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All Posts  /   /  July 19, 2012 

To the Cloud!

“To the cloud!” exclaim the happy people in the old Windows-7 commercials, as they watch TV from their home computers while stuck at the airport or fix a family photo from images stored (somehow with everyone wearing the exact same outfits) remotely. But that is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to cloud computing, of course.


A recent CIO Magazine analysis piece by D. H. Kass, “CIOs Warming (and Moving) to Cloud Technology,” cites several surveys that indicate that even hardware-entrenched CIOs are moving their newer solutions to the cloud. Kass points to a “new body of research” that “suggests a heightened optimism by CIOs concerning the value and benefits of cloud technology” and further show “that cloud technology is good for business, with 67 percent contending it helps deliver better systems for less money.”

But what exactly is the cloud? While CIO’s audience clearly knows, the rest of us might not. A good definition comes from WebProNews’ Mike Tuttle in “Cloud Computing: The Pros and Cons,”
Cloud computing is the use of remote computers accessed via the Internet to store, manage, and process data. The concept allows users to use their data from anywhere with internet access rather than relying on being able to connect to local computers or servers. Web-based email, media streaming systems, online data storage and backup, content delivery networks for websites and blogs and many other functions are now available as cloud computing applications and services.

Tuttle also remarks that “Cloud computing, however, is still in its infancy and is evolving rapidly as new services come and go and offer individual users and companies new ways to work with their data and networks.”

There are some clear pros and cons to cloud computing, with most experts agreeing that security is a major obstacle. “Any time you talk about the cloud, security comes up,” Kass quotes survey author Diane Hagglund, a principal at Dimensional Research. Tuttle cites Joseph Idziorek and Mark Tannian of Iowa State University’s Department of Electrical and Computer engineering, as speaking of six aspects of security that have direct bearing on cloud computing:

    • Confidentiality (data kept secret)

    • Integrity (data unaltered without permission)

    • Availability (data accessible to those authorized to use it)

    • Utility (data can be processed by those authorized to access it)

    • Authenticity (validation that data is genuine)

    • Possession (authorized users have full control over their data)

Aside from security, other objections to cloud computing include:

    • A fear that the service will be available just when you need it – coupled with trepidation that the service provider (most of whom are start-ups) may not be around in the next year or two.

    • A concern over who owns the data, what the service providers may be mining from it, and if it will be compatible if you wish to switch to a new system.

    • Challenges with integrating systems.

    • The fear of change, coupled with the deep financial investment many companies have made in purchasing their current on-site systems.

But, according to CIO Magazine’s review of current surveys, there has been “a shift in attitudes toward the cloud” which has included larger companies. According to Laurie McCabe, a partner at SMB Group, who is closely following the industry: “Businesses have big investments in on-premises applications and aren’t going to rip them out unless they no longer do the job. However, the cloud will increasingly be the first choice when companies need to add new solutions, because it eliminates so many barriers to getting solutions up, running, and productive.”

The pros of cloud computing, in other words, are outweighing the cons. Some of these pros include:

    • The cost reduction. According to Kristi Holland’s article, “Pros and Cons of Cloud Computing,” working in the cloud “reduces paperwork, lowers transaction costs, and minimizes the investment in hardware.”

    • Scalability. This is particularly a benefit to small- and mid-sized companies, says Abdul Salam in “Moving to the Cloud, Pros and Cons,” because they only pay for what they need and can easily scale up as they grow.

    • Access to high-end technology at an affordable cost, again a great value to startups and mid-sized firms.

    • Ease of collaboration between wide-spread resources, or between distant clients and vendors. This is a particular value for global companies.

It’s becoming clear that companies both large and small are embracing cloud computing, despite some early discomfort with the model. And it's equally clear that the oversimplification in the Windows-7 commercials didn’t do the phenomena justice.
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