Cloud computing is a term used in the IT world to describe the use of remote servers hosted on the Internet to store, maintain, and process data. Prior to cloud computing, businesses relied on their own hardware and software for their data needs. While “the cloud” has proven itself to be more than just a passing technology fad, a variety of imperfections still exist. Companies and individuals should weigh the various benefits and disadvantages of cloud computing against their data needs to decide if this tool is right for them.
The Pros of Cloud Computing
One of the greatest benefits to cloud computing is its cost efficiency. As a third-party will now be implementing, updating, and managing your data and the related systems, the need for IT staff and hardware will be greatly reduced. All IT support related to the cloud will be handled by the third-party. In addition, some cloud providers only charge you for the services used, giving you flexibility for fluctuations in usage and potentially, cost savings.
Another benefit of cloud computing is its ease of accessibility. Since the data and applications are stored online, users can quickly access information at any time despite geographic location or time zone. In order to ensure that data can be accessed without delay or complication, cloud providers typically maintain data on multiple servers. This guarantees that your data will be available even if a server crashes. This also means that your data is recoverable.
Since “the cloud” is a virtual server, your storage capacity will be greatly increased. This will eliminate concerns regarding storage space as well as the need for upgrades, which will be managed by the third-party on your behalf.
The Cons of Cloud Computing
While accessibility is a benefit of “the cloud”, it also has a potentially negative side effect. Since data is stored on the Internet, it is vulnerable to malicious attacks from viruses and hackers. This is why choosing the right provider is so important. Try connecting with a provider that uses the latest encryption tools and has good policies for protecting your data. On the other hand, even the most secure system can be prone to breach. Privacy is another potential problem to consider. Confidential information is at risk of being seen or even worse, shared by unauthorized users.
Another issue with cloud computing is data transfer. Should you decide to switch cloud providers, data transfer can be a very lengthy, cumbersome process. Again, this is why it is important to carefully consider your options before selecting a provider. For a minor service fee, a lot of providers can copy and send your data on a hard drive or other media.
Technical difficulties are inevitable, even with the best providers. And with a third-party, the problems are completely out of your hands. While it is true that you rely on the provider to address any problems (and this has happened with Microsoft, Google, and others), look for providers that minimize risks of potential technical difficulties by ensuring that they offer backup plans, and have multiple locations with redundant systems. Even if “the cloud” is running smoothly, if there is a problem with Internet connectivity, you will be unable to access your information.
Cloud computing offers companies and individuals greater cost efficiency, higher accessibility and storage. On the other hand, security and privacy are at risk. In addition, lack of control over technical difficulties and poor Internet connectivity are a cause for concern. Be sure to consider your specific data when considering “the cloud” for your needs.
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John Samuel is the president/owner of TEA-Corp. He provides information technology services and consulting to small and mid-sized businesses in New Jersey and New York area.