Cloud Computing Services
If you run a small business, you can lower your IT capital expenditures and improve access to information, by adopting cloud computing services....
What is Cloud Computing?
Widespread adoption of cloud computing services, is still in its relative infancy. Firms are still suspicious and unsure of what it means for their business. The basic principle of cloud computing services, include Internet based computing, where users access business applications and information from a shared online resource, paying for this service on demand. This is a real shift away from the traditional client/server business model, (where computer processing, intelligence and personal data all reside under the control of users personal computers).
The opportunity to lower computer costs remains an enticing prospect, for many businesses. Yet most are still unsure of how to calculate return on investment in such a complex area. The model makes the trend of working from home much more appealing. It provides the scope for managers to work flexibly from anywhere. Yet despite the obvious business benefits, key issues of security and privacy remain the biggest show stoppers. As a business owner, how will you truly know whether or not 3rd parties in the cloud, are monitoring your private our surfing habits, email contacts, business letters, company correspondence and sensitive financial data? There are also regulatory issues to consider, if you operate in an industry which regulates the management, access and storage of sensitive customer data.
Characteristics of Cloud Computing Services
The main characteristics of cloud based computing services are as follows. Firstly, cloud computing are essentially Internet based services. Cloud computing relies upon high-speed Internet connections, to enable users' access to applications and data. Well-known companies like Google, IBM and Microsoft advocate, and provide Internet service based solutions for business productivity. These tools included hosted email, secure online backup, calendars, word processing, online shared spreadsheets and much more. The common feature, is that users can access the service from any Web browser, on any computing device, and from anywhere in the World.
Secondly, cloud computing relies on shared and centralised computing power. End users do not own the physical computing power used to access their data or applications. Instead, giant server farms provide a centralised access point and share physical infrastructure. This infrastructure supports thousands of users simultaneously. Thus, economies of scale are created as computing power can be optimised and made available more efficiently (when compared to individual PC's which often fail and requiring fixing). Users no longer need to worry about purchasing upgrades for their laptops or installing software, fixing hardware problems or keeping up-to-date with the latest security threats. Instead, the cloud computing provider provides expert knowledge and expertise to manage all these practices on behalf of its combined customer base.
Thirdly, cloud computing uses a highly scalable business model. Small businesses can make new employees productive remarkably quickly and cheaply, by adding additional subscriptions to cloud based services. Likewise, cloud based suppliers can supply additional services, (such as mass storage backup and restore services). They can also increase network bandwidth extremely quickly to meet increased demand from businesses or consumers if required.
Lastly, most cloud computing uses utility based pricing. This helps small firms avoid capital expenditure on PC and business software, (which sits redundant half its lifetime). Instead, providers only charge for the online services members actually consume. This means operating expenditure on IT usually increases. This expenditure is exceptionally flexible, because business owners have the option to terminate subscription contracts, adjust the numbers of subscribed users and tailor the range of online services consumed, to meet the needs of changing the business. Various pricing models exist between free to use services (such as Google Docs) to pay as you pricing models (such as salesforce.com).
Cloud Computing Security
Advocates argue that cloud computing security, is better than the traditional localised client/server set up. Users are usually one step behind the latest security threats, and fail to upgrade their operating system or web browser. Many innocently infect their own PC's with viruses, trojans, adware and spyware. Whereas cloud computing centralised data centres, retain high levels of physical and virtual security. These data centres are maintained by the IT industries very best security professionals. However, despite this business owners are justifiably anxious and doubtful, about the potential security implications. Cloud computing providers become will become a target for hackers. As business owners do not control of any physical or logical and security in the cloud, they have trust the cloud provider. This is a giant leap of faith for many businesses. Most still prefer to take the easy option, and store customer data on ordinary local PC's. Only time will determine which business model will prevail.