We’ve all heard about it in advertisements, news programs, board meetings, presentations and discussions, but exactly what is cloud computing? And what are its pros and cons? First it’s important to understand what the term “cloud computing” means. This term generally refers to a system that provides computing resources to end users through a network (i.e. the Internet) that is accessed remotely, rather than requiring users to be tied to the hardware and software residing in a machine. It can provide a great deal of freedom and convenience while enhancing workflow processes, but there are still some concerns with issues such as safety and privacy. With a greater understanding of the different types of cloud computing, and the pros and cons of each, you and your enterprise can make a better informed decision about how to integrate the Cloud into your operations.
Categories of “the Cloud”
There are four different main ways to access, interface with and utilize the Cloud, including the following:
- IaaS (Infrastructure as a Service) – IaaS is the most basic type of cloud computing, offering a simple interface where users can access services such as data storage and virtual servers, which allows enterprises to save on infrastructure costs.
- NaaS (Network as a Service) – Though not as common, some organizations prefer to utilize NaaS to access things like bandwidth, VPN and other on-demand services to connect with a network.
- PaaS (Platform as a Service) – When enterprises want their in-house users to be able to access proprietary applications from remote environments, PaaS is an increasingly popular solution. Users can access databases, development applications, virtual operating systems, web servers and more through this type of Cloud service.
- SaaS (Software as a Service) – SaaS allows users to access previously existing applications through the Cloud, rather than installing and running these applications on their own computers. Many individual and business users prefer the convenience and ease of access that this type of service provides.
Cloud Computing Pros and Cons
There are many pros and cons associated with cloud computing. The biggest obvious advantage is the elimination of the need to support critical infrastructures yourself, or in-house. End users no longer have to know how to develop and maintain these applications, developing environments or infrastructures themselves. It’s all someone else’s responsibility. This allows businesses to streamline, do more with their resources and focus more energy on innovation. These are other benefits, or pros, that people often associate with the Cloud:
- Always Available – Users can access public or private cloud environments any time of day or night, as long as they have the proper credentials.
- Backup/Recovery – The leading cloud providers offer the peace of mind that comes with knowing all your files are backed up and ready to recover, even following a disaster.
- Convenient – Being able to access applications and virtual environments from anywhere, at any time, is obviously a matter of convenience.
- Cost Efficient – Not having to support these applications, developing environments and infrastructures in-house leads to big cost savings.
- Durable/Dynamic – The cloud environment is easily adaptable and dynamic, making it a durable choice for the future.
- Easy to Use – There is no complex training sessions necessary to get your people ready to use the Cloud. These environments are often as easy to use as sending an email.
- Eco-Friendly – When the need to maintain massive servers and data centers is eliminated, businesses can leave a much smaller eco-footprint, and develop an environmentally friendly image and attitude.
- Fast Deployment – Deploying a cloud application, database or infrastructure is much quicker and easier than installing and developing an in-house infrastructure system.
- Remote Access – This one is the most obvious. You don’t need to be in the office or on a certain computing device to access the Cloud. Users can access all sorts of applications and platforms whether they are in a café the next town over, at an airport in London, a resort in the Caribbean, a neighborhood park, their hometown or their home office.
Of course, since we’re discussing the cloud computing pros and cons, there are inevitably some areas of concern that may keep some users from getting on board with this technology. These are some of the main questions:
- Is it Safe and Secure?
- Is the Cloud Private?
- Will I be a Slave to the Provider?
- How Much Control Will I Have?
- Will There be Technical Difficulties?
Utilizing a public Cloud environment comes with the possible disadvantage of limited control over the safety and security of your sensitive data, privacy issues, vendor lock-in, control, technical difficulties and other issues. This is why it is so critical to make careful decisions about whether to utilize public or private cloud services for some or all of your applications, whether to maintain some infrastructures in-house and, if you do opt for public cloud services, which provider can assure the utmost safety and security for your data.