When Benefits Outweigh the Fears:
Is Your Business Ready for the Cloud?
Eric Johnson was a network admin at a small company of 50 or so workstations. One of the biggest problems he continuously faced was growing pains.
"It seemed like every week, management was bringing me a new server to connect in, " Eric said, "somewhere to handle the demands of our ever-growing Oracle Database and processing software, or even just to monitor the network. No matter how much space we had, it just never was enough."
That all changed when Eric’s company was purchased by Acme, Inc. The new owners already had server load balancing. Storage burdens, antivirus updates, tape backups, even network monitoring all were handled at the main office.
"There were still problems, though," stated Eric. "Sometimes the Internet connection would go down, and we would spend crucial minutes without access to our data. And if one of the users accidentally overwrote a file with the wrong copy, we would have to submit a ticket and wait for the file to be restored from backup." He continued, "But, overall the savings we experienced from not having to continuously upgrade our hardware was worth a few hiccups."
This is NOT an example of cloud computing.
At Acme, Inc.’s main office, Francisco Diaz, the network admin, still had to deal with all the hardware problems. However, when cloud computing became a viable option, Eric was excited to suggest it. He had experienced firsthand the benefits of outsourcing some of his workload.
Francisco was less certain, "My users rely on their data, without it we are losing hundreds of dollars a minute, and I am not entirely comfortable having someone else in charge of threat detection."
It’s a common concern. While operating in the cloud offers less expensive, superior resources, one of the primary benefits is also one of the primary concerns.
You don’t have to be knowledgeable about the technology your business intelligence resides on when it’s in the cloud. Your host takes care of that, but in exchange you give up a lot of control, which is one of the top three fears of cloud computing: losing control, losing data, and compromising security.
Not since computers replaced filing cabinets as data storage media have we faced such a solid fear of losing control. At least computers were solid boxes that you kept in your office. The resemblance to filing cabinets was further accentuated by referring to data as files and storage locations as folders. Although the files and folders nomenclature remains, the cloud leaves no physical evidence that your intellectual property still exists.
Common cloud fears include any number of the what-if questions below:
- What if the technology fails?
- What if the Internet goes down or becomes regulated and increases cost?
- What if there is a power outage? What if a user accidentally deletes an important file? What if the cloud company we decide to go with goes bankrupt?
- What if a hacker sneaks on to the cloud through another companies unsecured data path, and gains access to ours?
- What if this really is just a government/terrorist plot to mine our precious data? (That final concern is rather uncommon and is probably best addressed by psychologists.)
For most of these fears, the answer is the same as it has always been. Protect your data with backups, and implement reliable security. Although a power outage may occur and the Internet may go down, the data is no more useful in your office computers than on the cloud—until the situation is resolved.
Now that the fears have been addressed, let’s discuss some benefits:
- Money. Rather than purchasing more equipment and paying employees long hours to install it, businesses can share the cost by paying only for what they need.
- Growth. As the business grows, so does the server size, as needed. Adding additional resources requires a simple phone call, or an email, or perhaps just a click of the mouse.
- Updates. No longer does Eric (from the example above) need to spend his weekends installing updates. It is taken care of in the cloud.
- Mobility. Employees can access data from anywhere they can establish an internet connection.
- IT. There is less need for an IT department. As knowledge of the technology used for server maintenance is really handled on the cloud.
For business to trust the cloud for its computing needs, it must have redundant backups, multiple wide-area network options, a robust data recovery plan and a comprehensive antivirus/spyware/threat software. Only then can an enterprise truly benefit from the money- and time-saving opportunities that exist in the cloud.
By Nathan Darling