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Is cloud computing really a ‘pot of gold’ at the end of a rainbow?

Once the biggest perceived disadvantages are considered and negated, there is no denying that cloud computing is the way of the future.
Read time 4min 30sec

The by and large vast majority of people seem to have a bit of a “well… it depends” answer to the question of whether cloud computing really is the ‘pot of gold’ at the end of the rainbow that it is proclaimed to be.

The whole premise around cloud computing can be broken down as follows: the customer only pays for what they use, and they also only use what they need.

However, a recent survey found that one of the top cloud computing issues is security (68% of participants expressed concern), followed by concerns around IT spend and cost overruns, day-to-day maintenance, root-cause analysis and post-mortems. A whopping 48% also claimed their IT organisation was finding the cost of recruiting cloud professionals to solve the cloud problems to be an ongoing challenge.

Herewith is my view on some of the biggest perceived disadvantages to be considered in this regard.

Security: Not all cloud providers are as secure as they claim to be. It is vitally important for business to ensure their data is secure. More importantly, it is paramount that their customers’ information is secure. Which leads me to the next point.

Privacy: While it may be the responsibility of the cloud provider to ensure they do everything possible to manage and safeguard the underlying hardware infrastructure of a deployment, it is a customer’s responsibility to safeguard end-user access management, and carefully weigh all the risk scenarios. Know who is supposed to have access to each resource and service, and limit access to least privilege. Ensure a risk-based approach is taken to securing assets used in the cloud and extend security to the devices. Finally, consider encryption, encryption, encryption.

Perhaps the most powerful and dynamic feature is the rapid scalability or flexibility factor of cloud computing.

Network connectivity: Business must always have an Internet connection. Unfortunately, there is no way to get around this fact. And in a country like South Africa, with its inherent electricity supply issues, this really should be a big part of the decision-making process. However, a good, hosted services provider will help the business develop a business continuity plan and a minimum amount of downtime service level agreement can be negotiated.

Loss of control: The business is essentially trusting another party to take care of its data and ensure it is safe. Business will have to trust that the host will maintain the data centres and servers, and trust that the provider’s data centres are compliant and secured, both physically and online. However, in my opinion, when it comes to the cloud, the advantages vastly outweigh these perceived disadvantages.

Cost savings: With no huge layout on hardware, or the associated maintenance costs, the ‘pay as you use’ model of cloud computing is a huge cost saving, adding to that the fact that oftentimes the initial investment in cloud-based IT systems is significantly less than that of an in-house equivalent. Perhaps the biggest cost saving of all is that by moving to the cloud, a company can eliminate the need to purchase most of the components required to implement these systems.

Measured service: A customer only pays for what they use. As such, a cloud provider measures or monitors the provision of the services that are provided for various reasons. This includes billing, the effective use of resources and overall predictive planning.

On-demand: Computing resources are made available to the user on an “as needed” basis. Perhaps the most powerful and dynamic feature is the rapid scalability or flexibility factor of cloud computing. Cloud systems can be scaled up or down depending on the operational needs of a customer. Basically, this means that if a new project is scoped and a customer needs to utilise a few additional servers for the duration of that project, they can do so. Once the project has completed, the customer can drop back down to the previous level of usage.

Broad network access: These include resources that are hosted in a private cloud network (obviously within a company's firewall); however, they are available for access from a much wider range of devices – including tablets, PCs, Macs and smartphones. It also means these resources are widely accessible from a much broader range of locations.

Resource pooling: Pooling is the grouping together of resources for the purposes of maximising the inherent advantage, or minimising the risk to users and the customer.

Rapid elasticity: A company’s ability to provide scalable services, scaling up the computing power as needed, allowing the customer to accommodate temporary spikes in traffic. This also allows the customer to build and scale up the capacity needed for permanent increases in workloads.

Deployment: Cloud infrastructure gives business the ability to enable and facilitate mission-critical technology that delivers substantial benefits with minimal provisioning time.

There is no denying that cloud computing is the way of the future. Failure to embrace it as such could be costly to any business. 

Jessie Rudd

Technical business analyst at PBT Group

Jessie Rudd is a technical business analyst at PBT Group, a position she has held since 2011. In this role, she is responsible for combining data analysis assignments and researching new technologies in this space. Rudd holds training in IT (computer management) and has been exposed to a number of industries over the past 10 years, including BI, financial services, retail, market research, as well as corporate functions such as call centres, human resources and IT. This broad experience allows her to grasp the complexity attached to converting data into intelligence. Rudd has a passion for investigating new technologies and making others aware of them, as well as finding the most efficient tools for successfully undertaking a required task.

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