When a new technology like cloud computing emerges, for the first few years you’re not going to get a consensus. When it is impacting business practice, making it easier for freelancers and creatives to get started and service their clients, helping SMEs work on the go and be more flexible it is inevitable that people will see different strengths in it.
Cloud Computing has become as attractive for big multi-national corporates as it has for independent, self-employed web designers. Its strength lies in its ability to be moulded to suit individual needs. Looking for a safe and secure way to manage staff at a range of sites? Try Hosted Exchange. Want to diversify your business and add a new technology to your offer? Try Cloud Hosting.
Yet the strength of cloud computing can also be its weakness. Get five vendors in a room together and ask them what the biggest thing about cloud computing is. They’ll probably all give you a different answer. That can be good for people who want to shop around but it can also create problems. It makes it hard to define and explain to someone who has no knowledge of the technology. What do you say is the most important thing about the Cloud if the people selling cloud computing can’t agree? Leading on from that is the creation of myths. When people can’t agree on a definition it becomes easier for myths and false ideas to permeate and spread.
Cloud computing might have been in development for a generation but we’re still at the stage of myths. For those wanting to sell the advantages of the Cloud, here are the top five myths that need to be debunked.
1. The Cloud isn’t secure
This is one that just keeps coming back, even if those who work in cloud computing know it isn’t true. It can be easy to understand where the naysayers are coming from. The growth of computer technology and its explosion into all of our lives came with the PC, the Personal Computer. You could define and grow your little corner of the technology world with your own keyboard and screen. Ownership was a huge psychological factor. When people set-up their own businesses they did so with sizeable servers in the corner.
There was an element of control stemming from the fact that you could micromanage every inch of your IT arrangements.
Cloud computing throws that practice out of the window. If you use a Cloud Server or Hosted Exchange you no longer need a server in your office. You’re essentially renting space on a server owned by someone else and it’s often based in a different country. You’re handing over a lot of responsibility to a third party you really need to trust. We’re not very good at that.
Similarly the PC has always been sold by vendors as being the most secure option. It was in their interests to tell us that so they did. Perhaps this is why so many of them are now finding it hard to sell Cloud computing; they’re going against the message they’ve been feeding consumers for three decades. In fact, you lose your PC or it crashes we all know what happens. Everything can be lost. Having your work and material backed up remotely is more reliable.
In terms of security every provider will put different levels of importance on that. Finding the right solution means asking what their security provision is. There are two elements of security; making sure the Cloud itself is secure protecting you from a virus or spam and physical security i.e., making sure the servers are protected. An Intrahost, for example, there is a complex security system regulating who comes in and out of the building where the servers are housed as well as CCTV.
The information we’re putting on the Cloud, whether for personal use or business, is highly important and sometimes sensitive. Dismissing cloud computing as not being secure tars every provider with the same brush. Security and reliability are tied up in the same thing. Asking the provider exactly what they do to make sure your presence in the Cloud is protected is vital. The flexibility of cloud computing means you can scale the privacy and public nature of what you invest in depending on what you need.
2. Cloud Computing is just for big business
There can be a tendency in business to assume those that are making the most money are the most important. The knock-on effect from this mentality means that when a new technology emerges the chatter tends to talk about it in terms of how it will impact the very biggest firms. SMEs and entrepreneurs don’t feel it is applicable to them, largely because they haven’t been told it is.
It’s easier for multi-national developers and providers to shout from the rooftops when they sign a deal with a major brand. It makes them appear mainstream and successful, but it does alienate smaller firms who are often their bread and butter. The SMEs are also the ones who can drive adoption and with the growth in that sector and their impact on the economy their importance shouldn’t be underestimated.
A flexible Cloud solution can benefit a freelance web designer in the exact same way it can a global conglomerate; perhaps even more so. A freelancer can’t afford the infrastructure needed to run a huge business but a Cloud Server and Virtualization technology opens the door to an IT solution that meets their needs and helps them grow their business. The scalability of the Cloud, it’s cost-effectiveness makes the real difference for this smaller business set-ups.
Big business might have a larger budget but the strength of the Cloud comes from its ability to be moulded to suit need, rather than forcing the same solution on everybody.
3. We already use Gmail so we don’t need the Cloud
The principles of Cloud Computing have filtered through into business thinking, but much of it is based on knowledge from one small corner of the technology, rather than the big picture. A set-up like Gmail can make people think they don’t need to explore wider Cloud services. They can log-in to their email, set-up a calendar, share Docs from device to device.
However, with a Hosted exchange solution you get this and more. You get a POP Mailbox, 50MB of storage, several email aliases – vital for a small business or a creative working as part of a team – smartphone and web access, shared calendars as well as the security measures like anti-spam and anti-virus and backed up software. It’s a much easier to get in touch with a Cloud Provider than Google. If your Gmail goes down do you have 24/7 access?
Having one OpenSource solution can limit your business. Anyone who sets up on their own ultimately wants to grow. They want to be able to increase their storage needs if they want to, offer new services to clients. OpenSource is great when you start out but it isn’t scalable enough when you’re ready to expand.
4. Cloud computing is all about cost
Yes, cost is important. No, it means you probably won’t need an in-house IT team. Cost is what has made cloud computing accessible to businesses of all sizes. But it isn’t the most important factor. Being able to grow your business flexibly, securing a scalable solution to meet what your business needs and no-one else’s as well as being able to sign up and start within hours are much stronger benefits.
The economy has inevitably meant we are all working harder, more often and need our work to be more flexible. Cloud Computing has grown probably because it fits with that mentality. It can suit what we want to do when we want to do it. It has removed the frustration and the tethers tying us down to IT. Want to work from home? No problem. What to be able to answer your clients and work efficiently when you’re on the move? The Cloud can sort that. It is this basic ethos that has made the Cloud popular and is at the heart of it appeal.
5. The Cloud isn’t going to last
Yes, technology does tend to come and go. Ask anyone who’s had to invest in myriad devices from any particular software giant and you’ll know that. The minute you lay down your credit card a voice in the back of your head tells you “This will be obsolete in five years, what’s the point?” Frustrating? Yes. Much you can do about it? No.
Cloud computing will evolve. What we see as being the norm now will change. But because the Cloud is as much an ethos and practice as it is a service it will never disappear completely. Personal Clouds are growing in popularity, particularly like cloud servers where individuals look for the simplest solution that is flexible enough to meet their needs.
Remember the Pick and Mix at Woolworths? All the sweets were there but the reason we liked it was because we could pick and choose what we liked. For me it was marshmallows, fried egg sweets and cola bottles. Your pick won’t have been the same. Cloud providers are making it much easier for cloud computing customers to select the bits they need and taking away the rest.
While people can find solutions that are secure, reliable, scalable, meet their needs and is cost-effective they will keep returning to the Cloud.