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Considering a cloud computing environment for our business

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Since 2008 the cloud computing is acquiring importance, more and more enterprises are offering or adapting their solutions to a cloud computing environment. Could be an advantage for our business to use them? How will affect us the migration to the cloud?

First of all, what does a cloud computing environment offer? And how could be helpful for our business?  Briefing, a cloud computing environment is basically a server (usually virtualized) hosted by a third-party company which provide computation, software or data storage. There are three forms of using the cloud:

Cloud computing diagram

Author: Sam Johnston

  • Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS):  An infrastructure can be delivered as a service, covering servers, networks, load balancers, operative systems, databases, etc.  With this option we will have control of our server, keeping the configuration as we decide.
  • Platform as a service (PaaS):  A platform to develop, deploy, host and run our applications. PaaS format will provide us certain features such a server, network, operative system, database, etc. Unlike IaaS, with a PaaS we will lose governance of the server because we won’t control certain activities as operative system configurations, network security features, etc.
  • Software as a service (SaaS): Applications provided over Internet and administrated and hosted by a third-party. SaaS has been used since a long time, for example with the web mail (Gmail, hotmail, etc). However several business solutions are currently being offered in this format, as for example:
    • CRM: SugarCRM, SalesForce, OpenCRM, etc.
    • Business Intelligence: Talend, Pentaho, BIRT, etc.
    • DataBases: TeraData, Amazon SimpleDB, etc.
    • Other: Google Analytics, SurveyTool, 360EnterpriseSuite, DropBox, etc.

Our business could profit any of the previous models, but what would be the advantages and disadvantages of using them?  Of course, it will always depend on specific factors but for a wide range of cases:

Advantages:

  • Reduced costs: Pay as much as you use it. Also IT department will reduce its cost because hardware, software and other services will be provided by a third-party.
  • Maintenance:  No needs to worry about machine support, hardware upgrades or space to keep it. IT maintenance will be lighter and easier.
  • Scalability: To scale up will be easier and faster if we need more resources at pike times or permanently due to the flexibility of cloud computing environments.
  • Remote access: Our business resources could be accessed wherever our employee has an Internet connection, promoting availability and collaboration.

 Disadvantages:

  • Security:  Our customer’s data will be stored in an external machine, even using secure protocols, as HTTPS, it will be a risk.
  • Control: The server, OS, software… all remains on the third-party side, losing its control.
  • Dependence: To use a cloud computing platform an Internet connection is required. Moreover, if the third-party had any kind of problem it will affect us too.

As seen above there are pros and cons, so taking advantage of a cloud computing service will depend on our business situation that has to be analyzed before making a decision. The answer to the following questions could tip the balance in the right direction:

  • What are the costs associated with our IT? A cloud computing environment could reduced them, it’s an alternative.
  • Could be our customer’s private information stored in a third-party’s machine? It will depend on internal politics, regulations, or customers conditions. The security features of our business could be the main limitation to use the cloud.
  • What software applications are our business using? are they offered as a SaaS? The replacement should be analyzed looking for a cost reduction.
  • Does our business need a high performance?  As indicated previously, we will depend on the Internet connection and certain processes (as large data processes) couldn’t keep the same performance running on a cloud computer environment.

Don’t hesitate to leave a comment if you want to share your opinion about the use of a cloud computing service in your business.

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7 thoughts on “Considering a cloud computing environment for our business

  1. Thank you for the post, Sergio. I find it a very good introduction to the Cloud for beginners like me. If I understood well, it can be considered as an external server, but with the extra functionalities/capabilities the software can provide. Does it support any type of application as long as it is supported by the OS you previously “chose”? At the same time, I guess that running any type of application remotely “from the cloud” should be slower than locally.

