Every few years, the Information Technology industry is subject to a bombardment on the latest and greatest opportunity. Do you remember when every self respecting Database Administrator just had to have a Data Dictionary? And then…
Well, we have survived most of them. Now this is the year of Cloud Computing – but Cloud Computing is not just a passing fad.
Cloud computing is evolving at a dizzy speed. Companies of all sizes are venturing into this new technology.
To tap the outsourcing market, vendors are adding a huge amount of resources to their technical teams – to improve all aspects of the Cloud based services on offer.
What is Cloud Computing all about?
Cloud Computing is the use of hardware and software delivered as a service over the Internet. It allows companies to store files and documents – then maintain and access the files on any computer connected to the internet.
There are many new acronyms to learn:
- Infrastructure as a service (IaaS)
- Platform as a service (PaaS)
- Software as a service (SaaS)
- Storage as a service (STaaS)
- Security as a service (SECaaS)
- Data as a service (DaaS)
- Test environment as a service (TEaaS)
- Desktop as a service (DaaS)
- API as a service (APIaaS)
A company rents application software and databases from the provider. The provider manages the Cloud services and all the technical support, software, databases and platforms that are required.
The charge for access to the Cloud depends on the services consumed, the compute time, the amount of storage, and the bandwidth used.
Companies will gain these benefits from the cloud:
- No software needs to be installed, saving time and money
- Users can run applications from any device with an Internet connection
- Companies will only pay for what they use
- Less will be spent on deployment and maintenance
- The Cloud service providers will supply all the Backup and Recovery facilities.
- The small business can divest itself of the problems and cost of running a data centre.
- Software updating costs and license fees for multiple users will be reduced.
- There will never be a worry about running out of disk space.
Whatever the hype about the benefits of Cloud computing, a Web page using a Browser cannot compare in speed and functionality to a Visual Basic Form.
The features of a Cloud based application are generally limited. Web-based applications do not have the capabilities of the desktop equivalent.
A high speed connection will be needed to ensure an acceptable response time for downloading files and large documents. Even with a fast connection, web-based applications will be slower than a program running on a desktop.
I would not trust the security of sensitive data that is accessible from the Web. I would not trust the assurances of any vendor proclaiming absolute security. Even with the most sophisticated security protection possible, there is still a concern.
Storing sensitive information in the cloud is inherently a risky proposition. There will always be external hack attempts. Nothing on the Internet is completely secure. We only have to look at the hacking record of the Pentagon. Even with their massive resources, they cannot prevent unauthorised access. And these are only the problems that are known and reported.
A lack of security could potentially put your company’s future at risk. You may be convinced by the vendor’s guarantees, but will your auditor also be so convinced? Only non essential data should be put on the Cloud. Otherwise a company risks a qualified set of accounts.
There will be times of outages and technical problems when your company will lose its ability to do any work. If the downtime is just a slight inconvenience, then you will be able to live with the infrequent outages.
Other Issues to consider
- Problem resolution may take time when dealing with a large offshore vendor.
- The cloud computing vendor may lock a company into proprietary software.
- Cost savings may only occur in the short run. A well established data centre will be more cost effective.
Many opportunities exist for running applications over the Internet. The ability to make the application available to almost anyone is appealing. Having the backing of a large vendor company is also attractive.
But critical applications, where a company’s viability is at stake, should not be candidates. Heavy data entry and complex applications also should not be considered.