The hype around the «cloud» is omnipresent. Understandable. Because cloud computing is fundamentally changing our lives, whether we like it or not. From private users who use the cloud to store photos and occasional documents or to stream music, for example, to companies that use cloud-based software and have developed cloud data architectures. This technology has already penetrated into all sorts of areas of our everyday lives and is just starting to take off.
Well, it’s obvious that the cloud can bring great benefits. But let’s not fool ourselves. Nothing is perfect, including the cloud. In other words, using the cloud can also have its downsides. We also find that there is a lot of confusion about cloud computing due to the myths that were created in the early days and as cloud technology matured. The aim of this two-part blog article series is therefore to highlight the advantages and disadvantages of cloud solutions and to address some of the myths (in the second part of the series) surrounding cloud computing.
Many companies have switched from on-premise solutions to the cloud or at least have already informed themselves about the possibilities of the cloud. In this context, a distinction is usually made between three substantially different types of cloud services:
- Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS): Provision of hardware and infrastructure
- Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS): Providing platforms with tools for developers
- Software-as-a-Service (SaaS): Provision of software and services
The change from on-premise to cloud solutions or even hybrid approaches can lead to decisive competitive advantages and is therefore a key component of the IT strategy for many IT managers. It is thus important to become aware of the advantages of the cloud over on-premise solutions and where these may not outweigh the disadvantages. Companies in Switzerland have a close sparring partner in this crucial strategy development and implementation with Beetroot – a specialist in work organization and strategic IT consulting and partner of Parashift.
Cost savings and increased focus on core business
One of the most frequently cited reasons for switching to the cloud is the cost savings that can be realized compared to an on-premise solution. For example, there are no costs for hardware procurement or other cost items of the infrastructure or personnel expenses for maintenance etc. In short, the modality in which computing power and storage is provided is changing fundamentally. Fixed costs become variable costs and resources can be used more flexibly for the actual core business. For many a game changer!
High flexibility, scalability and availability
The change in modalities mentioned above not only has positive effects on finances but also brings considerable advantages in terms of the use of computing power. If your company needs significantly more or less power for any reason, the services in the background simply run smoothly up and down. You no longer need planning and projects that have to be carefully thought out and executed a priori. In other words, companies that use the cloud do not have to upgrade their IT to the highest possible anticipated demand and finance unused resources for the rest of the operating time, once demand has returned to normal, but have a flexible and easily scalable solution. Availability also comes into play here. In order to prevent failures, backup systems and recovery processes must be organized and maintained, which is often very hard for SMEs in particular cause it would simply be too expensive. By consuming computing power from the cloud you can cover this topic.
High speed and safety
Another key aspect that pays off strongly in terms of benefits is that cloud computing is the core business of cloud solution providers and therefore they can mobilize resources in a very different way to take the technologies forward in terms of performance, security and privacy. Strong competition and customer confidence are of course key drivers here. As a customer, you therefore always receive the latest and most functional features that enable more powerful, faster, secure and cheaper computing. The topic of security is for many people very urgent and is often critically assessed. It is important to consider that while, for example, a server system of an SME is a much less interesting target for hackers, the SME also has much less resources to protect it adequately. Cloud providers, on the other hand, cannot afford to have serious break-ins. Otherwise, their business is quickly put at risk. This is precisely why they are so eager to offer the highest security standards and continuously develop them further.
In addition to these striking advantages of cloud computing, there are also disadvantages, as mentioned at the beginning, which highlight the challenges that still need to be overcome.
A main argument of those who are very critical of the cloud is the limited control over compute and data that are no longer sovereign in their own company. Since this can indeed be problematic for certain use cases, at least today, this dimension must be pondered particularly carefully in the evaluation. At this point, however, it is important to remember that more and more banks, insurance companies, health care institutions and other organizations that work with highly sensitive data are making their way into the cloud and are breaking new ground.
Vulnerability to attacks
Despite the high security of cloud solutions, data in the cloud is still vulnerable to information theft and hacker attacks. If an outstanding coup succeeds, it can be quite profitable. Accordingly, a lot is invested for hopefully getting through somehow. Like everywhere else, a certain residual risk remains. This against all state-of-the-art security measures.
Little room for individualization
Regardless of whether we are talking about IaaS, PaaS or SaaS, providers of such services tend to have a broad market to address. There are therefore oftentimes trade-offs that have to be accepted. One of these, for example, is the standardization of various aspects of cloud products and services. For some companies, the severely limited scope here can be a killer criterion.
Dependence on the Internet and downtimes
Cloud computing is completely dependent on the Internet. This means that when using a cloud service, reliable, fast and consistent Internet should be guaranteed. Otherwise they are either severely restricted or not consumable at all. Access can also be restricted if infrastructures experience downtime for any reason. Although enormous sums of money are invested here to be able to guarantee availability even in an emergency, there is a marginal risk.
Moving back from a cloud solution to an on-premise solution or even to another cloud provider can be challenging. Limited support, complex configurations, compatibility issues or attacks due to compromises during migration are some examples. However, more and more providers are striving to upgrade functionalities and services to the benefit of usability, which can help to remedy these problems.
More can be read in the 2nd part of this short series.