I confess. I used to be a Cloud sceptic. I was concerned that the potential downsides, particularly concerns about privacy and cost outweighed to upside.
I believe that the situation today has changed significantly. These risks remain but the cloud environment has become a lot more competitive. Competition has brought with it a far greater range of suppliers, differentiation between Personal and Enterprise Cloud solutions, including where they locate their cloud infrastructure and how they handle data. I think that there is also now less likelihood that users will be locked into their cloud provider who then has the potential to ramp up charges.
On the upside, the Cloud offers start-ups and smaller enterprises the opportunity to access computing, communications and other IT resources without major capital investment that would have been far beyond their wildest dreams only a few years ago. Instead, Cloud providers have embraced the ‘Pay-As-You-Go’ model, frequently coupled with little or no long-term contractual commitment. Similarly, the opportunity exists to further limit costs by only paying for the resources consumed. So, if you want an off-site back-up facility, you can pay by the GB used per month. No need to commit upfront and pay for fixed blocks of TBs of storage and no need to buy and run backup servers on-site. Similarly, if you want to host your office file server in the Cloud but are happy to restrict availability to 7:00 am to 7:00 pm Monday to Friday, then you can reduce your monthly running costs by 60% compared with 24/7 availability.
So, what are the risks? Privacy remains an issue and you should be very wary of contemplating using a ‘free’ Cloud service targeted at Consumers. The free lunch rule applies here! If a service is free at the point of use, how is it being funded? Often this will be by the service provider extracting value from the data that you entrust to it. For example, by using the information to target advertising. If your business communications and information are being scanned and monetised by a service provider, what are the consequences for the Confidentiality of your and your customer’s data?
Furthermore, Legislative issues can arise relating to where the information is stored and processed, and particularly if it leaves the EU. There can also be issues relating to whether another nation might claim jurisdiction over your data because of the country of domicile of the service provider.