Cloud computing – we hear the term almost every day. But really, what is cloud computing? This seems like a common question. In June of this year, TELUS and IDC Canada published a study on cloud computing, which surveyed 200 Canadian businessmen and IT executives and directors of large Canadian companies (more than 500 employees) in various industries. The study found that 63% of Canadian companies surveyed did not have enough or only had a basic level of knowledge to decide whether to use the cloud service or their internal IT department.
A recent eweek.com article also points out that there is confusion in cloud computing. The article mentions a recent study commissioned by Citrix Systems, which involved more than 1,000 adults in the United States. The study found that most respondents thought the cloud was related to the weather. 51% of respondents believe that the weather can interfere with cloud computing. Despite the confusion, the study also found that 97% of participants today use cloud services with examples such as online banking, shopping, social networks and file sharing. In addition, 59% of respondents indicated that they believe that the “workplace of the future” will be in the cloud, which is somewhat contrary to the prevalence of cloud computing today.
This understanding above reflects what we find among our own customers. Cloud computing knowledge is relatively limited, and as a result, organizations may miss significant opportunities to strengthen their business by reducing costs and risks. We hope this article will give you insights into cloud computing to help you evaluate their relevance to your business requirements.
What is cloud computing?
First of all, it’s useful to understand where the term “cloud computing” came from. Most likely, it arose due to the use of a cloud image to represent a networked computing environment or the Internet.
A quick Google search will show a number of definitions for cloud computing. I like the definition I took from Wikipedia, which defines cloud computing as the delivery of computing as a service by which shared resources, software and information are provided to computers and other devices as a utility, similar to a power grid, over a network that is most often the Internet.
What cloud computing models are there?
To understand the confusion surrounding cloud computing, it is helpful to understand the various models of cloud services, of which three are software as a service (SaaS), platform as a service (PaaS), and infrastructure as a service (IaaS). )
SaaS is the most widely known type of cloud service. SaaS is sometimes called software on demand. With SaaS, software and related data are hosted centrally and are usually accessible over the Internet using a browser. What are some examples of SaaS? MailChimp, the application we use to distribute our newsletters, is an example. Google Apps is another example of how Dropbox is, and the list continues to expand.
PaaS provides a computing platform and the necessary solutions to facilitate application deployment without having to invest in the cost and complexity of hardware and software. Some examples of PaaS include Microsoft Azure and Google App Engine.
The IaaS service model allows customers to avoid purchasing servers, software, data center space, and network equipment. Such resources are provided as a fully outsourced service. Examples of IaaS are Elastic Compute Cloud and Amazon Rackspace.
In addition to the various cloud service models, it is helpful to understand the delivery models over which cloud computing is distributed. The main delivery models are public, private, public and hybrid.
The public cloud offers infrastructure and solutions for the general public and, as a rule, belongs to a large organization that sells cloud services.
A private cloud is for one organization only. A private cloud can be managed by the organization that uses it, or by a third party, and the infrastructure can be located on the cloud user’s site or elsewhere.
The community cloud is shared by several organizations and supports the user community, usually with some common interests, such as regulatory issues.
A hybrid cloud model consists of two or more clouds, such as a public and private cloud, connected by technology to facilitate data exchange and portability. Egnyte, a file storage and sharing service, is an example of a hybrid cloud computing solution.
What are some of the benefits of cloud computing?
Earlier this year, I participated in a webinar, which was attended by a round table with comments by the CFO on what they consider to be the main advantages of cloud computing. Indicated benefits include the following:
- Cost savings compared to onsite installation
- Access anytime, anywhere over the Internet
- Reducing Dependence on IT Support
- Cloud solutions are more often deployed faster than on-premises solutions.
- Cloud solutions typically allow organizations to purchase larger products with much greater functionality, which would be prohibitively expensive if similar functions were acquired using a non-cloud solution in place
- IT professionals can focus more on value-added activities, rather than IT infrastructure management, as infrastructure moves to the cloud service provider.
- Cloud solutions typically contribute to the following:
- More timely financial information
- Business Process Optimization
- Communicating with employees and enabling employees to work remotely
What are some of the risks and challenges associated with cloud computing?
Despite the benefits, there are a number of common cloud computing issues. It is very important to carefully consider the risks that may affect your confidential information, regardless of whether you evaluate cloud or on-premises solutions. It is also important to evaluate the risks associated with cloud solutions in the context of similar risks that you might encounter with your own alternatives on the spot.
The most common problem is security. For most small and medium-sized organizations, security with cloud solutions is often better than on-premises solutions, because reputable cloud providers can invest in skill sets and capabilities to respond to emerging and evolving threats. Many small and medium-sized organizations rely on part-time IT support or no special IT support at all. This, combined with constantly evolving IT risks, can lead to the fact that most small and medium-sized organizations simply can not keep up with their information assets. To resolve security issues, a reputable cloud provider should be able to provide guarantees related to the following:
- Access to data. There must be a hard authentication process that every user must go through to access their data.
- Transfer – data must be encrypted when transferred from a local site to a cloud service provider.
- Network – Robust protection must be installed to protect the network of the cloud service provider.
- Physical access – the cloud service provider should be able to demonstrate reliable control over the physical access to its facilities where your data will be stored.
- Data Security – The cloud service provider should be able to ensure that your data is encrypted when it is “alone” in the cloud.
- Confidentiality and Compliance – Your cloud service provider should be able to provide guarantees that it can protect the confidentiality of your information and comply with relevant standards and laws that may be relevant to your organization.
Cloud availability is another concern. It is important to evaluate the impact of the cloud solution, which is becoming unavailable due to circumstances such as disconnecting the Internet or a technical failure of the cloud provider. Again, such problems should be analyzed in an appropriate context. Internet outages, especially long outages, are not uncommon. Dear cloud service providers most often show a very high level of performance, and in case of problems there are qualified resources to solve them. How does this scenario relate to similar risks associated with your on-site alternative? How do you feel about downtimes with local solutions and can you get timely round-the-clock support, if you have a critical problem? Availability risks can also be mitigated with a hybrid cloud model. Egnyte was previously mentioned as an example of a hybrid cloud model for file sharing and storage. With this option, if the Internet goes offline, you can still have a local copy of your data.
Data access is seen as a problem in two contexts. One of them is how I can get my data back if I leave my cloud service provider. Another thing is what happens if my cloud provider goes out of business. The answer to these questions should be easily accessible from your cloud service provider and should be indicated in your agreement with the end user. The most important thing to consider is in what format your data will be available if you want to receive it from your cloud service provider. Suppose, for example, that if you use a cloud-based accounting solution, your data may not be provided to you in the same format in which you entered it.
The last thing to think about is backing up your data. In our experience with small organizations, there are often no backup routines or problems with them, such as backups that are not stored off-site, or restoring from backups that are not tested. Good-reputation cloud solutions reduce this risk, and in fact, many cloud providers have multiple backup storage in the event of a failure on a particular site.