Wednesday, 20 October 2010

On the cloud computing - advantages, risks and issues

The advantages
On the cloud computing simply means computing on the Internet. For a small to medium sized enterprise, cloud computing presents a wonderful hassle free alternative. Cloud computing can also represent a great opportunity for personal computing.
The big advantage of cloud computing is that you don't need to maintain your own server or network. All that you really need is good fast broadband access to the Internet. The hosting service provider will do everything else.
It doesn't matter where you are. You simply need to log onto the Internet to access your data and your systems. You don't even need a laptop when you travel.
The hosting service takes over all your computing needs. It hosts your systems and stores your data. It takes care of backups and security.
This idyllic solution to your computing needs does of course depend on the quality of your service provider and that is where the risks and problems begin.
The risks
The first issue is security. Hackers have managed to hack their way through the most formidable firewalls. They have broken into the computer systems of major banks and even the Department of Defence.
A Web hosted service is just that much more at risk. What kind of security does your service provider offer? Is the data encrypted? Are all your staff using strong passwords?
The next question is reliability. Even Google has been known to have down-time. A Microsoft server failed while being upgraded and data was lost. How good are the backups? If the system crashes during the day, will you be able to recover the work saved since the last back-up?
Finally, you should ensure that the hosting service will be able to provide for growth. Is the service able to cope on your busy days? Many businesses experience peaks of demand for a few days every month. Your hosting service must be able to cope comfortably with these.
What should I do?
Cloud computing is a viable solution for many types of business. Storing data centrally - whether personal of for business - makes a lot of sense. It means that your data is always secure and available.
But before you embark on a service for your business, find out exactly what is offered and what is not. How secure is your data, and what happens when there is a system failure? If the hosting service is unable to provide satisfactory answers, then it is time to look elsewhere.

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