Cloud Computing – Friend or Foe?
28 Aug 2012 13:45
Cloud Computing appears to be brilliant yet baffling in equal measure. Perhaps this is because it offers solutions to problems that most businesses are not even sure they have, and untold rewards with seemingly uncertain risks.
So before we dissect the solutions, rewards and risks, let’s try to take the mystery out of the term ‘Cloud’ itself; let’s try to see through The Cloud!
Firstly, 'Cloud' is just a marketing termed coined to define a range of technologies that enable the delivery of 'computing services' to your PC or Mac over the Internet. Basically, this means that rather than having your 'applications' or documents sitting on the hard disc of your own computer, they reside on a machine located some distance away from you (typically a data center), that you (or anyone else) can connect to via the Internet.
Nothing particularly complicated there then, except why would you want to do this?
Well, if all your files and data are stored on your own computer, you must always have that computer with you if you want to work on them. If you haven't yet embraced the world of mobile computing, then you must “be” wherever your computer is. Talking of mobile computing, have you ever noticed just how heavy those things are? Or should I say, used to be. The emergence of thinner laptops or notebooks, and even “air” books, has gone hand-in-hand with the evolution of cloud-based or “remote connectivity" computing. So nowadays, your ultraportable mobile device may actually be as small as a telephone handset.
So, being able to connect from “anywhere", and with “any device", are huge bonuses for cloud-based solutions. Remember, as you're connecting to your own data and your own applications, you will always have all “your stuff" with you wherever you are. A compelling argument in itself, but of course there is more.
Having ticked the boxes labeled “how" and “where”, we now move on to the “who” box, and this is where Cloud really delivers.
By having your data with you all the time and centralising it in one shared location, you open the possibility for other people to access it (with your permission of course). The exact nature of the benefits this brings is dependent upon the application that you are using.
Back office systems such as Administrative, Accounts or Design tools may benefit from enabling access and input from other members of your team. This is especially relevant for SME’s because of their frequent use of freelancers or subcontract workers. With Cloud, colleagues can contribute anytime, and from anywhere - a very practical advantage in every way.
Front end or “client facing” systems raise the bar yet further. Cloud based solutions open up your systems to your clients - enabling them to check the progress of their own deliverables through your system. As consumers, we've embraced this concept massively; we book travel online, shop online, check availability - even read reviews by other users before deciding to buy. Enabling this level of connectivity and engagement with B2B transactions is where the hidden value of “Cloud" lies.
But what about those risks mentioned before?
When your data was on your PC, you really knew where it was - and I mean really knew. There was the original copy on the PC, the backup on the shelf, another one in the safe and one more back at your mum’s house just in case! Now you're being asked to accept that your data is located somewhere in “The Cloud"!
You can take some comfort from the fact that modern data centers aren't generally run by a “bloke” that just knows a bit about computers, but rather by hard nosed IT professionals for whom data security and integrity is absolutely key, and “system resilience” is an acceptable topic of casual conversation. Let's face it, for most of us, it's far better to leave data security to the professionals.
So, cloud-based solutions don't just make the old ways of doing things much more convenient, they also allow us to do things that we simply couldn't do before. Those businesses that embrace these new methods first will gain a competitive edge and distance themselves from the competition. And that, surely, is no bad thing.
ABOUT THE BLOGGER
Colin Barnes has spent over 30 years delivering IT solutions to small businesses. he founded, developed and grew Bdata Ltd into one of the country's foremost specialist suppliers of software solutions to the contracting industry before trade sale to a competitor in 2005.
The following few years saw various projects undertaken, but by 2009 collaborative document sharing and project management had emerged as a growing market and collabor8online was born in 2009.
Collabor8online is a project extranet that allows colleagues, teams and companies to work together more efficiently, saving time and reducing costs and allowing you to provide a better service to your clients. Collabor8online allows you to make your project documentation available to all your staff, clients and contacts no matter where they are based.You can collabor8 in real time, allowing documents and processes to evolve quickly and efficiently.
Watch Collabor8's recent video about online project management here! : http://youtu.be/Sz_kNRJtsTI
Further information can be found at www.collabor8online.co.uk
28 Aug 2012