Cloud computing solutions are taking hold at organizations everywhere, which is shifting control from IT to other company functions—like marketing, sales, HR, and operations. When it’s easy to sign-up for various cloud services, you can often avoid the IT department all together. This ‘shadow IT’ isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but removing IT can create some potential cloud confusion as non-IT personnel start to make decisions. With that said, let’s review some cloud computing untruths to consider before making decisions.
Untruth #1 – There is only one way to do cloud computing
Cloud computing solutions can take many different forms and cover any number of different needs including these four well-known types:
- Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS)—This includes servers, networks, storage, management, and reporting. The big name here is Amazon with its EC2 offering, but it isn’t the only player.
- Platform as a Service (PaaS)—This addresses the needs of application development and testing by providing building blocks, enforcing consistent standards, and facilitating testing. The big player here is Google’s App Engine with more coming.
- Software as a Service (SaaS)—This delivers packaged applications configured by each customer that run as a hosted service. The big names here are Google Apps and Salesforce.com although there are hundreds of others and more arriving seemingly every week.
- Storage as a Service (StaaS)—This is similar to IaaS but focused on storage delivered as a hosted service. It includes primary, secondary, and archival storage as well as backup and disaster recovery. The big players include Amazon AWS and Rackspace. Again, new players arrive monthly.
Untruth #2 – Your data is exposed to the public
While your data does reside in the cloud (and may be exposed to the NSA), it’s no more exposed than sitting behind a corporate firewall. Some of the most damaging data losses have occurred when the data was supposedly sitting safe behind a firewall and under direct control of IT. Each of the standard three cloud computing models has different and varying degrees of risk and possible public exposure, so weigh them accordingly:
- Private—Data sits behind the corporate firewall, where the organization directly controls the amount of exposure.
- Public—Data sits in the public cloud exposed to the public; security depends on the cloud service provider’s security precautions and defenses.
- Hybrid clouds—Some data resides on the private cloud, while other data resides on the public cloud. Security depends on both the organization’s internal security controls and those of the cloud provider.
In each of these cases, you need to assess the security capabilities of the cloud computing provider and balance what data you plan to store. You might also need to consider your industry and its related data storage rules and regulations.
Untruth #3 – Cloud computing is a fad with no real long-term value
Cloud computing solutions are here to stay, and while their evolution will continue, they already offer a number of advantages, including:
- Access to IT resources without upfront capital investment—Cloud computing allows organizations to easily and quickly gain the use of IT resources without the upfront capital investment usually required or involvement in long term leasing. The cloud enables IT resources on demand.
- Pay-per-use access—In this arrangement, organizations pay only for the IT resources they actually use and only when they use them. This eliminates the common practice of buying extra IT resources that may never get utilized.
- Easier innovation by removing IT barriers—With the cloud, organizations can pursue business strategies without worrying about having the necessary IT resources in place when they need them. While IT may not like this, it does result in innovation.
- Scale up or down easily—The cloud enables organizations to respond to fluctuations in the economy, markets, customer behavior, unexpected events quickly and easily by scaling their IT resources up or down as needed.
Cloud computing effectively shifts IT investment from a capital expenditure (CAPEX) to an operational expense (OPEX). In practice, the cloud allows organizations to find the optimal balance of IT resource CAPEX and OPEX and shift that balance as conditions warrant.
Our next blog will cover two more cloud computing untruths, so come back shortly. In the meantime, share your thoughts and untruths of the cloud below.