What Drives Companies to Cloud Computing?

The Cloud changes how organizations use and share information, offering on-demand, anytime, anywhere capabilities. It helps put idle computing resources to work, potentially reducing IT’s carbon footprint. It
removes cost-of-entry barriers by allowing users to “rent” hardware and software capacity, and opens new collaboration possibilities.

Cloud Computing and Software as a Service (SaaS) are gaining acceptance in the marketplace. If you use Google Apps, then you are already in the Cloud. If you use Salesforce.com, then you are in the Cloud. Global airline KLM switched from traditional office applications to Google Apps earlier in 2010 to keep its largely mobile workforce connected 24/7. Other companies are adopting OpenOffice.org and robust Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) applications for supply chain, financial and human resources management, as well as specialty applications for environment, health & safety (EHS) information management.

DRIVERS

Companies consider Cloud Computing for many reasons, for example:  

  • their aging IT infrastructure needs replacing
  • they require consolidated information roll-up but have several enterprise applications and systems that do not communicate with each other
  • they need to standardize business processes across several platforms and do not want to upgrade their IT infrastructure
  • they cannot keep up with computing demand
  • they need a mechanism for internal and external parties to collaborate, 24/7, independent of IT platform (hardware, operating system, software)
  • they are concerned with increasing regulations and guidelines that call for information transparency and individual accountability
  • they want a simple way to deploy office applications that are platform-independent
  • they have a mobile and/or a geographically dispersed workforce
  • their IT department lacks the subject matter expertise for certain types of software outside the realm of typical financial, human resources and content management applications.

ADVANTAGES AND DISADVANTAGES

Advantages

  • Reduced infrastructure risk
  • Managed
  • Flexible and scalable
  • Reliable
  • Sustainable
  • Secure
  • Low cost of entry
  • Cost effective
  • Reduced complexity
  • Workload optimization
  • Better user experience

Disadvantages

  • The service provider controls the data
  • Limited software options
  • Information security
  • Compliance
  • E-Discovery risk
  • Integration with other systems
  • Limited customization options

CONSIDERING A MOVE TO THE CLOUD?

Should you move to the Cloud? The return on investment (ROI) for any IT initiative depends on internal IT resources, budget, need for customization and integration with other software applications. Beyond the ROI calculation, consider your organization’s culture, its maturity with respect to the adoption of new technology, and its risk tolerance.

For further reading, see, “A Sunny Outlook for Cloud Computing” at http://lexicon-systems.com/itinsight.html.

What Is Cloud Computing and What Are Public, Private and Hybrid Clouds?

Cloud computing is considered to be the next big computer trend revolutionising the way existing IT infrastructure is run and developed within companies. But what is it? If you type the term into a search engine there will be a whole host of websites that attempt to answer the question but you will often see that many different definitions come back as everyone seems to have a singular take on what cloud computing means to them and their businesses.

Fundamentally, cloud computing is the way that a company will access software, applications, services and data in the future. It is a way that businesses can store and access data through a shared web browser meaning that a company no longer needs physical hardware onsite to store this type of information. The cloud will be provided by a cloud hosting provider meaning a new delivery model for IT services in businesses where the company can gain from economies of scale and virtualised resources. The cloud is an on-demand technology meaning that it can be accessed when required and companies only pay for what is used. It is also a technology that can be accessed from anywhere on a variety of devices including mobile phones; so offering companies greater flexibility and accessibility.

Therefore, put succinctly, cloud computing is the move to make IT management and provision of data, applications and information a service. This service will be run for businesses by their chosen cloud computing provider over the Internet on a consumption-based model.

The security of a company’s data is an important factor in their IT related activities and cloud computing can offer different levels of security to suit business types and needs as data can be held within public clouds, private clouds and hybrid clouds. But what do these terms mean?

Public Clouds
A public cloud as it suggests is information that is held over the Internet for use by the general public in applications such as Gmail and Hotmail. The user of these applications doesn’t know where the data is stored and if the cloud has any downtime it means that the user experiences this downtime as well with no understanding of when applications will be up-and-running again. These types of clouds do not offer any guarantees or service level agreements (SLAs) so are more suited to companies that don’t have business critical applications.

Private Clouds
A private cloud is a cloud service offered to a limited number of people behind a private firewall in a data centre. This type of cloud technology does come with guarantees and SLAs to ensure that data and applications are always available and that there minimal downtime (if any) for a company. This type of cloud is more secure to protect the safety of information.

Hybrid Clouds
A hybrid cloud is an amalgamation of public and private clouds. For example, a business may choose to provide some resources internally (as they have spent money setting-up their existing IT infrastructure) while choosing to outsource some externally.

It can be seen that cloud computing is changing the way that applications and data is both delivered and accessed. When looking for a provider you should look for a company with renowned experience and one that you can fully trust with your businesses software, data and applications.

Cloud Computing for Non Geeks

Most computer users today are already using cloud computing. Do you use Gmail, Hotmail, Yahoo email: congratulations you are in the cloud. If you are reading this you are in the cloud: the Internet is the cloud.

Way back in the day, your computer’s hard drive was the repository for all your digital information. Emails, photos, documents were all stored inside your computer. Cloud computing changes the way you store your digital information: your emails are no longer stored on your computer, but exist only on Google’s servers (think hard drive) if you use Gmail, or Microsoft’s servers if you use Hotmail, etc.

The benefits of using the cloud to store your information should be obvious: you can check your email from your computer, your smart phone, any computer connected to the web, etc. With cloud computing your information is readily available on a wide range of devices as long as you have an Internet connection. If your computer crashes and can not be repaired you will not lose your emails: they were never stored on your computer. Cloud computing will mean never having to say your sorry worry about moving all your programs and data to a new computer (obscure movie reference deleted). Plug the new computer in, get online, and your data and programs are available.

The downside of using the cloud to store your information should also be obvious: lack of service. If your Internet connection goes down or the server housing your information crashes, you will have no access to your stuff until the problem is repaired. Do you risk losing all your stuff forever if you use the cloud? If you are dealing with a reputable company with a solid background in cloud computing (Google, Amazon, etc.) temporary outages will occur, but data loss should not be a problem. Hackers have and will continue to attack the cloud: large databases with personal information are a rich target. Will your stuff be 100% safe in the cloud? No. Will you have an alternative if you want to live with all the conveniences the cloud offers: no. Think of the problem of cloud safety this way: would you stop driving a car because a certain number of people are killed in accidents every year?

Cloud computing will eventually offer every software program now available (accounting programs like QuickBooks, web publishing programs like DreamWeaver). Rumours are floating around that Windows 8 will be heavily based in the cloud, Apple is busy developing iCloud, and Google Chromebooks (web only laptops) have already been released.

For better or worse the cloud is already here. Anthony Weiner (the congressman from New York who released x-rated pictures on twitter) personifies the ultimate downside of the cloud: too many people may have access to your stuff.