You may not have heard about cloud computing but it has been stirring a lot of buzz this past year within the telecommunications industry. For those of you that are wondering what I’m talking about, the term cloud is used as a metaphor for the Internet, in network diagrams we use a cloud to abstractly represent the internet since the technical infrastructure behind the actual internet can become very complicated. Essentially, cloud computing allows a user to provision applications via the Internet using software and data stored on virtual servers.
Some basic examples of cloud computing are your everyday search engines and email sites such as http://www.google.com/, http://www.yahoo.com/, & http://www.hotmail.com/. These companies allow you to access your e-mail and search the entire web through their virtual applications. You don’t need to purchase any software, hardware, or have technicians come to your home to use these sites and all of your emails and documents are saved virtually not on your machines hardware.
Now that we have a good understanding of what cloud computing is let’s look at a couple advantages and disadvantages of utilizing this technology.
Some Key Advantages:
- Less physical on site infrastructure offers a couple of advantages of it’s own. The first being the most obvious; more room! Infrastructure is being offered as a service with cloud computing, so you won’t have to worry about capital expenditure on equipment. Usage is normally billed on a consumption or subscription basis versus a monthly recurring spend for the actual hardware.
- The second advantage of less on site infrastructure is lower management overhead. Since none of the working infrastructure is on premise its not necessary to have a management team/person in charge of everyday operations of this equiptment.
- Another advantage of cloud computing is time. There’s virtually no lead time on access to the cloud applications. Users don’t have to install and run the applications on their computers instead with just a click of a button they can conveniently access it through a site.
- The next advantage is that cloud computing allows users to access resources from any computing device. Since the infrastructure is virtual and can be accessed through the internet a user can connect from a phone, laptop, or home desktop- any device that has web browsing capabilities. If you forget documents at the office you can access them from your home desktop or if you switch machines at work you can easily access all documents and applications via the web from your new computer. You can also give access to colleagues so that you can collaborate on projects and not have to worry if your applications are compatible with their machine's applications.
- The final advantage I’m going to discuss is data reliability. With cloud computing you do not have to worry about your computer crashing and losing all of your valuable documents because everything is safely secured in the cloud! You also don’t have to worry about your computer’s performance because you will not be storing programs or processes in it’s memory.
Some Key Disadvantages:
- The basic fundamental element of cloud computing is the Internet. So if you don’t have the Internet or have a slow connection, cloud computing can be miserable for you. Most applications will require a significant amount of bandwidth so if you have dial up this may not be up your alley.
- The second disadvantage I would like to point out is that features may be limited. Some cloud applications may not offer as many features as it’s desktop based versions. I have a feeling that this may change relatively soon though. Once the cloud computing name ventures into mainstream I think providers will step up their game and develop more
feature rich applications.
- The last disadvantage to cloud computing is security. Of course cloud computing suppliers/companies are promising our data is secure in the cloud but how secure is the cloud? Also, with cloud computing you have NO BACKUP! Your data could be lost or stolen for one reason or another and you have no physical backup (unless of course you save the documents to a safe place as well).
At any rate, relying on the cloud this early in the game may not be for you or your business. In my humble opinion, I do believe we will see some of these disadvantages evaporate (pun intended) in the near future with the impending popularity of less infrastructure and lower costs.