And what cloud computing is good for
Cloud computing usage is growing quickly, but is it right for you? We outline below the arguments for and against cloud computing.
Cloud computing pros:
- Any device access. You can access cloud data and applications with any computing device connected to the internet.
- Unlimited scalability. You have the ability to scale up your computing requirements, with huge storage capacity.
- You can dramatically boost your infrastructure resources at a relatively low cost.
- Group collaboration is easier, especially if you are jointly working on documents or projects.
- You can quickly obtain and deploy software applications. Therefore, giving you greater flexibility.
- You can access the latest version of software applications.
- Software updates are automatic, saving you time and effort upgrading your own system.
- Potentially lower costs. You pay or rent ‘On-demand’ or SaaS on a subscription basis, rather than purchase software. Up-front costs are likely to be lower, but costs may even out in the longer term. Other software costs may be reduced such as office software costs, if you use the free software available. There is a reduced need for servers and the opportunity to use lower spec / lower cost PC’s and internet devices.
- No fixed costs. All costs are variable.
- Environmental savings – from more efficient use of hardware and power.
Cloud computing is good:
- For collaboration work
- If you work from multiple locations and you need to access your data and applications whenever you are.
- If you need lots of storage space or to upscale, your computing needs very quickly.
- If you wish to spread your costs more evenly over time.
Cloud computing cons:
- A constant internet connection is required. Without the internet, you cannot access your data or application.
- Potential unreliability of cloud computing vendors. So, look at the vendor’s system reliability or downtime reports. Do you need temporary alternatives to deal with any short downtimes eg wireless dongles? Or, applications that you can run locally, and then synchronize when the system is back online?
- High-speed internet connections are required for cloud computing usage. While it is possible with a dial up connection, it is slow and laborious.
- Even with a high-speed connection, performance can be slow, due to the number of users on the internet or competing for resources.
- Many security issues around accessing and storing data (see article on cloud computing and security).
- If you do not wish to rely on the cloud data storage, there is no local physical back up. You will have to back up to your own local device if you need this.
- Costs may quickly increase, if usage / resources are increased. It is worthwhile checking how and when such cost increases may occur.
- Lack of control over data, system performance, the ability to audit or change processes.
- Potential inability to see who is viewing / accessing your corporate data.
- Risk of data loss if your organisation is locked into a proprietary format.
- Limited software features. Some cloud-based software may not be fully featured, and this would need to be checked before signing up.
Cloud computing is not good:
- If you don’t have an internet connection or only have a slow internet connection.
- If your business is tied to existing software applications. Some web-based applications are not completely compatible with offline systems.
- For organisations concerned about security, or have to maintain data privacy requirements for compliance eg for HIPAA, SOX.
Some applications currently appear to be more appropriate for cloud computing eg CRM rather than HR or Payroll. However, it is an individual organisation’s choice as to whether to use cloud computing. As ever, there is a trade-off and the need to consider whether the benefits of cloud computing are worth the costs.