Cloud Computing… it is something that we hear a lot about. But, do we actually know what it means? Most do. Some don’t. Last year, my 4 year old boys participated in a project with Accenture on Cloud Computing where they actually got paid to be in front of the camera to share what they know. Of course, they did not know much. 🙂 Unfortunately, they did to make the final cut, but it was fun hanging out and watching them “work”. As for us adults, some of us still need help understanding the concept. You probably use it ever day and don’t even realize it. The below post may clear up the concept a bit.

Cloud computing has taken the information technology industry by storm. Everyone’s talking about the silver lining to the cloud, how cloud computing will help you weather through a disaster and more and more companies are getting “in the cloud”. With the way it’s growing, it would be wise to examine and cloud more closely to figure out whether it’s a beautiful iridescent cloud or a mushroom cloud on your horizon.

Generally when people write about cloud computing and the benefits, they are generally referring to public clouds. That is, the servers are at another location, you don’t need to host them in your company. Another indication that it is public clouds being referred to is that the service is free, such examples of cloud computing applications are Gmail and Google docs. Don’t get me wrong, free stuff on the internet is great! But we need to get straight what we’re actually getting at.

So let’s take a look at the shiny and not-so-shiny sides of cloud computing:
+ You can access the server anywhere in the world. Cloud computing is run on a shared data centre. All you need to do is log in. You can customize it if you want to. Especially in this day and age where most things are on soft copy anyway. This also means collaborative work is easier. For example, in a Google doc (or an equivalent), you can have many people working on the same thing at the same time and it will automatically update to accommodate these changes. It also means that there is virtually several backup copies made in real-time so you don’t have to worry about data loss.
– Your work is potentially everywhere. This is one of the biggest concerns of cloud computing. Sure you can access your work everywhere but what if an employee’s laptop gets stolen? The more copies there are of a confidential document lying around, the more risk it is of being compromised.  + Remote servers. Save office space! Save on cooling costs and buying the actual hardware! This could save you and your business lots – especially when factoring in those pesky ongoing maintenance costs!
– Physical security of your data. Where are the servers if they aren’t in your office? What laws are there to protect data in that country? If they are more lax that your own, this is like leaving your nice car in the shady side of town because you’re too stingy to pay for parking! It’s not worth the cost if your data gets stolen.
+ Make things easier. Easy access and you pay for what you need. This is generally on a monthly basis. A big plus point is scalability. It is as big or as small as you need it to be.
– It takes time for a transition and change. You might discover more problems before you find solutions since some of the cloud computing software does automatic checks. Of course it’s better to find it earlier than later but savings may not be as huge as projected.

Public vs. Private Cloud
One solution that has been suggested for security issues is to build your own cloud. Sounds complicated and a lot of work? Definitely. It will take a lot of work but ultimately you will have the ability to control it. There will be no involvement in your data. The problem with this is that if you don’t have the necessary resources to maintain it yourself then it is not necessarily safer. A public cloud does mean a bigger target which can be tempting to hackers but since public cloud software providers pride themselves on their service – security is their main concern too.

Here are just a few thoughts to think about on cloud computing. I’m definitely looking forward to cloudy days ahead but I wouldn’t put my thinking hat away just yet.


About the Author: Sally works for The Defectors – A Sydney based Marketing Company that’s rebelling with a cause. This post is written in collaboration with Computer Networks IT. They specialise in IT Support in Sydney. Check them out on Twitter.