When you graduated from high school, you might have thought peer pressure was mostly over.
Thanks to cloud computing, that may not be the case for some IT executives.
IT administrators are increasingly dealing with business executives who are pushing them to move enterprise data and apps into the cloud - whether they are ready or not.
For some IT execs, the still unanswered questions include: Will cloud computing save money and manpower? Is a Service Level Agreement needed?
Meanwhile, executives on the business side are seeing headlines about rival companies moving to the cloud and they also want to be on the forefront of technology. That goal, in some cases, leads some IT departments to start using cloud-based services before they're ready to do it right, analysts say.
"The cloud is getting so much attention and chat time that all of a sudden there is an urgency," said Jeff Kagan, an independent analyst. "Tomorrow the cloud will be tested and trusted. However, today it's still the wild, wild West. IT executives know this but they get pressure from their chief executives to jump into the cloud because it's becoming the new code word for success. And no one wants to be last."
Brad Shimmin, an analyst with Current Analysis, said IT shops are under considerable pressure to improve overall operational efficiency and even to drive business opportunities through the nimbleness that comes along with being a leaner organization. Today, the overall sentiment is that the cloud makes a company more efficient by eradicating costly capital expenditures, along with the costs associated with on-site management, training and support, he added.
The problem is that CEOs aren't considering the challenges and planning required for a successful move to cloud computing. They simply want to leap in.
"Absolutely, there is peer pressure," said Patrick Moorhead, an analyst with Moor Insights & Strategy. "The CEO or business leaders hear that they can get a service that sounds like it's half the cost with the maximum flexibility. Then they go to the CIO and start pushing."
Moving too fast could mean risking additional costs -- and the company's data.
"If not properly planned, there are risks to control, security, and potential reliability," said Moorhead. "Moving too quickly means you have a higher chance of glossing over all the details of service-level agreements, which dictate uptime, performance and recourse from security breaches."
"While I agree that tomorrow we will all be using the cloud, getting there should be a measured approach," said Kagan. "This is the time to stick your toes in the water and then gently step in, bit by bit. This is not the time to just jump in. Bit by bit is smart, measured and controllable. Jumping in is a crapshoot."
Aside from taking it slow, Moorhead recommends that IT administrators not meet the peer pressure with frustration.
"I recommend first that IT not get defensive, as there are some enormous benefits to the cloud," he said. "Take the time to do a side-by-side analysis of what it would take to move certain applications to the cloud versus keeping it in-house. Explain that it requires a thorough analysis, because there's business risk in making a bad decision. They can then explain the risks and costs of downtime to revenues, cost, security, and compliance."
Shimmin added that IT executives must demand due diligence in evaluating cloud services, along with associated platform technologies, data center resources, partner ecosystems and development capabilities.
"They should ask for a long-term study of those solutions to better understand the true cost of cloud services over time," he said. "And most important, they should match that study against rival solutions to better understand where there are gaps in terms of functionality, interoperability, data ownership and platform openness."
Allan Krans, an analyst at Technology Business Research, noted that IT execs also can use that business pressure to their advantage.
"If they are on the fence for whether a cloud deployed service is right for their organization, the number of similar organizations that have used cloud has never been larger," he said. "Customers that have migrated to the cloud can be a peer pressure type relationship, but can also be a greater testing ground for understanding how and why they made that decision and mitigated the risk associated with it."
Sharon Gaudin covers the Internet and Web 2.0, cloud computing and emerging technologies for Computerworld. Follow Sharon on Twitter at @sgaudin, on Google+ or subscribe to Sharon's RSS feed . Her email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.