Cloud Washing: How to Spot It and How to Avoid It

Cloud Washing: How to Spot It and How to Avoid It

Cloud programs are all the rage now – or so say the marketing teams. When you see the term “cloud” applied to just about every piece of technology on the market, it’s easy to see a marketing problem. That problem has a name: cloud washing.

Cloud washing occurs when software providers attach the “cloud” label to a program in an effort to rebrand or boost sales. These programs differ from cloud-native software, which are built specifically for the cloud. Cloud washed tools take advantage of companies who want to integrate cloud solutions into their infrastructure. As such, they should be avoided at all costs.

Though cloud washing is a serious problem, it can be easy to find if you know what you’re looking for. We’ve put together some tips on how to tell if a program is cloud washed and what cloud-native tools actually look like.

“Cloud-based” legacy software

Companies cloud wash by claiming that legacy software (old or outdated software that continues to be supported) is cloud software. Whether it’s a ploy to attract uninformed customers or evidence of a lack of cloud understanding, marketers will attach the word “cloud” to their old programs to boost sales. This tends to happen with tools that connect to the Internet. For marketing teams, the distinction between “Internet connectivity” and “cloud-based tools” doesn’t exist.

Remember that a program’s ability to connect to the cloud does not necessarily make it a cloud-native program. Cloud-native tools are built specifically with the cloud in mind. True cloud offerings should offer a self-serviceable, multi-tenancy architecture with a pay-as-you-use cost system and redundancy systems (to account for host network downtime) in place. If you don’t see any of these features, it’s a safe bet that you’re looking at a cloud washed program.

Marketing jargon – the good and the bad

Marketing is a tricky thing for the consumer to deal with. Every program provider wants to sell you something, so you have to sift through the obvious marketing jargon to understand what they’re offering. When it comes to cloud washing, though, what should you be looking for?

  • Cloud washed marketing is usually littered with an overusage of the word “cloud.” Check for configuration support as well – cloud washed software usually isn’t customizable. Also, if you’re required to create your own integrations with the program, it’s probably not cloud-native.
  • Actual cloud software will typically mention either SaaS, PaaS, or IaaS in their description. These are the three main cloud computing service models, and are a key function of any cloud-native tool. They will also be elastic and/or scalable based on your data usage – look for these terms.

Be wary of “green cloud”

There are several buzzwords to watch out for with regards to cloud washed tools, but one to particularly look for is “green cloud.” These are programs that claim to be environmentally friendlier because they’ve moved their programs to the cloud. Vendors will cite the elimination of on-premises servers as reducing a company’s carbon footprint.

In all honesty, there are some elements of truth to this. Cloud architectures maximize efficient power usage and eliminate idle servers, which conserves energy use. However, most marketing teams will label their software as green simply as a way to make their software more appealing. Cloud-native tools focus their advertising on scalable virtualized infrastructures. If a business markets their cloud software as being environmentally friendly, they’re probably not offering a cloud-native program. They’re likely just trying to attract customers with little cloud knowledge with eco-friendly consciences.

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Daniel Hein