The advent of cloud computing has caused a number of career concerns for IT professionals. Most notably, the cloud threatens to move IT resources and possibly jobs out of your business, putting them in the hands of an Internet-based cloud provider, such as Microsoft, Amazon, or Google. This is definitely a cause for concern; anytime a business moves a technology outside its own walls, whether because of cloud computing or outsourcing, the company potentially reduces its need for IT personnel. 

But before you get too worried about the career impact of the cloud, I think it’s good to put the cloud into perspective. First, although the cloud might be around the corner, it’s still far from a standard fixture for most businesses. So whatever effect the cloud might or might not have, the effect is still a couple of years out for most businesses.

Next, the cloud will affect some types of IT positions more than others. Developers, database professionals, and DBAs will be less affected by the cloud than IT professionals and administrators will be. Business applications don’t develop themselves—and for the developer, the cloud is just another platform to write applications for. In fact, the cloud might very well provide more opportunities for developers, because it’s a new area for most businesses, and new applications will be necessary to take advantage of it.

The cloud does have more effect on DBAs and database professionals, but it most certainly doesn’t eliminate the need for these positions. Here, the move to the cloud can potentially result in the elimination of some internal servers and the management tasks that go with them. For instance, the cloud will eliminate the need to manage the hardware for cloud-based services. In addition, tasks such as performing physical system backups are also unnecessary for cloud services. However, other database-related tasks, such as database design and application performance and troubleshooting, will certainly still be necessary. In addition, it’s important to remember that cloud-based database services will most likely be for a subset of the database needs of an organization. Although it’s likely that some businesses will use cloud-based database services such as SQL Azure, I really don’t see a day when most businesses will move all their on-premises database systems to the cloud.

IT professionals and systems administrators are the people whose jobs are most directly affected by the cloud. After all, if you eliminate your internal systems, you don’t have anything left to administrate. Or do you? Even in the extremely unlikely event that all the servers in a business are replaced by cloud services, there are still management tasks that need to be performed. For example, your Active Directory (AD) domain will still need to have users added, permissions to corporate resources managed, and Group Policy settings applied. Although the cloud will have an effect, it’s not the Mayan 2012 doomsday that some people worry about.

What can you do to cloud proof your career? One of the biggest things is to be sure that you stay current with technology—yes, even cloud technologies. You don’t need to embrace the cloud to understand how it might or might not benefit your business. Nothing moves faster than technology, and having a legacy skill set won’t help either your employer or your own career prospects.

Next, just being a technician isn’t enough these days. It’s also important to understand the business aspects of the organization you’re in. The better you understand your business, the better you can contribute to it and therefore increase your value to the organization. Knowing your business lets you truly see where different technologies, either on premises or off premises, can have the biggest effect. When you’re in the position of affecting your company’s bottom line, you’re an important asset regardless of whether you’re using the cloud.

Finally, don’t neglect social networking. If you do find that you need to make a career move, other IT professionals can be a useful source for learning about different opportunities, as well as provide a resource for professional references.

I don’t think the cloud will really be all that career threatening for most DBAs and database developers; however, taking care of your career is something that all IT professionals should be aware of. The cloud can be intimidating, but in the end it’s just another technology—and integrating technologies into business is what we do.

Do you have any cloud fears that you want to share, or have you had enough of the cloud and just want to get back to your real work? Drop me a line at motey@sqlmag.com or letters@sqlmag.com.