Cloud Computing Overview

What is the Cloud?

Simply put, the cloud is a network of servers accessible through the internet. This means that to access the cloud, all you need is a computer that is connected to the internet. The network of servers that you are connecting to is handling running the applications, storing the data, and providing the necessary infrastructure for everything to work and connect. This is the biggest advantage of moving to the cloud: our clients do not have to invest large amounts of time and resources (money) on building, managing, and servicing their own network and server infrastructure. Partnering with a cloud provider will allow our clients to focus less on the physical IT side, and more on their products and services. [1]I will highlight more advantages and highlight some of the potential weaknesses of the cloud later, but first, let me bring you up to speed on the basic services of the cloud.

Software as a service (SaaS): This is where applications are hosted and ran on the cloud infrastructure and accessed through the intent. Think of Google Drive, Salesforce, and other CRM clients. Advantages: 1.) Reduces the time it takes for users to install and configure the application on a local servers and individual access points by having the install and configurations set on a single cloud-based server, also decreasing deployment time. It also allows for new releases of software to quickly become available for customers to use by removing the need for customers and clients to download and install new releases. 2.) SaaS reduces costs by reducing hardware and maintenance costs and by allowing smaller and medium sized businesses to access software for a much lower licensing fee. 3.) Cloud-base software has high scalability where features and services can be quickly added or removed based on current needs and requirements of the customers and clients.[2]

Platform as a service (PaaS): This is where the cloud provide delivers hardware and software tools that are needed for the development of the applications as part of their service. Advantages: 1.) PaaS reduces the need and costs of having in-house hardware and software development tools. 2.) It also reduces the need for additional hardware and software required to provide operating systems, middleware (such as databases and servers), and security tools. 3.) PaaS provides quicker application performance monitoring (APM) so our clients can access user data more quickly, allowing better customer responsiveness.[3]

Infrastructure as a service (IaaS): This is where compute resources are hosted on the cloud and provided on demand though the internet by our clients. Our clients are able to make adjustments and monitor their cloud-based infrastructure through a Web-based graphical user interface that serves as an IT operations management console for the overall network.[4] Advantages: 1.) Reduced costs to provide upkeep, ensure uptime, and maintain and upgrade hardware in an in-house network. It also reduces the cost of having too much infrastructure that is not needed 2.) It’s a completely scalable and flexible solution to infrastructure demands of our clients and their customers to quickly allow the change in size as demand increases and decreases. 3.) It’s a cost effect way of preparing for disaster recovery. If a disaster strikes out client’s facility, internet access is all that will be needed for our clients to reconnect to their infrastructure and data that is stored remotely and, in most cases, different physical locations.[5]

Advantages of Cloud-based Service.

There are several large advantages for our client to migrate to the cloud, so of which were covered in the details above, but let me summarized them here.

  1. Cost Savings: There are many ways in which the cloud can save our clients on time, resources and capital, the largest being removing the need for a large in-house network infrastructure. The client will also need fewer employees to manage their infrastructure and create, develop, and test applications that their customers are using to access their goods and services. Our client will also have fewer resources sunk into preparing for disaster recovery and business continuity in the case of worst-case scenarios.
  2. Flexibility and Scalability: The cloud allows our clients to quickly increase or decrease their infrastructure and software to better meet the demands of their customers. It’s also possible for our clients to make faster changes to the services they are offering and the cloud decreases the amount of time it takes for our clients to rollout these new changes to their customers, increasing their customer responsiveness. Scalability is tied directly to the pay-as-you-go model so our clients will only be paying for the services their customers are using, saving on resources that are not being utilized.
  3. Reliability: Along with being more cost effective, cloud-managed services are more reliable than in-house IT infrastructure. Most cloud providers offer Service Level Agreements (SLAs) which guarantee 24/7/365 and 99.99% availability that would normal cost our client’s large amounts of staff, resources, and time to meet the same requirements with their own, private networks. Along with providing reliability, cloud providers offer a high level of redundancy that would also cost our clients large amounts of resources. If one of the cloud-based servers goes down, our client’s data is accessed from a different server, drastically reducing downtime.[6]
  4. Manageability: Cloud-based services provide our client with web-based management tools so they can quickly make changes to their products remotely. There is no need for any of the tools or applications to be installed locally, reducing the demand on their IT staff. Again, this will all depend on the SLA negotiated with the chosen cloud provider.

