped-down set of options meant to corral rather than empower.

If a desktop crashes, or tablet won’t connect to the Internet, many end users are stumped. They’re not sure what happened, and have no idea how to fix what’s broken. Often, the answer is exceedingly simple – but users simply aren’t taught how to diagnose or address issues. They’re taught to use and ignore.

A Critical Time

It’s no secret that consumer adoption of cloud technology is skyrocketing, even though education lags behind. Businesses, too, are jumping on the cloud bandwagon: Survey data indicates that most large data center budgets are up 10% or more this year, while corporate adoption of public clouds has increased 3% (to 28% total) from 2012. Speed of deployment, lowered costs and scalability are major drivers of this adoption. Perhaps more critically, support for private clouds is dropping; while public alternatives can help a company’s bottom line, they also means giving up a measure of control over critical data and administration.

The resulting market is one almost entirely cloud-focused but which leaves many companies unsure of how best to leverage this echnology in their industry.  IT admins are tasked with controlling the proliferation of devices, while at the same time managing a public cloud environment; end users find themselves empowered by their devices, while simultaneously frustrated when these same devices don’t work as expected. This friend/foe relationship with technology creates an unstable environment, one where intelligent IT oversight is more essential than ever.

I Can Live With That

End users are naturally pro-cloud, benefiting from its use in many cases without conscious choice. They can become unexpectedly oppositional, however, owing to the vanishing need for any technical expertise when using advanced devices. Ultimately, it falls to IT pros to act a mediators and educators when communication breaks down between users and clouds; support coupled with sensible security measures can give employees and customers the assurance of safety without the specter of overzealous IT.


About the Author: Doug Bonderud is a freelance writer, cloud proponent, business technology analyst and a contributor on the Dataprise Cloud Services website.

License: Creative Commons image source

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