The movie Titanic swept the Oscars.
Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls were NBA champions (again).
Apple unveiled the iMac.
Larry Page and Sergey Brin founded Google.

And I was a fresh-faced kid out of college, beginning my career as a consultant for an IT management consulting firm.
The year was 1998.

Believe it or not, at the time, the firm where I worked didn’t issue laptops to new hires when I joined. They gave me a loaner on a per-project basis. I was constantly switching laptops as we moved from client to client and from project to project. I’d have to continuously reinstall and reconfigure every software program I used. And reload all my personal data and files. It was a long, painful process (although using a cutting-edge Jaz drive helped a little!).

But there was one application that was different than the rest: my messaging app.

Before enterprise messaging tools – and before the clamp down on shadow IT by many InfoSec teams – AOL Instant Messenger was popular for both personal and business use. Why? It was one of the first tools to utilize the cloud. AOL IM populated my buddy list, my custom contact groupings, and my custom away messages even as I changed laptops. It was beautiful. At the time, I didn’t know or appreciate “the cloud” but this was my first exposure to the benefits of cloud collaboration.

Enterprise use of AOL IM continued for many years. And although the service is dead and buried, even if it came back, enterprises would definitely not allow or promote its use like they did in the late 1990s. Why? There’s a long list of concerns: privacy, security, compliance, reliability and availability, and scalability. And for good measure, a lack of central administration.

All these are key considerations when using cloud collaboration in your enterprise architecture.And that’s not all. Privacy, security, and compliance are simply table stakes; the “must-haves” for enterprise collaboration tools. Other areas and capabilities are becoming important as well:

  • APIs and SDKs to extend collaboration to backend systems and third-party apps
  • Analytics to understand how and where the tools are being used
  • Hybrid integrations to create the best of both worlds with the power of the cloud and the benefits of an on-prem infrastructure

If that sounds like a lot, it is. But while the benefits from the cloud may have been limited in the 1990s, there is an entire rainbow of benefits available from cloud collaboration today.

Gaining the benefits of cloud collaboration

More and more companies and organizations are moving to the cloud for many reasons. For example, they’re:

  • Achieving benefits like cost savings to reduce on-prem infrastructure, data center footprint, and IT support costs.
  • Able to support growth to ensure a highly available, highly scalable infrastructure.
  • Increasing employee engagement and connections amongst teams to help enhance efficiency and productivity.

We want the rainbow of cloud benefits. But first, we need to clear away the storm. While a move to the cloud may help provide some of the benefits described, it is important to understand key concerns and considerations. The primary areas are, of course, the big three of privacy, security, and compliance. For example:

  • Privacy: How you protect content and user data and ensure users are able to view only the content to which they are entitled.
  • Security: How to prevent malicious attacks and other intrusions aimed to compromise the system or steal data.
  • Compliance: Making sure you adhere to the IT regulations set forth by your industry or local government.

So how do we get there? It’s not 1998, where all you had to do was download an app. It’s bigger. It’s better. And more important, it’s part of the collaboration strategy for most companies.

There are steps to follow to get to the cloud: Choosing a buying model that bridges the path, understanding gateway technologies, and creating user experiences that accelerate the shift. There is a technical path and a business strategy path.

  • For the technical path, we need to understand the architecture to move to the cloud, the role hybrid integrations that bridge on-prem with the cloud can play, and the full breadth of collaboration capabilities available in the cloud.
  • For the business strategy path, we need to prepare users and ensure that we’re addressing areas such as adoption and absorption of these capabilities.

Everyone wants the rainbow: Reduced IT costs, scalability, continuity, flexibility, manageability, and innovation. But in order to find a collaboration rainbow, you need the cloud.

To hear me explore this topic in more detail, join me at CloudEXPO in New York City, for my session “You Can’t Get the Rainbow Without the Cloud” on November 12.


Chris Palermo

Team Collaboration GTM Lead