Disadvantages of Cloud-based Services.

Along with the many advantages of the cloud, come some disadvantages. Many of the disadvantages of the cloud are also disadvantages of having an in-house IT infrastructure as well. Here are the disadvantages that I’ve found:

  1. Downtime: Having everything moved to the cloud drastically increases our client’s dependency on a constant connection to the internet. It also increases the amount of fail points where internet connections can be lost. Depending on where the cloud provider is storing our client’s data, there can be an increased amount of hardware that could fail, causing more downtime. Guiding our client in their selection of a quality cloud provider and negotiating SLAs will help mitigate this risk.
  2. Security and Privacy: This is the big one. Our clients will trust their data to an outside company. This means that not only is there a threat that someone might hack into their system, but it also means that there is a risk that someone inside their company might gain access to their data. There are ways to mitigate this risk on both our client’s side and the cloud provider’s side. [7]Again, a lot will come down to the SLAs and the trustworthiness of the provider, but these are risks that our client will also have with having an in-house solution, but in the case of using the cloud, providers are a better cost effective solution to combating data breeches. Managing data is the largest part of their business and they will have a better trained staff to handle the security threat. Where would you rather keep your money, in your house where you provide all the security, or in a bank where they have a much stronger and more secure facility?
  3. Vulnerability to Attack: In the analogy above, a bank would be a more secure location, but it is also a location that bad guys know will have what they are after. The cloud is similar and the cloud does increase the number or access points and vulnerable locations where a bad guy could get in, but again, security is going to be the bread and butter of what a cloud provider is doing. Having our client include us in the selection process for a cloud provider will be one of the best ways to insure our clients that they are making the best decision on migrating to the cloud.[8]
  4. Limited Control: Cloud provides are not going to be able to provide every single service that our client may be interested in. If hour client has an in-house system, they are going to be virtually limitless on the kinds of services they are going to be able to prove, but that limitless comes with a price. This is another talking point to have between our client and potential cloud providers.[9]

[1] Fee, J. (2013, August 26). The Beginner’s Guide to the Cloud. Retrieved November 10, 2016, from http://mashable.com/2013/08/26/what-is-the-cloud/#PLwJhD5FZkqH

[2] Sylos, M. (2013, September 18). Top five advantages of software as a service (SaaS) – Cloud computing news. Retrieved November 9, 2016, from https://www.ibm.com/blogs/cloud-computing/2013/09/top-five-advantages-of-software-as-a-service-saas/

[3] Rouse, M. (2015, January). Platform as a Service (PaaS). Retrieved November 10, 2016, from http://www.searchcloudcomputing.techtarget.com/definition/Platform-as-a-Service-PaaS

[4] IaaS – Infrastructure as a Service – Gartner IT Glossary. (2014). Retrieved November 10, 2016, from http://www.gartner.com/it-glossary/infrastructure-as-a-service-iaas/

[5] StateTechStaff. (2014, March 14). 5 Important Benefits of Infrastructure as a Service. Retrieved November 10, 2016, from http://www.statetechmagazine.com/article/2014/03/5-important-benefits-infrastructure-service

[6] Advantages and Disadvantages of Cloud Computing | LevelCloud. (n.d.). Retrieved November 10, 2016, from http://www.levelcloud.net/why-levelcloud/cloud-education-center/advantages-and-disadvantages-of-cloud-computing/

[7] Seshachala, S. (2015, March 17). Disadvantages of Cloud Computing | Cloud Academy. Retrieved November 10, 2016, from http://cloudacademy.com/blog/disadvantages-of-cloud-computing/

[8] Lukan, D. (2014, November 21). The top cloud computing threats and vulnerabilities in an enterprise environment. Retrieved November 10, 2016, from http://www.cloudcomputing-news.net/news/2014/nov/21/top-cloud-computing-threats-and-vulnerabilities-enterprise-environment/

[9] Seshachala, S. (2015, March 17). Disadvantages of Cloud Computing | Cloud Academy. Retrieved November 10, 2016, from http://cloudacademy.com/blog/disadvantages-of-cloud-computing/

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *