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Cloud Computing: Risk or Opportunity?

As mentioned in an earlier post on cloud computing, Clayko GM Sheryl Frame was a guest speaker on the panel at The Women in Technology Interactive Panel Workshop which was hosted by IEEE-WISE. This post is taken from her presentation. 

Cloud Computing: It's just the internet

Cloud Computing topped Gartner’s Top 10 Strategic Technology for 2010 with world-wide revenue expected to reach $68.3 billion (USD) in 2010, an increase of 16.6 over 2009. To respond to Gartner’s comment, it is important to have a common understanding of what is meant by “Cloud Computing”. The term “cloud” is a metaphor for the Internet. 

Graphic view of the software 'cloud'

So our fundamental concept of Cloud Computing is the processing and related data in an unspecified or unknown place.   And we’re all familiar with such services as SaaS etc., but how many of us use them?

We would wager that most people in this room are in fact users of Cloud Computing. Personally, we’ve all probably used at least one, if not all, of the following:

  • Gmail
  • Hotmail
  • Facebook
  • LinkedIn
  • DropBox
But when it comes to the uptake of “Cloud Computing” in business circles, the trend is slower than anticipated.

Cloud Computing: Who should be using it?

Essentially, any business larger than one employee needs to store its data in a location and run its business applications, including services like email.  They need back-ups but don’t always have the skills or the know-how and cost of infrastructure will always play a part in setting up such a system.

With Cloud Computing, you instead rent space and capacity in a provider’s data centre and connect over the Internet.  Much like a mobile phone, it becomes a commodity or a “pay as you go” model.

Security concerns with the Cloud

Uppermost in everyone’s mind is the question of Security.

  • Where is my data being held?
  • Who has access to it?
  • How long will it be retained?

Business has to keep records for 7 years or more, so this is a real concern.  So too is the location of the data, and the fact that should there be any dispute, one is governed by the jurisdiction in which the data is housed. Yet users of services like DropBox, a free repository in most instances, would never ask these questions.  In fact, most users don’t know that DropBox is run by S3 and indirectly by Amazon.

Are security concerns a red herring?

In our view security is a red herring. Fear of change is a much bigger factor.  How much more secure is data housed in a Microsoft or Google environment than data sitting in a local and sometimes unprotected server?

To quote Peter Moon who recently published an article stating “Everybody loves security, but few are willing to suffer the inconvenience it requires”.  Think of USB keys – who wants to remember yet another password? It is much simpler to plug the key into the slot and see all the files.”

We read of the nationwide panic as it became known that Vodafone’s security had been breached and customer data was vulnerable.  Vodafone run an in-house system, and investigations found the breach was attributable to a member of staff giving out a password, not a system failure.

Usability a major driver

One major driver is of course usability. If it is simple (and seemingly free) then people will try the service and more importantly pass on the message within their social networks. Look at the statistics below:

—  Radio -       38 years to reach an audience of 50 million

—  TV     -       13 years to reach an audience of 50 million

—  iPod          -  6 years to reach an audience of 50 million

—  Facebook -  3 years to reach an audience of 50 million

—  Farmville  - < 1year to reach an audience of 50 million

*Source: Scitech- based on company annual reports and Neilson research papers

Conclusion

Cloud Computing is here and has a strong upside in becoming the preferred option for many businesses.  Even though new technology is perceived as a risk, the reality is the Cloud is a new delivery model not new technology

Concern still lingers about who can access the data, where it will reside, and the retention of records. As an industry, we haven't even addressed how to get off the cloud. 

The reality is it takes catalysts to precipitate change. One catalyst we have already encountered is the iPhone and Ipad phenomenon – we are now so used to getting information at the click of a button that we want everything delivered that way.

We've been faced with incredible examples of how insecure our natural environment against forces of nature - floods, fires, earthquakes, tsunami - putting perspective to Microsoft, Google and the other leading Cloud providers. With all their infrastructure and security, delivered to you via the Cloud, it's an attractive option.

Cloud Computing for Small Business

If you would like more information about moving your small business to the cloud, please contact Clayko for more information about our BPOS offering.

Sheryl Frame will be speaking on a panel discussion about Cloud Computing with IBM, Deloitte, Australian Computer Society and Women in Technology, WA (WITWA) at the end of June. For more information, visit the event details at the WITWA website. 

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