Over the past few months, there have been a number of notable service quality incidents and security breaches of online services, including Sony’s PlayStation network, Amazon’s cloud service, Dropbox’s storage in the cloud, and countless others. The bar talk around “cloud” computing and online services would have you think that businesses and consumers are shying away from using hosted services, using Software as a Service (SaaS) applications, from storing their data “in the cloud,” or from migrating some or all of their computing infrastructure to virtual machines hosted by cloud service providers. However, there’s actually an uptick in the uptake of cloud computing in all of its various incarnations.
We (consumers and businesses) are using “cloud” services for all of the following kinds of activities:
1. Accessing and downloading media.
2. Accessing and downloading mobile apps.
3. Accessing and running business applications (CRM, hiring, ecommerce, logistics, provisioning, etc.).
4. Collaborating with colleagues, clients, and customers (project management, online communities, email, meeting scheduling).
5. Analyzing large amounts of data.
6. Storing large amounts of data (much of it unstructured, like video, images, text files, etc.).
7. Developing and testing new applications and online services.
9. Scaling our operations to handle seasonal and other peaking requirements—where we can take advantage of buying computing capabilities by the hour, rather than pre-paying for capacity we rarely need.
10. Back up and Disaster Recovery—keeping copies of our systems and data in remote locations, ready to run if a natural disaster impacts our normal operations.
In short, “cloud computing” in all of its instantiations—Software as a Service, Platform as a Service, Infrastructure as a Service, Cloud Storage, Cloud Computing, etc.—is here to stay. Taking advantage of the cloud (virtual computers running software in data centers distributed around the globe) is the most scalable and the most cost-effective way to provide computing resources and services to anyone who has reliable access to high bandwidth networking via the Internet.
What About Security and Back Up?
Most of us now realize that we’re responsible for the security and integrity of our information no matter where it sits on the planet. And we are better off if we have more than one copy of anything that’s really important.
SaaS and cloud providers have had a lot of experience helping IT organizations migrate some or all of their computing and/or storage to the cloud. And most of them report that most IT organizations’ data security practices leave quite a bit to be desired before they migrate to the cloud. Their customers’ data security and integrity typically improves dramatically as a result of re-thinking their requirements and implementing better policies and practices as they migrated some or all of their computing. (Just because data is in your own physical data center doesn’t mean it’s safe!)
It’s Time to Run Around in Front of the Cloud Parade
We’re now committed to living in the mobile Internet era. We treasure our mobility and our unfettered access to information, applications, media, and services. Cloud computing, in all its forms, is here to stay. Small businesses and innovative service providers have embraced cloud computing and services wholeheartedly and are already reaping the benefits of “pay as you consume” for software and computing and storage services. Medium-sized businesses are the next to embrace cloud computing, because they typically don’t have the inertia and overhead that comes with a huge centralized IT organization. Large enterprises’ IT organizations are the last to officially accept cloud computing as a safe and compliant alternative for corporate IT. Yet many departments in those same large enterprise organizations have been the early adopters of cloud computing for the development and testing of new software products and for the departmental (or even corporate) adoption of SaaS for many of their companies’ most critical applications.