Cloud computing has become one of the most talked-about subjects in the world of corporate IT. However, in spite of the hype, there’s also a strong case against cloud-based services, particularly in certain situations. This article takes a look at the more problematic side of cloud computing while comparing it directly to its on-premises alternatives.
Cloud computing has become one of the most hyped-up phrases of all time when it comes to the World of information technology. While it’s true that most of us have been relying on the cloud for various things, such as Web-based email, for a long time, more and more businesses are becoming heavily reliant on the cloud for their core operations. In fact, the 2016 State of the Cloud Survey by RightScale found that 95% of respondents were using the cloud, with the majority of companies using a combination of private and public services. With more and more enterprise computing routines now being outsourced to subscription-based online services, it seems like the fate of on-premises computing has already been sealed. Or has it?
There’s undoubtedly a strong case in favor of cloud computing, and it’s not just service providers touting its benefits either. One of the most commonly cited advantages of the cloud is flexibility, but there’s also a solid argument to the contrary. After all, cloud-based services are not designed for your business. They’re designed for every business, rather than being tailored to meet the precise needs of your company. Because you have little or no control over the software and hardware behind cloud-based services, they are inherently less flexible. While this, of course, makes sense as far as vendors and service providers are concerned, it completely fails to take into account your business’s individual needs.
Large companies, which typically have the financial and human resources available to them to come up with their own solutions, often don’t make much use out of mainstream cloud-computing services. For example, most of the world’s largest hotel chains use their own proprietary property management systems designed specifically for their use alone, while smaller venues make use of publicly available systems. By contrast, SMEs are rarely in such a situation where they can pay vast amounts of money to have their own systems developed exclusively for them and then continue to pay large sums for support and maintenance. In other words, just as the best-fitting clothes are tailor-made, so is the best business software.
Cloud Computing Vs. On-Premise Security
Although security concerns with regards to cloud computing are gradually abating, the thought of storing confidential corporate information online remains a frightening prospect to many company administrators. There are plenty of legitimate reasons for these concerns as well. After all, cyber criminals are increasingly likely to target the cloud, since that’s where the big opportunities lie. Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past five years, you’ve no doubt heard about some of the more high-profile data breaches concerning cloud service providers. Some of the largest breaches have involved global companies like Yahoo, LinkedIn and DropBox. What this proves is that no company is immune from the threat of a data breach, no matter how big.
Many people will try to claim that cloud computing is more secure, but that’s really just a rather meaningless generalization. While it stands to reason that major companies will have the resources necessary to better protect their data, they’re also popular targets for cyber criminals. Migrating to cloud computing systems might greatly reduce the in-house attack surface, but all it really does is move it from your business premises to somewhere else – somewhere your business has less control over itself. However, it is also important to note that by far the biggest security risk with cloud computing comes from within – as in, misuse by employees.
Another core ‘benefit’ of cloud computing, according to its many supporters (including myself of course) is accessibility. Again, however, there’s a strong case for stating the exact opposite. Yes, cloud-based services can be accessed anywhere you have internet access and, in the case of the private cloud, the necessary software setup granting you access. This accessibility allows your employees access to important company resources whenever they need it, no matter where they are. As such, it allows for a mobile workforce consisting of employees who can work at home, on the move or just about anywhere else.
The accessibility of cloud computing is also one of its greatest disadvantages. If employees are allowed unfettered and unmonitored access to your company’s online resources, there’s a far greater chance that they can misuse it and, consequently, your data falling into the wrong hands. The much-vaunted accessibility advantage of cloud computing also completely fails to take into account one extremely important factor – your Internet connection. Should your Internet connection fail or it turn out that you don’t have the required bandwidth, any business processes that rely on online services will suddenly grind to a halt.
Internet connections might be getting faster all the time, but nothing beats the performance and responsiveness of on-site resources. It is of course true that performance is not an issue with many online applications. However, while you might not need a huge amount of bandwidth and on-site resources to use a popular customer management solution such as SAP, it’s quite a different matter for applications that require lots of processing power or involve working with multiple gigabytes of data in short order.
For heavy computing tasks and even regular office applications, it can be argued that the cloud is less suitable and often leaves something to be desired.
Compare using Google Docs with a locally installed copy of Microsoft Office, for example, and you’ll quickly see which one offers the smoother and more responsive experience. At the same time, thin clients, designed exclusively for accessing online clients, are practically useless when it comes to any intensive computing work. As such, there’s no substitute for a decent office workstation or even a powerful server system when it comes to carrying out any serious number crunching, such as that involved in tasks like movie editing, 3D rendering, software compiling, or even intensive office productivity.
I’m a huge fan of the cloud myself and build a lot of solutions on top of it. So the above is not meant to put you off cloud computing, but rather to take an objective look at the often under-represented drawbacks of migrating to cloud-based solutions. There’s no doubt that the cloud represents a game-changing technology and one that is already developed enough to be worthy of serious consideration, but only when it comes to certain applications. Many (myself included) will claim that the pros far outweigh the cons, but what it really comes down to is your business and its needs.