Everyone has heard of the cloud and most likely used the cloud, but how many people really understand what it is and how to effectively use it? Today we are going to look at what the cloud is, how it works, and what are some of the benefits and risks of using the cloud.
What is the cloud?
The cloud is a combination of hardware and software packaged together very similar to your home computer, but on a much larger scale. All the major tech companies have their version which they offer to other businesses, or people, as a service.
Some like iCloud or Dropbox almost everyone is familiar and have used. The basic principle of these is the ability to save or backup your information to be accessed from anywhere you have connection to the internet. Its like saving a file on your hard drive, but instead of your hard drive, it is Apple’s or Dropbox’s.
The more complicated clouds, like Amazon Web Services or Microsoft Azure, give user much more functionality. These services let you utilize hard drives, AI, processors, GPU, RAM, and other features to perform tasks that would be cost prohibitive if you were to try to implement them yourself.
What are the benefits of the cloud?
There are several beneficial aspects to the cloud including:
- Potentially cost saving
- Able to ramp up and down resources quickly based on demand.
- Good way to backup files you may need to retrieve or disseminate to a variety of place.
Cost savings can be tremendous. When you look at the lifetime cost of a data center, currently approximately $120,000 per rack according to this APC whitepaper, that means you can save a lot of money by using a cloud service to only use the amount of storage and processing power you need when you need it as opposed to building and maintaining redundancy and room for growth.
Ramping up and down resources quickly is also beneficial. Sometimes businesses have peak periods that are dramatically higher than the rest of the year, for instance retail can have up to 30% of their sales in November and December. This means that they will experience around twice as much traffic during those times and utilizing the cloud can save them money because they only need half the resources during the other months. In addition, this strategy can work against DDOS as well.
Finally, the cloud can be a good way of backing up files. Companies can got through Terabytes, or Petabytes (1000 Tb) of file storage in a year. Can you imagine the business impact losing all those files would have if you don’t have a remote backup and your server room, or the whole building, gets flooded?
What are the risks associated with the cloud?
While the cloud has some amazing benefits, it also has tremendous risks involved. Some of the more major ones include:
- Complicated pricing structure
Confidentiality is important in many fields of work, but can cloud providers provide confidentiality? Theoretically, through encryption and security features one can protect their information enough that it is confidential, but do you know how to ensure the data is actually confidential? If you don’t, you should probably talk to someone who does, like our team at Maryland Computer Service.
Ownership is another challenging aspect. It can be argued that whoever owns the property (read hardware) the work was performed on, owns the creation. This is why many major corporations in the tech industry ask about any intellectual property that the person owns during the hiring process. Until the legal system/ courts come up with a very clear answer for this ownership dilemma, it is a good idea not to use other companies’ resources to create something that you haven’t filed a claim to the appropriate government agencies. This is part of why many large organizations use a hybrid approach of private ownership and outsourcing. They can keep their private critical information on their own network and publicly disseminated information on the cloud.
Cybersecurity can also be a challenge. If one user of Amazon Web Services gets hacked, it could theoretically spread to anyone coming into contact with the same resources that user uses. As discussed in the blog “Is Ransomware Coming to the Cloud?” it is possible to gain access to entire networks through the cloud. With Amazon, Microsoft, and Google playing such large parts in the Cloud, theoretically accessing three companies could expose the entire world’s data.
Because of the benefits that come with proper usage of the cloud, it is definitely worth looking at how you can use it, but I definitely recommend utilizing trained professionals like Maryland Computer Service to help you setup and monitor the results. You can send us a message or reach us by phone at 301-202-6521.