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Putting Your Head in the Clouds 2 –Advantages and Disadvantages of Cloud Solutions

By David Postlethwaite

If you are thinking about using Cloud Computing then it’s worth considering the pros and cons.

Advantages of the Cloud

Why would you want to use the cloud?

Quick Setup
You can provision a fully functioning database server in just a few minutes whereas on your premises it can take weeks to order hardware then build and connect a new server.

Scalability
With the cloud, you have access to unlimited capacity.
You can increase the power and size of your server in times of high demand and then reduce it when demand drops.
The classic example, often quoted, is that of a ticket agency. For most of the year traffic is fairly steady but when tickets for a major artist go on sale then demand ramps up for a few days. With a cloud service, you can simply increase the power and size of your systems for those few days then when sales are complete drop the power back down. And you only pay for that extra capacity whilst you are using it.
If this was all in your own data centre you might have to buy and maintain all that extra power and storage all year round.

Cost Efficient
Aside from saving on storage and infrastructure costs, you might no longer need to update and manage software or applications, patch servers.
As we’ve already said you also only pay for what you use.

Backup and Disaster Recovery
Most cloud providers offer comprehensive backup and recovery capabilities. Backups happen automatically for you and you don’t need to check every morning that it worked. They will have huge redundancy built into their data centre and at least one other data centre in another city or even another country to ensure your system is always available.

Mobility
Because it’s all on the Internet you can access it from anywhere that has  an internet connection.

Environmentally Friendly.
The cloud provider packs a lot of computing power into their data centres which are much more power efficient than your “on premises” data centre will ever be.
Their servers are utilized to the maximum whereas, if your company is anything like the norm, you have plenty of servers that are barely ticking over.
Enable IT Innovation
You have an idea and want to give it a try. Spin up a new server or database in the cloud in a few minutes, test out your idea and when you’ve finished just delete the server. You only pay for the time you had it running.
Just think how long it would take to get a server built and available in your office.

Security.
Most Cloud companies use industrial level security software and practices, which are probably more secure and better managed than you can do in your own data centre which makes it harder for hackers to get at your data. That’s harder, but not impossible.

Disadvantages of the Cloud

And why wouldn’t you want to use the cloud

Security and Privacy
Security and privacy are the two main concerns that companies always mention when talking about the cloud.
By outsourcing your infrastructure to a third party you are giving away your data that might be sensitive and confidential.
You have to rely on the provider to maintain the security of that data.
If your data was leaked or lost your company could be fined, closed down or risk bankruptcy.

Dependency
Dependency is one of the major drawbacks of Cloud computing
Once you have gone with one cloud vendor it is difficult to migrate to another because of the huge data migration involved.

Loss of Control
Since the services run on a remote virtual environment, you have less control over the hardware and the software.
For instance the cloud provider may force upgrades onto you which may require a lot or rework to your application.

Reliability and Vulnerability
Since everything is now on the Internet the risk of the entire environment being vulnerable to hackers or Denial of Service attacks is always there.
Outage and downtime are two aspects that even the best Cloud provider can't completely guarantee.
Also with whole setup being Internet based if your office loses its Internet connection then you can’t work.
On the other hand, if you host everything “on premises” and your data centre loses its Internet connection then your customers may not be able to get to you to buy your products.

Government Interference
Microsoft Azure is compliant with the E.U. Data Protection laws so data in the European data centres will always stay in Europe.
However Microsoft and others have stated that under the USA Patriot Act the US government can request access to their data even if the data resides outside the USA bypassing EU law. 
Microsoft are currently fighting a case with the US authorities who are trying to get access to emails held in the Ireland data centre.

You will have to weigh up the advantages and disadvantages and decide what’s best for your company.

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