Cloud Computing: Opportunities and Concerns


Cloud computing is a buzzword these days. As Microsoft puts it, “Cloud computing is the delivery of computing services—including servers, storage, databases, networking, software, analytics, and intelligence—over the Internet (“the cloud”) to offer faster innovation, flexible resources, and economies of scale.

You typically pay only for cloud services you use, helping lower your operating costs, run your infrastructure more efficiently and scale as your business needs change.” The reason for calling it cloud computing is that the cloud symbol has been in use since the 1990s to represent the Internet in computer network diagrams. So, cloud computing is nothing but computing activities carried out over the internet.

If you have been using Web-based email service, you have been using cloud computing of sorts. The email operations of accepting, forwarding, delivering, and storing email messages and attachments is carried out not by your computer (called the client) but by the email servers (computers, programs and data storage systems located elsewhere) contacted over the internet. As a matter of fact, this client-server model was developed in the 1970s, and is the basis for cloud computing. Cloud computing has the potential to transform not only our personal lives, but also the operational efficiency of small and big businesses.

Types of Cloud Computing
Public clouds: These are owned and operated by a third-party cloud service provider, which deliver their computing resources like servers and storage over the Internet, e.g., Microsoft Azure. Here, all hardware, software and other supporting infrastructure is owned and managed by the cloud provider. You access these services and manage your account using a web browser.

Private clouds: This refers to cloud computing resources used exclusively by a single business or organization, one in which the services and infrastructure are maintained on a private network. It can be physically located on the company’s on-site datacenter. Some companies also pay third-party service providers to host their private cloud.

Hybrid clouds: These combine public and private clouds, with technology that allows data and applications to be shared between them. This allows for greater flexibility, more deployment options and helps optimise your existing infrastructure, security and compliance.

Types of Cloud Computing Services
These days, access to internet allows us to access our applications and data from any device, anywhere at any time. Sitting in a café, you can view and edit your documents with your mobile, using Microsoft’s Office Web Apps, Google Docs and Zoho Office. This is the cloud computing service model ‘Software as a Service’ (SaaS).

Creative SaaS applications are music composition and audio-editing tools from Aviary, online video editors from JayCut and Pixorial, and online photo editors from Aviary and Pixlr. Most domestic users are going to need only SaaS applications. But SaaS is restrictive for businesses and companies, who need to develop and run their own software applications. For them, ‘Platform as a Service’ (PaaS) and ‘Infrastructure as a Service’ (IaaS) are on offer.

Traditionally, only large companies could afford to purchase the most sophisticated software. But with cloud computing on the horizon, even small- and medium-sized companies can afford them because they would be paying only for the software application, processing power, and data storage that they actually use on a pay-as-you-go basis. Big companies, too, can take advantage of cloud computing models because by availing them they can shift their focus from IT-related company activities and focus more on their core business.

PaaS provides companies with online software development tools and hosting facilities. Also, you can use PaaS to build your own SaaS applications. Some of the companies that offer PaaS are Google (App Engine), Microsoft (Azure), and Salesforce (CRM system). IaaS offers even more freedom than PaaS. Companies can use it to migrate all of their existing applications from their own data center to a cloud computing vendor. A large IaaS vendor is Amazon, which offers Elastic Compute Cloud (Amazon EC2) wherein you can purchase online processing capacity by the hour.

Advantages of Cloud Computing
• Reduced costs: It eliminates the capital expense of buying hardware and software and setting up and running on-site datacenters—the racks of servers, the round-the-clock electricity for power and cooling, the IT experts for managing the infrastructure.
• Ability to scale up easily: It gives one the ability to scale elastically. That is, it delivers the right amount of IT resources—for example, more or less computing power, bandwidth, storage—right when it is needed and from the right geographic location.
• Improved performance: These services usually run on a worldwide network of secure datacenters, which are regularly upgraded to the latest generation of fast and efficient computing hardware, leading to reduced network latency for applications and greater economies of scale.
• Greater speed: Vast amounts of computing resources can be provisioned in minutes, typically with just a few mouse clicks, giving businesses a lot of flexibility and taking the pressure off capacity planning.
• Increased productivity: This removes the need for many of the tasks that on-site datacenters typically require in the form of a lot of “racking and stacking”—hardware setup, software patching, and other time-consuming IT management chores. This frees up the IT teams so that they can spend time on more important business goals.
• Reliable: It makes data backup, disaster recovery and business continuity easier and less expensive.

Concerns with Cloud Computing
Two biggest concerns with cloud computing are security and privacy. Companies would be handing over important and critical data to another company (the cloud vendor). So, whether that data is secure is a moot point as opposed to being with them under lock and key. Privacy is another problem because you never know who has unauthorized access to it. Then there are legal issues concerning ownership of data, backup of data, and data accessibility at all times.


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