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What about the Cloud?

By Ryan Schave, MCP, Eclipse Consulting

Cloud Computing and NetworkingOne of the questions we get asked at Eclipse Consulting is whether “cloud computing” is a passing fad or is here to stay.  The terms “the cloud” or “cloud computing” are bantered about like everyone knows what they mean and has embraced this new approach to computing.  The fact is many of us are still asking, “What Is Cloud Computing,” even though we are probably already using it.

Rivka Tadjer, blogger for PC Mag sums it up by saying, “Whether you realize it or not, you’re probably already using cloud-based services. Pretty much everyone with a computer has been. Gmail and Google Docs are two prime examples; we just don’t think of those services in those terms.” (Source)

Another type of cloud computing that many of us use daily are the apps we have downloaded to our smartphones and other mobile devices, which is growing daily. Apple’s MobileMe and iWork.com show Apple’s focus on cloud computing. Google Apps has 25 million registered users with 6 to 7% paid subscribers. That’s 1.75 million paid cloud users. (Source) Microsoft is making a big push to develop cloud versions of its software; and, Microsoft is working diligently to offer platforms that allow developers to create applications “in the cloud.”

Given all this evidence, cloud computing seems here to stay. We thought that it may be useful to take a step back and look at the pros and cons of this newest approach to computing. As business owners look at cloud computing options, it’s important to know the benefits and risks.

Pros Cons
  • The business doesn’t need to own the hardware, such as servers and large storage capacity.
  • Everyone in the company can share files and resources, no matter where they are located.
  • An opportunity to implement very sophisticated software without the need to invest in costly hardware and infrastructure. Also, do not need IT people on staff.
  • Upgrades, patches, service packs for software is done automatically. Staff does not need to spend time on these items.
  • No data migration when you need an upgrade.
  • Maintenance of the network is done “in the cloud.” Staff does not need to be aware of these items.
  • Often, data is backed-up automatically.
  • Often, there is limited ability to customize software programs. Limited to setting preferences rather than programming.
  • Capacity limitation, depending on provider (file sizes, storage capacity, etc.).
  • May encounter reduced ability to integrate between cloud-based and on-premise software; ultimately, it’s dependent on the cloud solution and the on-premise software.  If both hardware and software are located within the enterprise, information from separate software packages can usually be integrated.
  • It is important to evaluate the security measures of any cloud computing service, especially if sensitive data will be stored “in the cloud.”
  • Need to evaluate the stability of the company offering services in the cloud. If the company goes out of business, how will you retrieve your data, and move it to a usable location?

So, although cloud computing does appear to be here to stay, like any IT solution, there are several things to consider before jumping in.  Be wary of all the “in the cloud” hype, and make this decision like any other long-term information technology decision you would make – weigh the options, evaluate several choices, and implement carefully.


Ryan Schave is the co-owner of Eclipse Consulting, a technology firm that helps businesses become aware of and understand the technology that is available to accomplish their business goals, and helps them implement it.  He may be reached at ryan@eclipse-online.com.

© 2011 Eclipse Consulting, Inc.

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