The Cloud: To Surf or Not to Surf

by Mark Carter  on Monday, Jan. 11, 2010 12:00 am  

Ted Clouser of PC Assistance in Little Rock says the cloud has benefits, but is wary of affording it his full trust.

Many in the industry are wary of putting all that potentially sensitive data out there beyond the owner's direct control.

"While cloud computing has some benefits, I believe that the risks far outweigh the benefits if you weigh them accordingly," said Ted Clouser, executive vice president of PC Assistance in Little Rock. "For example, the concept of sending my confidential business data 'into the sky' so that it can be stored on servers in places I don't know, managed by people I can't see, and shared with people I don't trust sends bells off in my head louder than I can imagine.

"We all read the papers - we know there are people committing crimes every day and doing things that we don't want to be a part of. Do we really want our data sitting out there somewhere, being shared with people who run their businesses in a way completely polar opposite from us?"

Clouser believes the cloud has been around for a while in various formats, despite its recent emergence as a popular practice.

"Cloud computing is just starting to really take off, but there are some legitimate arguments that cloud computing has been around for a while," he said. "In reality, Citrix or any sort of remote connectivity is, in a sense, cloud computing."

Facebook, MySpace and Yahoo mail are all examples of the cloud, he says.

"Cloud computing takes the Facebook concept and sends our accounting data, confidential business intelligence, e-mails and customer-relationship management solutions to the same locations and gives us a Web interface to access them," Clouser said. "Where cloud computing differs is when everything goes into a Web format. When we use a Web browser to access data over any connection, that becomes cloud computing."

Hankins believes the cloud is here to stay, pointing out a study by the Gartner Group that predicts the market for cloud products will grow from $46 billion in 2008 to more than $150 billion by 2013.

"While it can't be said that cloud computing is appropriate for everything, for the majority of computing applications it serves well," he said. "I think it will represent the majority of future technology implementations."

Hankins believes the cloud is a no-brainer for new businesses that would otherwise have to invest in some expensive infrastructure.

"You don't have to build server rooms and worry about special air conditioning and pay someone to take care of everything," he said. "All of that stuff can be rented by the month. You can get world-class software, much better than you can afford to buy outright, and pay for it by the month. You can size it for what you need today and grow it as you need to grow. You pay for only what you need and use. There's no huge down payment required just to get started.

"You can get to everything you need and work from anywhere you have an Internet connection. No special trips to the office. Maybe no real need for a big office that everyone has to come to for work. With everything living in the cloud, your data backups and disaster recovery are already taken care of for you. Less worry, better cash flow and better software."



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