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The Pros and Cons of Cloud Computing for Business: Trends, Uses, Case Studies

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Companies that are heavily invested in application development and cannot afford to have their site go offline at any cost are looking to the clouds for answers.   Cloud is a form of Software as a Service (SaaS), which offers users robust ways to manage and access content, and the content is always accessible from any web browser or Internet enabled device.  At a recent Cloud Computing EXPO 2011 in Santa Monica, CA, a survey was conducted on the attendees, whose occupation ranged from C-Level Executives and Senior Network Managers. The top reasons why these attendees are using or interested in using Cloud are:

  • Production applications 39%
  • Core business applications 36%
  • Storage 33%
  • Disaster recovery initiatives 29%

The survey results underscore the need for businesses to simply and affordably connect their distributed workforce, application development, and maintain system redundancy through a cloud platform in order to improve productivity and operational efficiency.

Like anything else, there are Pros and Cons:

Pros:

  • Device independence

o   Users can access the cloud with any internet connected device: PCs, Laptops, Smart Phones, Internet mobile devices (Ipod Touch, IPAD, Kindle, Tablets, etc.)

  • Location Independence

o   No longer need to store data on local network server and access it on a share drive.  Users can access their data on the cloud anywhere as long as they have an Internet connection.

  • Resource Pooling

o   Consolidation of IT infrastructure and applications on a cloud promotes greater efficiency of resources.

  • Scalability/Metered Service

o   Simple and cost effective to expand to a larger service plan that would allow even companies with multiple office locations to easily unite their distributed workforce with one central information/access hub.

  • Less IT infrastructure staff to manage

o   With cloud computing, you don’t need to hire a tech team, and a smaller team will save you money on payroll, benefits and more.

Cons:

  • Over-Reliance on a Single Source for Content Management

o   April 20th, 2011, was a day in which hundreds of companies, such as Foursquare, Quora, Hootsuite, SCVNGR, Heroku, Reddit and Wildfire went offline due to a backup glitch on Amazon’s Web Services (AWS).  The incident highlighted cloud users the precarious consequences of over-reliance on a singular source for content management.  Lessons were learned by both the Cloud service provider (AWS) and their business customers.  As a result, businesses that are using cloud are building redundancy in their application and systems.  Netflix is an AWS client but avoided the April 20th outage due to relying on their data center for backup.

  • Devil May Care

o   Some people have extreme reservation toward cloud computing, in which they refer it to a “devil-may-care” approach, in which companies don’t have to worry about who controls your computing or who holds your data, or in other words “think like a sucker.’” Well there are ways to mitigate this concern by regaining control of your data from the cloud.  Prospective businesses can arrange for an Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS), in which the service provider manages the hardware and other IT infrastructure needed to run Cloud Services and the users get to control everything from the Operating System to software applications.  This arrangement allows for the functionality of Cloud while still retaining control of your data.

  • Through the Clouds

o   The cost of clouds can initially be seen as sky high.  For a startup business, you may find that doing a cost-benefit analysis is tricky because there’s no track record other than the metered service.  However, you have to imagine what the cost would be to buy the hardware and the internal staff to support it and assume everything runs smoothly.  The inevitable question comes is “Is Cloud cheaper or more expensive?” Chris Cera, CTO for Vuzit, a nine-person company in Philadelphia has direct experience with using cloud. “Pound for pound, if comparing metal, the cloud ends up being more expensive,” he says. “But if you’re taking advantage of cloud features, I can guarantee it will be lower.” From his experience, Cera says Vuzit spends less than $100,000 a year on cloud computing. He says one example of “taking advantage” is accurately estimating exactly how much computing you need and not buying too much or too little. If you buy your own hardware, you’ll probably initially buy too much and find yourself in a real bind if your business takes off and you have too little. Being able to adjust the amount like a thermostat may, like Cera says, wind up saving you money in the long run, but it will no doubt save you a lot of headaches as well.  In the end, through the clouds, one may see the sunny side of success.

Sources:

http://mashable.com/2010/06/09/stallman-on-saas/

http://mashable.com/2011/07/26/cloud-computing-business/

http://mashable.com/2011/04/22/amazon-cloud-collapse/

http://mashable.com/2010/06/09/stallman-on-saas/

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