By now, everybody knows about the cloud. The concept long ago broke through its meteorological constraints of definition and embraced its value as a tool for facilitating smart, efficient corporate operation without getting bogged down with managing data centres.
But enthusiasm aside, there are some admitted pitfalls associated with this newcomer, and it’s particularly important to take note of them as it gains ground in conjunction with the explosion of mobile computing.
It allows for area-of-expertise focus
Most organizations are not in the business of data management. Cloud computing, wherein all matters of IT infrastructure are offloaded to an outsourced provider, frees them up to focus on what is the centre of their operation without getting bogged down by the minutiae of IT oversight.
The public cloud means your services are available wherever you are. This means easy and constant access to information, no matter your time zone or geographic whereabouts.
It’s economically sensible
Going this route makes good financial sense. You don’t need to expend a ton on initial capital for stand-alone software or servers, you can save on licensing fees and overhead charges for data storage and software updates, you don’t need to forever feed the beast as your hardware ages, and the one-time-fee and pay-as-you-go models means computing expenses are operational expenses.
Increased storage capacity
The cloud can accommodate pretty much as much data as you’ve got. Compared to a personal computer whose potential to run out of storage space is a constant concern, the cloud is a bottomless bucket. Backup also happens automatically, meaning you needn’t trouble yourself with such mundanities.
It facilitates application development
The Platform as a Service (PaaS) standard means you can deliver an application from concept to reality quickly. And then you can build out new infrastructure to support it swiftly by capitalizing on the Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) offering.
Performance can be unpredictable
When you’re sharing infrastructure with others, it stands to reason that sometimes their presence will trump yours. Performance, as a result, can be inconsistent, and the call to provision private cloud servers might be required.
Additionally, it’s important to remember that the entire cloud enterprise depends completely on Internet access. That means you’ll feel the pain of any network or connectivity problems.
A reputation for insecurity
For as long as there’s been the cloud, there’s been vocal concern about the security it offers your data. Because cloud-based solutions are inherently exposed on the public Internet, they’re a vulnerable target for malicious users and hackers. No one is exempt from that, no matter their level of public importance.
Things got worse recently, when hackers gained access to a bunch of celebrities’ Apple iCloud accounts and sent private photos spilling across the Internet. And as businesses increasingly load the cloud with solutions requiring the utmost attention to personal identifying information, financial data or healthcare specifics, these concerns mount.
By taking care to pick a cloud provider that offers industry-standard firewalls, network gateways, antivirus and compliance-scanning capabilities, users can mitigate these worries meaningfully. At the end of the day, not all workloads are appropriate for the cloud, and companies need to consider carefully whether their high-performance computing, big data or regulated workload needs might be among them.
Dependency and vendor lock-in
When a company hands over its precious data to a third party, it becomes utterly dependent thereon. More than that, once it’s locked in with a particular cloud vendor, it’s tricky to migrate to another. In many cases, a third-party tool is needed to migrate that data back on-premise. Both of these considerations make the choice of cloud provider a critical one.
According to ElectronicDesign.com, the cloud could become increasingly vulnerable to network traffic jams as big data needs get bigger. The digital universe is forecast to almost double in size every two years, and much of this data are expected to reside in a cloud. This growth is significantly faster than the network connections’ bandwidth is growing at. The potential for trouble here seems real.
Exposure to business risk
When a company moves to the cloud, its principals must feel satisfied with the details of data-ownership rights, including the conditions under which data can be released. Otherwise, if data gets trapped in a company that fails or suffers a major technical failure, the responsibility for liabilities arising from a third party’s use of the information could come into critical question.
At the end of the day, cloud computing offers enormous benefits to its adopters. But like other tools, it comes with its set of problems and inefficiencies. Being aware of them, and working to lessen them in conjunction with a well-versed and conscientious cloud provider, is the best recipe for getting the most out of putting your head in the clouds.