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Deciding on a Data Cloud is All About your Needs.

Most enterprise companies understand they need a data cloud. It’s easy to see the benefits: increased insight, security, performance, and accessibility all from a single platform, and you’ll often reduce costs through consolidation.

Where it gets tricky is deciding which data cloud to use. The large number of trustworthy vendors in this field and the variety of possible configurations means, for many companies, there’s no one-size-fits-all obvious choice. As a result, your decision isn’t about which one is best, but about which one is best for you.

To start narrowing down your options, it can be helpful to think about what you’ll need from your data cloud, both right away and over the long term. We recommend splitting data clouds into two camps: vendor-based and standalone.

Vendor-Based Platforms

If you’ll need your data cloud to support a few processes and support them well, you’ll want to keep your data close to the platform you’re already using. You can get just this through a vendor-based data cloud, something more and more technology vendors are offering. Most of them have architecture designed to meet the specific operational demands of the systems they connect to, such as sales, marketing, or operations, and so you’ll be better positioned to manage the specific areas you need to handle.

When you’re considering a vendor-based platform, there are a few critical benefits to consider:

  1. Simplified Implementation. Embracing a ‘plug-and-play’ model, these platforms are built to pull data in seamlessly from the system they’re built for. As a result, you can get your data up on the platform simply and reliably, avoiding complex implementation and configuration processes. This in turn gives you greater speed to value, and depending on your needs, greater ROI.
  2. Reduced Requirements. Similarly, once you have your system up and running, many vendor-built data clouds can be managed effectively with a small team and minimal technical skills. This keeps your staffing situation in check through fewer required enhancements or adjustments.

Of course, with benefits come drawbacks. Before deciding on a vendor-based data cloud, consider whether you can live with the following:

  1. Less flexibility. Say that, a year from your go-live date, you need additional functionality out of your data cloud. It’s possible that the functionality already exists within the system, or you can get to it easily—but with vendor-based platforms, the structure that helps keep your system working also leads to less flexibility.
  2. Less expandability. Or maybe a year in, you’re loving the data cloud experience, and you want to expand your footprint on the cloud. Most vendor-based data clouds will be able to accommodate the data from other systems, but they won’t offer the same capabilities they offer for native data.

Standalone Data Clouds

Other businesses know that they’ll need a single, enterprise-grade data cloud for their entire organization—either now or eventually. For these businesses, a standalone data cloud can be a smart investment. Here’s what you can expect:

  1. Flexibility and scalability. A true enterprise-grade data cloud can be your do-everything system for data. Whether you’re adjusting your processes or adding a whole new business function to your data cloud, you can be confident that the same system you started with can handle what you need it to.
  2. Simplicity. While an enterprise-grade data cloud is more complex than a purpose-built one, some organizations will still find it simpler to use the same system for everything. A single platform means a single vendor to go to for support, a single system to keep secure, and a single set of integrations to make it work.

The challenges of a standalone data cloud, as you might expect, mirror the benefits of a vendor-based platform. If you proceed with a standalone cloud, be ready for:

  1. A more complex implementation. The more flexibility you have, the more parameters you’ll have to define yourself. Implementing a standalone data cloud will mean a lengthy process of confirming what you want from your data architecture, configuring the system, and making sure everything is running smoothly.
  2. Additional staffing footprint. Even once your system is live, maintaining it will take more support and more expertise, likely requiring dedicated data scientists. Ultimately this will mean increased cost of ownership of the system, costs that you should weigh along with the subscription fee for the system itself.

Choosing Your Path

The choice between a vendor-based platform and a standalone data cloud ultimately depends on your organization. It’s worth considering what you’re hoping to gain, and what kind of resources you can realistically devote to it, with the ultimate goal of implementing something that will get you closer to your strategic goals.

Spaulding Ridge helps organizations make the right decisions about their data clouds by asking questions and by trying to understand the objectives. We’ve leveraged both Salesforce Data Cloud and Snowflake to meet the needs of companies in numerous industries and at varying sizes. We’d be happy to talk through your data journey and discuss what system gives you what you need.

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