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Cloud Computing Advantages and Disadvantages

The buzzword of the moment is “cloud computing,” and competition is stiff to attract users to the variety of cloud services available. Simply put, cloud computing is the idea of accessing data storage and applications at a remote site over the Internet, rather than from a local network. In this article we look at the major advantages and disadvantages of using cloud computing for a company. We cannot avoid the importance of cloud computing and we know it is the future. At the same time we must of aware of the risks in using cloud computing to store sensitive data of a company or institution. Final decision to use cloud computing for a company should fully depends on the detailed analysis on the risks and advantages of this new technology.

According to Gartner, one-third of all consumer data will be in the cloud by 2016, compared to 7% today.1 Microsoft has predicted that 74% of small and medium-sized businesses will use at least one cloud service by 2014.2

Most consumers have had a taste of these services through their email accounts with Yahoo! and Gmail, storing their music on Apple’s iCloud, or adding a book to their Kindle library. Businesses have been slowly testing the waters for their enterprise solutions.

But while each group has experienced some advantages from these services, concerns remain that must be addressed to further the level of acceptance of this technology. Let’s take a look at these issues, from the perspective of both businesses and consumers:

What Are The Advantages Of Cloud Computing

Among the advantages of cloud computing for both groups are:
  • Cheaper Devices: Devices can be made with less-expensive components, since storage and CPU cycles are offloaded to the server in the cloud.

  • Universal Access: Synchronized, universal access from almost anywhere in the world to applications and data from devices ranging from smartphones and tablets to desktops.

  • Less Data Loss: Backup responsibilities are shared by the cloud service provider (CSP), meaning less data loss due to drive failures.

  • Less-Expensive Applications: Cloud applications can be supported by advertising or make use of a rental model, in which you pay to access an application on a per-use basis. This is ideal when you need an application for only one project.

And specifically for businesses, cloud computing can result in reduced expenses and faster implementation of new projects. The costs of private servers and their management are eliminated; instead, the costs of server hardware and management with other companies are “shared” via the CSP.

What Are The Disadvantages Of Cloud Computing

But the flight to the cloud is not without some turbulence. There are certain disadvantages of cloud computing. Most notably:

  • Security: A new level of trust is necessary when someone else is storing and transmitting your data, especially over a public network such as the Internet.

  • Accessibility: What happens to the data on cloud servers when the CSP is temporarily down or is shut down for legal or financial reasons? For example, when file-sharing site Megaupload was abruptly shut down by the U.S. Department of Justice for alleged sharing of copyrighted material, many legitimate users were locked out of accessing their own data files.

  • Privacy: Issues abound, not just from possible hackers but also from the employees of the CSP. Do they have access to the encryption passwords set up by the customer?

  • Performance: Bandwidth constraints can degrade performance. The average Internet speed in the United States is 5 megabits per second (Mbps). A typical local computer can easily move data twenty times faster.

  • Data Caps: Cloud computing means that more data is being transferred over the Internet. Meanwhile, Internet Service Providers (ISPs) continue to lower data caps. This will lead to surcharges and throttling as users exceed their limits more often, especially on the consumer side.

And specifically on the business side:

  • Many enterprise applications have a high degree of interoperability, which gets extremely complicated during the transition phase, where some applications are local and some are in the cloud.

  • Businesses must also ensure that the CSP is in compliance with various industry standards, such as the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA).

Time will tell as to how these services will be adopted and how providers will handle the various issues. Consumers are likely to lead the cloud revolution, because they may be less concerned about security, privacy, and reliability than businesses. But both groups need to think before they jump into the cloud, or they may fall right through – without a parachute.

Gerald Villani
Computer and Networking Administration Instructor
Remington College – Cleveland Campus

About Gerald Villani: Mr. Villani is a full-time instructor in the Computer and Networking Administration program at Remington College in Cleveland, Ohio. He holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Computer Science from Youngstown State University, as well as Microsoft and other industry certifications. He has worked in private industry for 25 years, managing hardware, software, and network help desks. He was involved at the beginning of the World Wide Web era, working with the Cleveland Plain Dealer newspaper and Advanced Publications to launch the first-ever websites for and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum, among other sites.


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