Moving to the Cloud
First, what does “Cloud Computing” mean?
Old school: you have your documents and videos and images on your computer’s hard drive. You know exactly where they are, sure — but what do you do when you’re away from your computer? What if your computer gets damaged, lost or stolen? What happens when your disk gets full? How much fun is it to wrestle with backups and upgrades and networking issues when your configuration changes?
New Paradigm: store your stuff online — perhaps you’d keep your docs at Google, your videos at YouTube, and your images at Flickr. Now you can access your stuff whether you’re in Singapore or St. Louis. And you’ll be able to expand your storage as needed, with a savvy team of knowledgeable experts handling the backups and upgrades and networking headaches. You can also leverage webmail and online calendars — and lots more — to enhance communications and scheduling among folks on your team.
That’s the cloud. Actually, that’s just a fraction of what the cloud can do.
The National Institute of Standards and Technology puts it like this :
“Cloud computing is a model for enabling ubiquitous, convenient, on-demand network access to a shared pool of configurable computing resources (e.g., networks, servers, storage, applications, and services) that can be rapidly provisioned and released with minimal management effort or service provider interaction.”
That’s a fancy way of saying that you can leverage someone else’s online resources to make your time more effective and more productive.
Many Organizations Can Benefit from Utilizing the Cloud
Why move to “the cloud”? It’s all about leverage!
Do you do your own taxes, or do you rent some time from a reputable CPA to help you? Unless you have a very simple return, chances are you have some help. When you have an electrical problem or plumbing issue at home, you might try handling it yourself — if you’ve got the savvy to do so. The rest of us bring in a professional who can draw upon years of experience to diagnose and repair the situation, and modernize things when needed.
If you’ve got a big team with lots of resources to throw at networking issues, motherboard problems, upgrade glitches, cabling hassles, and general infrastructure headaches, then more power to you! For small teams, though, it pays to leverage the expertise of professionals who specialize in handling issues like that, day in and day out. Google and Dropbox are two examples: you can leverage their resources and storage, without having to worry about wires or CPU compatibility or disk space.
Moving to the cloud frees up your resources so you can concentrate on your strengths, handle important issues for your constituency, and create more value as an organization.
What are the tangible benefits that you and your organization will gain by moving to the cloud?
- Cost savings. These days every business is looking for ways to save money, and that is why a lot of companies are moving to the cloud. You can eliminate large, upfront hardware costs to implement new systems. Your staff can save time managing those resources, and spend their time on tasks that are directly related to your core business. You only pay for what you use. The days of paying for excess capacity are gone.
- Flexibility. Moving to the cloud can provide your organization with enhanced flexibility in several ways. The cloud gives you flexibility in allocating resources. Need more resources at certain times than others? The cloud makes it easy to scale up resources when needed and scale back when they aren’t required. Have a staff that is mobile and works remotely? The cloud gives you flexibility in providing your staff the resources they need to be successful.
- Risk management. Ever come up with a great idea that could really improve your business? When you analyzed the costs of the technology required to implement your idea, it was probably intimidating. Even more intimidating can be the expertise to implement and manage that technology. If that great idea wasn’t as great as you thought, you could lose thousands of investment dollars for the hardware, software, and expertise. What if you could pay only for the portion you actually use of the technology you needed? What if you could incrementally expand at any time? Moving to the cloud makes implementing great ideas a lot cheaper, and less risky!
- Preparing for the future. According to research performed by the Pew Research Center , “Technology experts and stakeholders say they expect they will ‘live mostly in the cloud’ in 2020 and not on the desktop…” Many businesses are embracing this expectation and making business plans accordingly. The Open Group’s May 2011 Cloud Computing Survey provides insight of how cloud computing fits into the plans of many businesses around the world. Of the responding businesses, 82 percent expected their cloud initiative to significantly impact one or more business processes.
How secure is the cloud?
That is the $64,000 question — or probably the $483,000 question, accounting for inflation. A lot of people come to that question with a pre-conceived notion of which direction they are going to wind up. Those pre-conceived notions are often shaped by headlines involving this or that security breach for one cloud service or another.
There are many myths and misconceptions about security and the cloud. A recent article in CIO describes The Two Biggest Lies About Cloud Security . The first lie is that private cloud computing is inherently secure because of how it is implemented, and the second is that security of public cloud services rests solely with the Cloud Service Provider. As the article explains, larger generalizations like that ignore the details that are essential to understanding cloud security.
At EduCloudComputing we take security very seriously, but we know there is no one-size fits all answer. The right answer depends upon the cloud service being considered, the security of your current environment, the security measures your employees are willing to take, and a long list of other factors. Painting cloud security with a broad brush can prevent your company from accessing cloud services that are secure and of great benefit, but it can also expose your company to security risks that you don’t even know exist.
We can help.
EduCloudComputing can provide a security analysis of the cloud services you’re considering. In some cases we can suggest enhancements that will improve security, and in some cases we’ll help to steer you away from risky security choices.