Cloud computing is the latest buzz term and is being hailed as a revolution with companies claiming to offer amazing cloud computing services.
The reality is that many businesses and home users are already using cloud computing without even realising it. Any business that uses an application operated by another company and accessed via a web browser is using cloud computing; any home user that uses a social networking site such as Facebook or MySpace is using cloud computing.
As with all new technology it has some advantages and disadvantages.
To claim that it removes the need for IT support and advice is a little naïve.
Consider each of the points raised in the article:
• No network equipment required - The need for a well run network infrastructure still stands today as much as it always has. If anything, even greater attention to network infrastructure is needed. Let’s face it, if software is installed on a person’s computer in the traditional way then even if the network or the internet goes offline they can still be productive, however with cloud computing a single point of failure is introduced. If the network or internet fails then no-one can do ANY work at all. For this reason it is imperative that IT infrastructure is continually maintained by a reputable company.
Also,we are not yet at the stage where cloud computing can always replace more traditional software installed onto a PC. There is a time and place for each. For instance, the efficiency of Microsoft Office for more intensive use cannot yet be fully replaced by the cloud. Then there are CAD applications which are very graphics intensive and there is no cloud option at all.
• Free support – Unfortunately there’s no such thing as a free lunch. The cloud computing provider may provide services to backup data and maintain the server but it will be paid for on a monthly basis. With the cloud, the backup requirement may or may not be fully outsourced away from the local computers – but again that depends on the business’s unique requirements and has to be determined on a case-by-case basis, with the help of a competent IT Professional. Not doing so could leave the business vulnerable to data loss.
• Data Security – Cloud computing can offer high levels of data security but this depends on the provider and what it is being compared against. Inexpensive solutions that provide outstanding security for the small business are available without the need for a total cloud computing service. Any system connected to the internet (which all cloud systems are) is also exposed to viruses and spyware which can lead to data security issues. A competent IT support company will ensure that such issues are minimised. One further big question with cloud computing security is that you actually don’t know where your data is stored or who has access to it.
• Disaster Recovery – This is often overlooked by small businesses and cloud computing can help to cover this. However, a simple backup solution can equally address this without the need for a full cloud computing service. The issue with the cloud computing solution is that you are completely reliant on the provider and have no control over if backups are being carried out or where the data is stored.
• Encryption – Cloud computing solutions require encryption because the data is transferred to and from the server over the public internet. Providing the premises are secure and the network and computer security protection has been correctly set up by a competent IT support company then a traditional in-house system is actually more secure than any cloud service.
• Scalability – Just how scalable does a small business need to be? If you are planning to go from one person to 20 people over the next three years, then it is likely that the cost of scaling will be so low and so simple by planning ahead that it will be easily affordable and very easy to switch on for growth. Cloud computing is great at scaling at low cost, but so are installed IT systems when planned and installed properly. Scalability benefits needs to be considered in the overall context of what a business needs.
• Pricing - Installed software can be FREE depending on what is needed, and a competent IT support company can guide and assist with the installation of some excellent free or extremely low cost installed software. Comparisons are only possible when one understands what is being compared. £12 may be a bargain but it may be expensive if lower cost more traditional solutions will meet the need.
In addition to the above, one of the biggest concerns over cloud computing is the risk of exposure to the business. What happens if the Cloud service provider stops trading or prevents the business from gaining access to their systems and data because of a minor dispute? A business relying on a cloud service is completely dependent on them and could fail if the provider lets them down.
So where does this leave us?
Yes- it’s important to review IT needs to ensure that a small business stays on top of their game. One day technology may be straight forward and obvious, and the help of an IT support guy or company may become a thing of the past. At the moment though small businesses need the help of an IT expert to both guide and advise, and also implement the systems needed.
Where cloud computing is used it is the IT expert who will usually recommend the way to go, as it is they who have the relationship with the computer user. To succeed, Icomplete.com and other cloud computing providers need to work with IT support companies to be able to reach out effectively to the computer user community; and together we can implement cloud computing solutions when in the customer’s best interests to do so, delivered with properly implemented and smoothly run infrastructure so that the whole computing experience is second to none.
The PC Support Group offers professional, friendly IT support for businesses and home users throughout the UK. We recommend cloud computing solutions when appropriate and we don’t when they’re not.
See http://www.pcsupportgroup.com for more information and for more on cloud computing see out blog at http://blog.pcsupportgroup.com/post/What-is-Cloud-Computing.aspx
Member since: 19th April 2011
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