Cloud computing has been a buzz-word for a number of years now. Perhaps because it is such a nebulous/ethereal term (cloud?) that has been used to describe a number of different configurations and scenarios. You are most likely using some sort of cloud computing already but it is worth asking the hard questions to make sure you have the basics covered.
Cloud computing refers simply to the fact that your application or data is no longer on a computer that you can touch. It is hosted in a remote computer room in another city, another, state, or another country. In the “cloud”. What brought about this change, and why haven’t we always done it this way? One of the big reasons is the rising abundance and speed of networking. It used to be that your computer or terminal was tied directly to the computer in the computer room. Through better networking technology, the machine in the computer room and the computer in your hands became further and further separated until it was no longer necessary to have a dedicated room in every building. Better network security schemes has also increased this geographic gap.
Is cloud computing all tea and roses or are there still some lingering concerns? Think about these issues when creating or expanding your cloud computing strategy:
If you contract with a large service provider such as Google or Amazon or IBM to host your application or data, your confidential information will be sitting in the same data center as another customer or perhaps even your competitor. Is the “wall” around your data secure enough to keep your information confidential. When your information is traveling to and from the data center over the network, is it secure? Has it been encrypted for the trip? Do you trust all of your information to the cloud or just the non-critical pieces?
Is your application and data usage large enough to warrant cloud computing? If you are a small company or non-profit agency, the setup for hosting your applications and data may swamp your entire IT budget. Some application service providers only cater to large customers with millions of transactions per month. If you don’t fall into that category then perhaps your IT person is just what you need. At the other end of the scale, some small companies or agencies use free services such as Dropbox or Google Docs. If this is the case, then check your assumptions about security.
Some applications such as customer relationship management (CRM) or simple e-mail or backups may be easily offloaded to another provider. Other applications may be complex or proprietary to the point where it makes more sense to keep them closer to the vest. They might still be a candidate in the future as you peel back the layers of legacy and move toward standard applications.
These are all questions to consider when formulating your cloud computing strategy. It can be a real cost savings to offload your computing to another provider but without careful consideration, it can become a complexity you did not bargain for. What keeps you up at night in terms of your cloud computing strategy?
About Kelly Brown
Kelly Brown is an IT professional, adjunct faculty for the University of Oregon, and academic director of the UO Applied Information Management Master’s Degree Program. He writes about IT topics that keep him up at night.