“Cloud computing” seems to be the trendy phrase for 2012. It encompasses any subscription-based or pay-per-use service over the Internet that extends your information technologies capabilities.
Cloud computing in part has been around for quite a long time in the form of externally hosted software solutions and hosted email services such as hotmail. The concept of cloud computing now ranges from full-blown internet based applications thru off-line storage services to spam filtering, thru to software plug-ins and APIs (Application Programming Interfaces) that just do a single task.
Cloud computing is made up of these sectors.
- Software as a Service (SaaS) delivers a single application through a web browser to thousands of customers using a single instance of the software. It runs on a server, serving multiple client organizations concurrently. For the customer this means no upfront investment in servers or software licensing; on the provider side, with just one application to maintain, costs are low compared to conventional CD/DVD distributed software and profits can be very high if there is a large uptake.
- Utility computing form of cloud computing is where vendors offer storage and virtual servers that corporate IT can access on demand. This enabling IT to stitch together mainly storage and computational capacity as a virtualized resource pool available over the network and often used when there is a temporary shortage of in-house facilities.
- Cloud services enable developers to exploit functionality over the Internet, rather than delivering full-blown applications. Good examples of these are Google Maps APIs, and credit card processing services such as those provided by Paypal.
- Platform as a service form of cloud computing delivers development environments as a service. This may be in the form of virtual servers where you build your own applications that run on the provider’s infrastructure and are delivered to your users via the Internet from the provider’s servers.
- Offsite backup over the Internet is probably one of the more basic cloud computing applications and is available from many vendors. An extension of this is the utilities such as Dropbox which enable separate computers to share data by using synchronisation of files and folders via a common location in the cloud.
Before you jump into Cloud Computing you need to weigh up the pros and cons very carefully and make an informed decision.
Cloud Computing brings with it many benefits to the end user. These include:
- Access to a large range of applications without having to download or install anything.
- The user interface is usually a web-browser which is familiar to most users helping to minimize training.
- Applications can be accessed from any computer, anywhere in the world.
- Users can minimise expenditure on hardware and software; only paying what they use.
- Businesses with multiple locations can share and access resources in one place equally.
- Consumption is billed on a quantity used basis with minimal upfront costs.
- Scalability via on-demand resources
Cloud Computing does have some associated risks however, these include:
- Users do not physically possess storage of their own data, which leaves the responsibility and control of data storage with the provider.
- Users could become over-dependent upon the cloud computing provider.
- Cloud computing vendors encourage on-going periodic payments, often with term contracts and generally discourage easy exit processes.
- Many software applications were never designed to operate over relatively slow connections.
- Web interface is not applicable for many applications and require considerable local processing power to operate effectively.
- The weak link is the data communications access to the Internet – if the communication links go down so does all access to your business data.
- With data held externally, business continuity and disaster recovery are in the hands of the provider.
- Possible data migration issues when changing cloud providers.
- Does the cloud provider give you a way to export your data in a suitable form to some-one else’s or an in-house system.
- What happens if your cloud provider goes out of business?
If you are considering using any Cloud Computing facilities, careful informed consideration is required as there are many traps for the unweary. We are here to help you arrive at the best solution for your business and we help to implement it.
Contact us if you want assistance in this process.