Cloud computing, the delivery of computer hardware and software services over the internet, is being hailed as THE solution for many business IT challenges. There are many advantages to Cloud computing, including data storage, mobile access, potential savings in system hardware and more. However, there are many disadvantages to Cloud computing as well. Depending on your needs, the best solution for your business may be to stick with a more traditional product delivery. Before you throw caution to the winds and dedicate your IT needs to the Cloud, it is important to understand the weaknesses of the Cloud and how these may affect your business.
The first link in your connection to the Cloud relies on your Internet service. The second link in your connection to the Cloud relies on the servers of your Cloud service provider. Therefore, one of the biggest weaknesses of the cloud is the inevitability of a Cloud server going down or your internet connection failing. It’s really not a matter of “if” it will happen, because it will. Instead, you must focus your concern on how often will it happen. In both cases, you will not be able to access the programs, processes and information that are delivered over the Cloud. This will result in interruptions that can easily translate into lost revenues, employee downtime, project delays, and other cost increasing outcomes.
Our previous post spoke of the importance of asking the proper questions when evaluating a software, this advice should also be applied when evaluating the true cost of a Software as a Service (SaaS). In particular, you must be sure that the SaaS provides the same features as those found in a more traditional software. In addition, if there are missing features you must evaluate how those missing features will impact your bottom-line. Finally, you must have an accurate picture of the potential costs associated with cloud hosting. Many cloud hosting services that are promoted as “pay as you go” actually charge for usage in allotted increments, which can result in significantly more costs. It is important to evaluate the service beyond the initial implementation phase and look at its long-term costs, which may be more than the cost of purchasing software.
Latency is a term that refers to the amount of time it takes for a computer to interact with the Cloud. Latency, and the associated performance errors, have been labelled “the Achilles heel of Cloud computing”. A longer distance of the Cloud environment from the end user will result in more latency. However, the overall potential degree of latency that will be experienced is also dependent upon network distance and the type of functions being conducted over the Cloud. Latency can result in delays that cause end-users to cancel operations, and it can also result in lost data and other important information. Latency has been shown to result in increased business costs that are often higher than the losses due to actual downtime because latency is an ongoing problem. As a result, the Cloud is often not the best solution for a highly responsive application.
For non-US companies that rely on Cloud solutions hosted from within the US, the USA Patriot Act may endanger your data’s confidentiality, security and privacy. A study conducted by a group of Dutch legal experts produced a research paper which determined that (in theory) the USA Patriot Act gives law enforcement authorities the power to quickly cut businesses off from Cloud-based applications and data, if the organization is suspected of illegal activities. In addition, there are other European governments with similar laws that also provide legal access to Cloud-based information. Although cloud solution providers have begun to position themselves as "Non-US-based" to target the market of foreign companies not willing to deal with US servers, the potential for negative consequences remains.
Beyond the risks of government intervention, entrusting all of your data to a Cloud system means that you are essentially relying on another company to keep and hold your information. The Dropbox, Apple and Amazon clouds have all been the victims of recent hacking attacks. So before you place your confidential data on the internet, you must be sure that the Cloud service provider has and actively maintains optimal security protocols.
It is said that when you are “twisting in the wind” you are on your own with no additional support or help. Unfortunately, you may find yourself twisting in the wind when help or assistance is needed on the Cloud. SaaS providers are notorious for providing little, delayed or even no service at all. For most businesses, posting a question in a forum or sending an email and hoping for a response within 48 hours is not acceptable for their needs. However, this is often the case on the Cloud.
To chase a rainbow is to attempt the impossible. When it comes to Cloud computing many of the systems lack flexibility, which may make it impossible for you to continue to do business in the way you have before. You may find your business is locked into using a limited number of proprietary applications or formats provided by the Cloud service. Other downsides include “data lock-in” or the inability to transfer data out of the Cloud system, and a lack of flexibility when it comes increasing or decreasing the number of users with access to your Cloud account.
Although there are both advantages and disadvantages involved with Cloud computing, ultimately one must carefully weigh the pros and cons to determine if the Cloud is suited to your business needs. It has been shown that the greatest benefits from the Cloud come through cost savings in the first two years of implementation. However, as demonstrated with the examples above there is often a loss in application functionality and other risks that may negate the initial savings. Remote access solutions, in particular, need to be flexible and provide user with not only a Cloud mode, but also a "stand-alone" mode.
With Remote Utilities we can ensure that you have a choice to "go isolated" and configure the program without relying on third-party servers or software somewhere in the Cloud. With Remote Utilities the software can be deployed on your company servers, which allows the system to be completely independent of an internet connection and Cloud servers. In addition, you can either use a direct IP to IP connection without any intermediary server, or you may use our free self-hosted server. When it comes to remote desktop software the best solutions are flexible solutions, like Remote Utilities.
Thunderstorm: Image courtesy of worradmu at FreeDigitalPhotos.net Clouds with hand: Image courtesy of kangshutters at FreeDigitalPhotos.net