When you want milk you don’t buy a cow (or how to avoid nephophobia)

When you want some milk, you don’t buy a cow – you just buy some milk. Stick with me, this is going somewhere.cows

You could buy a cow of course – that would mean free milk forever! But there are downsides:

  • Cows are expensive things to maintain – they need feeding and there are vets bills.
  • You’re probably too busy to look after the cow yourself, so you’ll need to pay cow experts to do it – this is expensive.
  • Cows are prone to cow viruses – if it gets infected by a virus your cow may no longer produce milk.
  • Depending on how much milk you need you’re probably going to have to buy several cows and a big barn to house them.
  • There are lots of very strict (draconian in fact) rules about how cows should be looked after and how the milk should be protected – you should probably recruit an expert in BSN (Bovine Services Network) to make sure your barn is in order and your milk is safe.

Actually – forget it, this cow isn’t giving me free milk at all is it? I’m going to buy my milk from someone else – someone who is a specialist in milk production and produces the best quality stuff.

As you’ve realised by now, throughout my tortured analogy – milk = data, cow = server and barn = data centre.

You want the data – but you don’t need a data centre.

Self Evident?

You’d think so – but I was at a CIO event recently and I overheard a couple of Heads of ICT debating whether they should adopt a ‘Cloud First’ ICT strategy. This startled me so much that some coffee slopped out of my cup – but the coffee wasn’t very nice, so that’s OK.


My organisation has had a ‘Cloud First’ strategy since 2008 and I’d assumed that the merits of such an approach were, these days, self evident. The thought of public sector organisations filling up their various data centres with tin is something that haunts me in those wakeful hours before dawn.

The ICT Department has Nephophobia (fear of clouds).

On reflection perhaps I shouldn’t have been so surprised to hear that some ICT professionals are still debating the merits of the cloud. The fact is that the only people in any organisation who have a particularly strong view on external hosting of systems is ICT and I know from conversations with ICT people from dozens of organisations (both private and public sectors) that the most common view of the cloud among ICT employees is “We don’t like it!”


Nephophobia – the fear of clouds.

We now have many of our systems hosted by the application vendor in the cloud (by ‘cloud’ I mean ‘someone else’s data centre’). I’m not just referring to the odd web-based system here and there – we’ve taken some of our mission critical platforms and put them in the cloud. We’ve found many benefits to having our systems externally hosted:

  • Reduced costs
  • Better visibility of the total costs of ownership
  • Reduced risk and increased resilience
  • Rapid scalability
  • Quicker infrastructure upgrades
  • Increased flexibility
  • More responsive and cost-effective support
  • Increased sustainability
  • Easier remote working

More importantly than all this, though, the cloud is the way in to proper shared services.

For example, most councils use the same education management system from the same vendor – but they host them all on premise, across half a dozen servers (each). When we finally have this system hosted by the vendor (i.e. in the cloud) it’ll suddenly become apparent that we can all use the same platform – we’ll then use economies of scale to drive the vendor’s charges down and we’ll join up our support teams to reduce the number of people we have managing all this stuff.

And that’s just the start of it – watch the animation below for more.

milkThe next time that you’re looking for a system and the vendor says it’ll mean that you have to buy some servers and host them locally just say “No thanks, we’re shopping for milk – we don’t need a cow.” and move on to the next guy.



2 thoughts on “When you want milk you don’t buy a cow (or how to avoid nephophobia)

  1. Pingback: Embrace Shadow Tech or Die | Richard Copley – Digital by Default

  2. Mr Eric Porkham

    I liked milk so much that I bought a herd of friesians and had fresh milk everyday without Tesco and the rest screwing me an amount per pint…. yeah, the up front costs were a lot, but after a break point of around a year, the herd had paid for themselves and everything we made was profit (see the analogy between hosting yourself and hosting in the clous, pretty neat, huh?)

    However, I have since discovered that I have an allergy to milk, so have sold the cows and I’m now growing soya beans in their place and making my own soya milk (this bit bears no relevance to anything, I just think it’s funny)….


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