Cloud or Fog – What does Cloud Computing mean and how does it apply to my Business?
If you are in business you have an IT system of some sort. It might be a single PC in your home, or a small network in your office, or you might even be a large corporation with several data-centres and a global network, but one thing is for sure – you rely on this system to manage your business.
No-one can fail to have at least heard the phrase “Cloud Computing”, but what does this mean and does it have any relevance to the Small or Medium Business Enterprise (SME)?
I went looking for a single definition of Cloud Computing and one I found from the American National Institute of Standards and Technology ran to two pages and talked about “five essential characteristics, three service models, and four deployment models”
To the SME, this is already a turn off and is an example of Fog – not Cloud.
So, here is my definition. Cloud computing occurs when you allow someone else to manage all or part of your IT system, which you then access via the Internet.
The easiest example to understand is email. If you use Gmail, Hotmail, Yahoo or any other email provider, you are using Cloud Computing and allowing someone else to manage your email system. You can extend your use of Cloud Computing right up to the point where you hand over all of your enterprise’s Information Technology requirements – provision of servers, databases, workflow, payroll, Accounts, CRM tools etc. – to an outside partner or partners who will provide you with a service which you can access via the Internet. So, should you use a Cloud Computing service?
The answer is “It depends”.
Each case and each Business is different, but I will try and clear the fog a little.
Money: Most people think that “If it’s on the Internet, it should be free.” Well it isn’t.
However, if you have been putting off that server upgrade because you had no capital, and it’s now at the point where you absolutely have to do something, then you could consider moving all or part of your IT systems to an outside service provider who will typically provide a service accessed via the Internet for a monthly or annual fee. In most cases, using an outside service provider means you don’t need to borrow to finance your IT needs.
Technology: The good news is that pretty much all of the services you use in your office today can be transferred to an outside agency and the look, feel and functionality of these services will be the same as before. The further good news is that they can now be accessed everywhere, often via mobile devices.
You can also access applications that were once the preserve of only the biggest corporations due to their price and the complexity of supporting them, thus levelling the playing field even more.
The bad news; these services are all located remotely and if you lose your access to the Internet, you’re goosed.
Security: There have been several well publicised attacks on service providers in the past months, so you might wonder if your data is safe in someone else’s hands. There is always a risk, but before you get too hung up about it, ask yourself, how secure is my data right now? Studies have shown that over 75% of all security breaches occur within an organisation. Here’s a little test for you. Assuming you have locked your smart phone at all, is your password one of these combinations: 1234, 0000, 2580, 1111 or 5555. If so, Congratulations, you are using one of the top 5 most common passwords worldwide. The odds are that Cloud Computing providers have security systems that far exceed your own. However, be aware that you are always responsible for your own data, whether it’s stored in the Cloud or not.
Performance: In general, applications will perform just as well on the Internet as based in your office server, with one major caveat. If you have a poor internet service provider or you do not have high-speed internet access then, frankly, Cloud Computing is not for you.
Scalability: Every business has to take account of those times when they need more resources to cope with seasonal demand. In IT terms, this can mean buying resources that far exceed daily average usage. This is an unnecessary cost, in financial and carbon usage terms. Cloud computing providers are much better at providing the flexibility and scalability you require at a lower cost.
Maturity: By maturity I mean both, is Cloud Computing a mature model and is your business ready for it? To answer the first question – every major Computer Corporation in the IT world is investing heavily in Cloud Computing services so the market is quite mature, and getting more so every day. As far as whether your business, and your IT systems are mature enough – well the answer is up to you. In general, if you are either launching a new service or are supporting a geographically dispersed workforce, then you should seriously investigate a Cloud Computing provider. If however, your business and your staff are all centrally located, then maybe you’re better off staying with a local option.
In summary, Cloud Computing is another option for providing the IT services you need to run your business, but it’s not necessarily the right one, just because it’s the most hyped.
If you would like to discuss your current and future IT requirements, cloudy or otherwise, please contact us at Carrig Solutions.
About the Author:
John Brophy is a 30-year veteran of the IT industry having started in the era of punch cards (ask your parents!). John has worked in a variety of industries and has been both a purchaser and supplier of IT systems for Global and Local Customers. John’s focus in Carrig Solutions is to source the right solution for your business.