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Look at Cloud Computing from Both Sides Now
By: Bruce Coker
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    Table of Contents:
  • Look at Cloud Computing from Both Sides Now
  • Appeal of the Clouds
  • Precautions
  • More Safeguards

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    Look at Cloud Computing from Both Sides Now - Appeal of the Clouds

    (Page 2 of 4 )

    The appeal of the cloud is not hard to understand: it obviously has many advantages to the end user. Not least among these is cost. Rather than having to purchase, install and maintain expensive hardware backup and redundancy systems, the responsibility for this is handed over to third parties.

    In theory, a dedicated data organization should be in a position to implement higher quality systems than the average individual or small enterprise, especially one whose core business is not IT-related. Of course, the fact that such an organization might be looking after data belonging to many individuals spread over a wide, geographically disparate area may well offset this perceived advantage.

    A second key benefit of the cloud is portability. It is not uncommon these days for people to operate entirely in the cloud, constructing their whole digital lives around network-based services that are available to them on any computer wherever they happen to be, as long as there is an Internet connection. The growth in availability of fully functional online applications and services has made this a reality, as there are very few remaining everyday IT tasks that can not be carried out online. Google Docs and others provide word processing, spreadsheet and presentation services, while photo and data storage sites are ubiquitous, and almost every ISP provides some level of webmail service.

    But for all the benefits, data isnít like money, and online services are not like banks who are good at protecting it. For one thing, there is a good chance that you can examine your bankís security arrangements. When were you last invited on a tour of a server room, or to inspect your vendorís backup systems?

    Additionally, banks generally have good insurance, and money is replaceable. No amount of compensation can make up for the loss of information, which by its very nature is unique and irreplaceable. And unlike secured bank vaults, many of the same technologies and systems that online services use to store and secure data Ė backups, RAID arrays, encryption and so on Ė are available to every individual, so no one has an excuse for passing the buck.

    Itís also worth remembering that data loss is not the only hazard of cloud computing. Many experts warn against an issue known as vendor lock-in. This is by no means a new phenomenon, but it is a significant risk in the cloud, where incompatibilities between the online applications and data formats of different vendors may make migration between them difficult if not impossible.

    A further hazard is that the user gives up control over the implementation of upgrades. If, for example, a vendor changes the interface of a favorite application in an unpopular one without warning, the user has little choice but to accept it or move to a different service.

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