‘Cloud computing’ is perhaps the most misunderstood and overused term in technology today. We all want to understand the concept behind the phrase and gain its supposed benefits, but is it really the best move for everyone?
Working in the technology space and designing cloud hosting solutions for large organizations, I tend to have my own thoughts and feelings about the cloud computing phenomenon. The best way I have found to explain the promise of the cloud is this one short sentence: “Access your data anytime and anywhere.”
When you look at that definition with an objective frame of mind, what does it really mean? Essentially I’m stating that you can have access to your core data, whatever its format, from any internet-connected device regardless of your physical location. Who cares if you’re not at your office in California or New York? Who cares if you’re using your neighbor’s laptop? It just doesn’t matter. That is a powerful promise, and it has brought many sheep to the fold, perhaps too many too quickly.
Now, as with all things new there is compromise in this equation; cloud computing is no silver bullet. The challenge that you must take into account is that when you migrate your digital files to the cloud you lose full control over your operating infrastructure. You still own the data of course, after all it’s your intellectual property, but when you establish a relationship with a cloud hosting provider you can no longer walk by and watch the lights blink on your server.
This is too much a change for many individuals and organizations, especially when sensitive data is in question. Everyone who works in cloud computing knows how difficult it was, even only a few years ago, to get clients to understand (let alone trust) that an external or firm could effectively manage their data backups. If the client didn’t have a physical DLT tape or CDROM of their archived data sitting in a fire safe in their office, a managed backup solution was nearly impossible to push through to their CIO. Numerous high profile cloud failures from firms as large as Microsoft have not helped.
But as the industry has matured those fears have eased. Improved uptime, better backup procedures, increased general knowledge, and better access to education on cloud systems have all worked together to slowly change and soften the perspective of even the most hardcore old-school mind. We will see more and more adoption of cloud computing in the near future. That seems to be assured given the growth in both consumer and oriented cloud computing companies around the world.
If you think about it, a high percentage of internet users today are already utilizing aspects of cloud computing in their normal daily workflow. For example, if you use browser based email or any of the inexpensive online file storage utilities that are available (Dropbox, Box.net, etc.), you depend on the cloud. These services have seen significant increases in usage and reliance from both the individual and enterprise levels. To put this in perspective, online was banking was new and taboo in recent memory; now people trust the cloud with their personal financial information every day.
My recommendation to anyone interested in the best elements of cloud computing while understanding its risks and difficulties is this: climb into this pool slowly. Don’t move all of your core data and functions outside of your grasp with one swift motion. Ease into the cloud, become comfortable with the subtle changes that will come to your daily workflow before you make any more adaptations. At the same time, keep this in your mind at all times: the cloud is the future of much of the internet, and you will use it eventually. The only question is how to do so in the best, most effective way possible.