Business is migrating to the cloud – and it’s a good place to be
Discover new worlds with an increasing number of cloud based applications.
As suggested in the introductory article, cloud computing is basically a client server model where the server is virtualised – either in the Internet (public Cloud), or in an organisations of datacentres (Private Cloud) or in a combination of the two (Hybrid Cloud).
The ubiquity of Internet access means that cloud computing is ideally suited for mobile users, who can access the latest software from anywhere in the world. Software is hired “as a service” (SaaS) rather than paid for outright.
There are many more cloud service opportunities, however. “Desktop as a Service”, for example, means that a user’s PC is effectively modelled in the cloud and stored there: so they can go to any PC anywhere, log on, and up comes their own desktop and features just as if they were sitting at their own PC. Or they can simply back up files to the cloud instead of a local drive, and from anywhere in the world access the latest version of the document without the nightmare of multiple conflicting versions.
What’s more, colleagues can be given access to that file (as in such cloud services as DropBox or Webex) allowing on-going collaboration between mobile workers scattered across the globe. In the cloud, team-work is no longer limited by geography.
If the organisation backs up the whole of its IT to the cloud, it can enjoy “Disaster Recovery as a Service”. A 2011 study found that the average length of downtime per disaster recovery event was 8 hours for non-cloud users, against 2.1 hours by cloud user standards – nearly four times faster – while 66% of those surveyed cited a need for reliable disaster recovery as a key driver for their move to the cloud.
There is no limit to the range of possible cloud services. Let us say that an organisation is fully equipped with PCs when the media department decides it would rather use Apple. Do they replace all its PCs with Macs? Or do they subscribe to PaaS (Platform as a Service) so users can log on and up comes a mac desktop and software – apparently on their PC?
What does this mean in practice?
With all the benefits you might wonder why everything has not already migrated to the cloud… where’s the snag?
In fact, provided you have a good enough broadband connection and the cloud service and its price meets your needs, there really is no snag. Things are already migrating rapidly to the cloud, and one reason it has not all happened overnight is that it does not make sense to scrap existing IT investment until it is due for upgrade – it’s just a matter of time.
Another reason is not so much a snag as a perceived snag: it goes against human nature to trust our secrets to a stranger, so many are worried that cloud computing is somehow “unsafe”. Whether it is a matter of security, or reliability, they would rather have their data and resources under their own roof.
However, it also goes against human nature to fly through the air at 800 miles per hour, and many people still feel a little bit unsafe when they travel by air – even though statistics say that, mile for mile, it is vastly safer than going by car. What has happened is this: the very fact that flying goes against human nature means that a multi-billion dollar global industry has spent years making sure it is extremely safe.
The same applies to the cloud: the very fact it feels unsafe means that a multi-billion dollar global industry is spending a fortune making it rock solid. You might feel happier having your data all in a PC in a locked office, or even in a laptop under your arm, but it is at far greater risk of loss by fire, breakdown or burglary than it would be in the cloud. You may also have the protection of the latest anti-virus software and the very best firewall in your office, but it is very unlikely to be anywhere near the protection levels provided by any cloud provider.
It’s a good analogy, because they say that the most risky part of flying is not in the air, but in the journey to the airport through traffic hold ups, accidents or even car hi-jacking. In the same way, the real risk in cloud computing is not in the CSP’s datacentre, but in your public Internet connection, which could be slow, unreliable or compromised. Instead of taking the car to the airport, it is safer to take the train, and the same applies in cloud computing. If you do have doubts about trusting the public Internet, your company can connect to a CSP via the safety and reliability of a private line, or virtual private line, as provided by Vertel’s own Carrier Ethernet service with or without microwave access.
Finally, why has this unnatural practice of flying “taken off” (sorry) everywhere? Is it because of all those safety statistics and arguments for its safety? Only partly true: what really reassures people is the number of flights they have already made without any trouble.
And the same applies to cloud computing. You might hear some techno-conservative insisting that they would never trust the cloud, while using their smartphone to check for a good restaurant or bargain offer in their vicinity. Do they really believe that their little handheld device holds all that data inside? Of course not, it is held in the cloud! Everyday use of smartphone apps is getting us used to using cloud services but without the “cloud” label – and those same apps are now appearing on our PCs and laptops.
Business is already migrating to the cloud and, yes, it is turning out pretty well for those able to access it at any rate.