Having your head in the clouds used to be a bad thing – but not anymore. Now, more and more entrepreneurs, business executives, and developers are spending considerable time in “the cloud” outsourcing most of their network infrastructure to cloud computing providers, like Amazon Web Services. Cloud computing has quickly become a buzz word in the tech world, but what does it mean exactly? “In a cloud computing system, there’s a considerable workload shift away from the user and onto the network of computers that make up the cloud,” explains Chris Dugas, Partner and Managing Director at ZOO Media Group. This shift can alleviate considerable costs, but at what price?
A Simple Example of Cloud Computing
If you’re still not quite sure what goes on in the cloud, that’s okay — you’re not suppose to understand it. Cloud computing technology offers the user an abstract view of services that simplifies much of the inner workings of a system. In a nut shell, Cloud computing is Internet-based computing, whereby shared resources, information and software are provided to computers and other devices on-demand. Take your Gmail or Hotmail email account, for example. When you log into your account, you’re accessing the cloud. The messages in your inbox aren’t stored on your computer, rather, they’re stored on Google’s or Microsoft’s network cloud. Once you’ve logged in, you’re capable of accessing your mail, but you don’t really know how… it just works. Welcome to the cloud!
Benefits of Cloud Computing Solutions
There are numerous benefits associated with cloud computing. Some include:
1) Fast Start-up
When you subscribe to a cloud computing service you essentially equip your team with all the tools needed to start growing. Whether you’re a start-up business or run a division within a larger company that has the idea for something new, cloud computing can help you access all of the necessary tools and resources you need, often at a considerable discount.
2) It’s Scalable
Your IT department can only handle so much in-house before you’re required to purchase bigger servers and hire more technicians. Putting your information in the cloud helps you manage this issue and allows you to scale up and down quickly and without collateral damage.
3) You Get Your Freedom Back
Investing in traditional IT technology is costly and a huge commitment. Once you’ve made the purchase, you’re stuck with that solution for the long term, regardless of how your business changes and evolves over time. Cloud computing enables you to change your mind and develop ideas without the constant worry of how your system will react. The cloud can help you manage your project regardless of where it takes you.
Disadvantages of Cloud Computing Solutions
Like everything in life, there are a few dark spots in the cloud. The following are a few of the most troublesome topics:
Certain companies and industries maintain strict policies and procedures in regards to their data and their clients’ information, either because they’re regulated by law or because they’re just extremely careful. Sending information outside your firewall opens it up to all sorts of potential leaks and breaches, which is never a good thing.
2) It May Not Always Be Reliable
Servers crash — it’s an unavoidable issue. When a new server goes inside your organization, chances are you have a fail-over option in place and backups at the ready. But what about the cloud? Amazon is taking steps towards providing information and support in these situations, but the price tag is hefty and there’s never any guarantee that your information won’t just float off into space.
3) The Cloud Still Has to Reside Somewhere
The servers that run cloud computing services aren’t magical nebulous beings — they’re physical data centres that reside in locations all over the world. The location of these servers is important to many laws, especially here in Canada. If a public sector project is housed on a U.S.-based server, things could become sticky since that information could be accessed by the U.S. government under the U.S. Patriot Act. Something to keep in mind.