First a disclaimer – I don’t have an good general view of the market since I only use Microsoft Azure (see my reasons at the bottom of the blog). The points I make here should be relevant to any service you are considering though.
The best way to get started is to get started. “What, commit the organisation to a technology I don’t understand?” No, before you make any commitment, do the reconnaissance, in a pincer movement.
You look at high level (costs, benefits, risks and legal issues), and set up a skunk works project for the low level. They should “learn by doing” and report back to you regularly. Their mission is “do stuff in the cloud, tell me what you’ve been doing and how it could be useful to the business”.
A good channel for reporting would be a wiki or internal blog. By getting the team writing up wiki or blog pages, you make sure that they put their thoughts in order, and you build up a “Getting Started” guide which could be very useful later.
The only pre-requisite is to make sure that their cloud activities have defined resources sealed off from the rest of the company and that there is no access to company data. This shouldn’t be difficult since one of the main strands of cloud computing is the ability to create and tear down discrete environments very quickly.
Microsoft Azure is well-suited to this approach since there are attractive deals for organisations and individuals trying it out, My company computers already run Microsoft (sorry for missing a jargon opportunity, I should of course have said “on-prem” computers). Integration between the two is good. Microsoft are betting the company on succeeding. The progress of the share price since late 2012 suggests that the market believes the bet is paying off.
I’ll aim to continue this topic in future blogs.