As a savvy IT pro, you’ve likely moved beyond your fear of cloud computing as a career-killer, right? If you still have lingering doubts, or you just need a specific plan of action to ensure that your career is cloud-proof, start with these tips to get smart about cloud computing. As Jeff James writes this month in his Business Technology Perspectives column, businesses are continuing to move services to a cloud-based model for a variety of reasons. Your assignment is to figure out how you fit in to this new model.

Review the Basics

 

The most confusing aspect of cloud computing could be the terms used to describe it. Although terms can change, the basic concepts that underlie cloud computing are few, but critical to understand. The first is Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS), in which the hardware that runs your company’s business is managed by a service provider. The second is Software as a Service (SaaS), in which the software that runs your company’s business operations is managed by a service provider. The third is Platform as a Service (PaaS), in which your company builds and manages custom solutions that run on a technology stack hosted by a service provider. These three scenarios offer diverse options for IT pros to add value with skills that transfer fairly seamlessly from traditional, on-premises computing—particularly data center management, system architecture, and application management. Cloud service providers need to collaborate with business-savvy IT experts at the client company. Your value will rise as you apply your expertise to helping your company realize the potential of cloud computing—primarily cost savings and flexibility.

Do Some Homework with Cloud Providers

Call a few cloud service providers and ask how they interact with the IT pros at client companies. How is the IT team involved in defining the services? What are some successful examples of how the IT team helped the cloud service provider implement an optimal solution? Your conversation will be extremely helpful when your company decides to engage a cloud service provider. Or it could lead to a new position for you managing a cloud service provider’s data center.

Understand Licensing Models

Software licensing models are notoriously difficult to understand, causing companies to get stuck with a larger bill than they bargained for after all the internal users, branch offices, and remote workers have been accounted for. Help your company accurately scope cloud-based licensing costs by applying your lessons learned in rolling out on-premises software licenses.

Become an Expert on SLAs

The success of your company’s cloud strategy depends on the ability of the service provider to perform as expected. Become involved in the process of defining the SLA to ensure that your company’s data is secure, your company’s intellectual property is protected, and any performance-based interruptions in business services are adequately compensated. Although some companies bring in contract negotiators to execute agreements with service providers, your familiarity with the IT infrastructure and line-of-business applications can prove invaluable as your company pursues an agreement that has enough teeth to provide real protection and reflects your company’s critical business dependencies.

Embrace Cloud-Based Office Productivity Tools

Web-based office applications such as Google Apps and Microsoft’s new Office 365 suite simply make sense. They’re good for business (particularly for small and medium-sized businesses), put an enormous amount of power in the hands of the users, and make life easier for IT pros who manage user desktops. To help kick-start your company’s use of cloud-powered apps, explore the tools yourself and—once again—make sure you understand the licensing models and service agreements. (For an overview of Office 365 pricing, check out Paul Thurrott’s article, “Hands On with Office 365."

Learn and Network at a Conference

For a crash course in cloud computing, join us in Las Vegas April 17–21 for our first Cloud Connections conference, co-located with Mobile Connections and Virtualization Connections. You can enroll in pre-conference workshops for a deep dive in cloud identity management, hear the market predictions from experts at Microsoft, IBM, Amazon Web Services, Cloud Security Alliance, and Cloud.com, and network with other IT pros exploring cloud computing. Check out the conference speakers and sessions at www.cloudconnections.com.

Do you have tips to share for how you transferred your skills to a cloud computing scenario? Send your thoughts to me via email at michele.crockett@penton.com. And follow me on Twitter @michelecrockett.