Cloud computing has been a hot topic for a long time now, more companies than ever before are taking on this amazing technology, and this trend will surely continue.
Cloud computing has a lot going for it; however, it is not without its downsides. Here’s a list, in layman’s terms, of the advantages and disadvantages of cloud computing, to help you fully understand the whole concept.
Cloud Computing Advantages
• Reduced power and electricity bills
• No capital expenditure on hardware infrastructure (Server upgrades, storage devices, etc)
• No capital expenditure on certain software (typically Microsoft, anti-virus, spam, etc)
• Reduced cooling / air conditioning costs
• Possible head count / staff reduction
• Desktop refresh can be undertaken with Thin clients (£150 per unit) instead of Fat Client PC’s (£500+ per unit)
• Building and office locations can be smaller (no need for excess floor space for server racks, etc)
• No need for migration of IT infrastructure costs (should the end user be relocating any time)
• No need for hardware maintenance agreements and ad hoc support services.
Ease of Management
Once a Cloud Computing model is adopted the management and on-going support associated with it will fall with the support provider there to monitor and deal with any trouble shooting that may arise. In theory, it becomes someone else’s problem (the ‘someone else’ typically having very experienced engineers and high level technology looking after the infrastructure).
Day-to-day tasks are no longer the responsibility of the in-house IT team, and their time can be better spent on more profitable tasks.
• The number one cause of data loss is human error (usually by losing backup tapes, external drives, etc). By taking humans out of the equation with online backups, the security risk to the end user is greatly reduced.
• Highly sophisticated anti-virus software is used in the data centre to monitor any incoming traffic.
• Secure data centres with numerous devices (alarms, environmental monitoring, etc) to maintain a high level of security.
• Cloud service providers have ISO27001 (Information & Security) accreditation, which is critical for the delivery of cloud services.
• Without any specific provisions, you have readymade Disaster Recovery (DR) solution with your data being stored off site
• As well as data, your software applications (Exchange, Office, etc) are delivered from a separate location and can be accessed remotely
Flexibility and Scalability
• The ability to be flexible and scalable in very short amount of time can be a great help to end users with an ever changing organisation or one who is looking to expand shortly
• A sudden influx of data that needs to be stored or backed up can be provisioned within an hour if required by making a quick phone call
• Migrating to the Cloud does not need to happen all at once, it can be transferred in stages or as part of a Hybrid solution
• Easy and efficient ‘exit strategies’ can be part of the planning and provisions should this be required
Utility Bill Budgeting
• Upfront costs are a part of Cloud Computing, at the beginning of a financial year the organisation will know how much they are paying for their IT Infrastructure upwards of 3 years in advance
• Much like a utility bill, it will allow budgets to be managed and allocated upfront for the entire ICT requirement with no surprises
Reduced Carbon Footprint
With increasing pressure to reduce an organisations carbon footprint, the introduction of Cloud Computing can have a dramatic effect on this, with things like the reduction in power and cooling consumption.
Cloud Computing Disadvantages
• The initial price of Cloud Computing can look unfavourable, due to the need for the migration costs involved
• Online backup can become very expensive if the end user does not manage their data correctly (through consolidation and de-duplication of emails and data)
• Increased cost of telephone line (preferably a leased) and the need for a second line for redundancy
Location of Data
If the company or data centre that provides your cloud service is an American company then your data will be subject to The Patriot Act. The Patriot Act applies to the country where the companies (Microsoft (365), Amazon Web Services, Google Docs etc.) are registered and not to where the data centres are based. Therefore, the US Government has access to any American registered company hosted client data in any data centre anywhere in the world, including the EU.
Long Term Contracts
Typically, the end user will need to agree to at least a 1-year contract with the service provider (Usually 3 years with a penalty for ending the agreement early).
Trust and Security
Entrusting your data and complete IT infrastructure to another company is a big step and must be with the right organisation.
What happen if your service provider goes bust? What happens to your data and IT infrastructure?
Most but not all software applications can be hosted on a Cloud platform; some bespoke or highly managed applications will not always be compatible with the hosted Cloud infrastructure.
Slowness of Service
Backups and software delivery can be very slow if the correct line is not installed, leading to delays and inevitable frustrations with email, application access, etc.
Although unusual, Cloud downtime is possible (Amazon and Google Cloud platforms being recent examples). When this happens the end user is at the mercy of the organisation providing the Cloud to get everything back up and running as soon as possible.
Who will be the top priority client for the service provider if this happens?
For an end user, migration to the Cloud will lead to a reduction in their Carbon Footprint. But, in reality is the problem just being ‘shifted’ to another organisation.
All Clouds run on physical servers and storage devices; these require the relevant space, power and cooling. Subsequently, this leads to an increased Carbon Footprint for the service provider.
Cloud Computing is already used everywhere, by hundreds of thousands of the biggest organisations in the world.
The delivery of a Cloud solution can be a relatively straightforward process that can really help to deliver an unparalleled service.
The benefits do seem to outweigh the drawbacks for most organisations; most notably the significant cost saving that can be achieved over a 3-year period.
However, the time has to be right for migration. This can mean anything from the trust key decision makers have in the Cloud’s value, to the depreciation of any existing onsite hardware.
A very serious consideration needs to be made when choosing a service provider as well, due to the potential security issues that come with handing over your IT infrastructure and data to a third party.
But if a trusted partnership can be formed, there is no reason that Cloud computing cannot lead to the most efficient, secure, and cost effective solution for many organisations worldwide.