    • Cloud comtuping has only ever been a marketing push on the part of a few companies with vast resources in order to monetize under-utilized assets. None of the items on your bullet list are technologically anything more than what you get when you have a network and computers on it. It just happens that Amazon and Google are huge and have such large networks they can profitably rent their servers out. The only new thing that’s automatically scaling on the cloud is the billing.What you get with the cloud is scalability insurance. Of course, if your business explodes, it would be far cheaper to run your own data centers after all, Google and Amazon are not operating their clouds at a loss out of the kindness of their hearts. On the other hand, if your business doesn’t explode, you’re signing up to be a victim of their obtuse billing practices which boil down to try it out and see if it’s cheaper. If you compare fully utilizing the storage and bandwidth of a VPS to what that would cost over Google or Amazon, you’ll see you’re paying a nearly 10x markup for the same resources just for the privilege of doing it on-demand rather than up-front. This is setting yourself up to be blindsided by a black-swan spike in utilization. And of course, GAE and the like have radically different proprietary interfaces that make it extremely unlikely that you would be able to pull off a port to a traditional web-host in a hurry. Seems like a very unwise business practice to wire your expenses to a sliding scale like this, especially when 98% of business models do not have the scalability problem in the first place.This is because most businesses don’t make their money by exploiting large, dense graphs. I think the marginal utility of yet another application that makes use of large, dense graphs is getting dangerously low. Notice Google and Amazon make their money on something other than writing the kinds of applications that produce scalability problems with small numbers of users or low amounts of usage. Also, notice Facebook runs their own network despite the supposed amazing scalability advances of the cloud. If it’s not economical on the low end or the high end, what makes you think it’s economical anywhere else? If this isn’t about saving money, if it were truly about technology, there would be new technology here rather than glorified server provisioning and a bunch of proprietary interfaces to it. What could the cloud possibly be about besides branding and helping a few very large companies make a little more money? Google and Amazon are, after all, quite good at recognizing business opportunities and using them. And don’t kid yourself about Rackspace or Azure. Azure is nothing more than Microsoft’s obligatory product for this niche, and Rackspace certainly is aware of which things they do to achieve buzzword compliance versus where they make their real money.This whole thing is just another sad round of the centralized vs. distributed game we’ve been playing in computer science for the last fifty years. As Keith Braithwaite observed, It’s a curious thing about our industry: not only do we not learn from our mistakes, we also don’t learn from our successes.

      • cloud computing will be stioehmng all of us will regret letting happen if we dont stand up and voice opposition to it now ,it is being pushed by ibm,apple,MS,and google,it mans these companies will own and control all of your data and ideas and in effect you,they will have total control over your digital life,this is the computing equivalent of nazi germany, mark my words,it is being designed by these evil greedy corporation and it is to screw you to the enth degree ,not to help you

  2. Thanks for your comment Jose.
    Exactly, an external server hosted by a third-party company. However depending what you need (SaaS, PaaS, IaaS) you will have more or less flexibility to manage the software on the server.
    On the other hand about running applications faster or slower, you have to consider the input and outputs of your application, those will be transferred through Internet, but the internal process of the data will still remain in the server itself. So depending on the scenario, a cloud computing environment could be better because you pay as much as you use and the machine resources are dynamic.

    • Your first ppaagrrah is misleading. AWS & Windows Azure started their cloud services as an autonomous branch of the company. They did NOT rent out excess capacity. This is merely a myth.The second ppaagrrah is also untrue except for some businesses. In some instances it is cheaper to stay in the cloud, and in some instances it is cheaper to build your own data centers. The billing practices are easy enough to understand also, it only takes someone with a 3rd Grade Education to sit down and do the math. It’s a bit confusing at first, but if you realize what you’re doing (which you should if jumping into technology), then it isn’t brain surgery.GAE is difficult a little in the aspect you say. However with AWS, Rackspace, Windows Azure, and others you can have a site up and published anywhere from 2-3 minutes to 10-15, depending on what OS, how many instances you want, and other criteria. It is much easier to publish in this manner than in traditional environments that need to concern themselves with physical machines. meh, anyway, I see your points. However they are all just a bit over-simplified and pessimistic. You argument here would be grounds to call the whole technology industry of the last 30 years nothing new.But I digress.One last thing I’d bet Facebook’s network is built out almost identical to cloud infrastructure. Just because they aren’t using GAE or AWS doesn’t mean they’re not doing practically the same thing.

      • if you people only knew the agdena, they do elude to some of it in the video when they tell you you will only be charged for what you use sure this sounds great, wait till you get he bill,or wait till you say something they consider objectionable,this was all planned folks,apple and google are working as we speak to make it so their clouds wont be compatible with existing technology, they will make it so you have no abiltiy to have a hdd or to store or have any control of your data,you wont

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