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.


A Matter of Trust

Clouser, though, is hesitant to trust someone else to back up his data. After all, thousands of Sidekick users assumed Microsoft was performing that function for them.

Ultimately, cloud computing represents a leap of faith. Users are forced to trust cloud providers to protect their information. Laws were implemented in late 2008 to ensure that financial institutions and creditors adopt measures to protect consumers against identity theft, but what's to ensure that Microsoft won't suffer another breakdown like the one that affected Sidekick users?

Remzi Seker, associate professor for computer science at UALR's College of EIT, specializes in security issues. He says businesses looking to incorporate the cloud need to thoroughly assess their needs and expectations before taking that leap.

"Every company that wants to utilize some services of cloud computing needs to sit down and think of what services it wants to receive, do their cost-versus-benefit analysis, and do a risk assessment," he said. "Quality of service can greatly vary based on what service you are utilizing and with which service provider you are utilizing it."

Take the leap, Seker advises, if it benefits your company. Just don't take anything for granted.

"Service-level agreements have to be crafted such that the customer - the company that receives the cloud computing service - is not liable from issues that may arise from the service provider. Asking questions on how, for example, confidentiality of your data will be preserved by the service provider is one of the most basic questions I would ask.

"Before making a decision, I would want to answer the following questions: Can I do it better? How much am I saving by going to the cloud way? What are my long-term gains and how does cloud computing fit into my vision? What are the risks and do I feel comfortable with this service provider after I asked all my questions and received their response? Does my decision make good business sense - reducing cost, not sacrificing security and quality?"

Security and control issues aside, Clouser believes the trend toward cloud computing simply represents a transfer of funds.

"First, an Internet connection becomes absolutely critical. The cloud argues that rather than investing in expensive servers, you invest in the cloud," he said. "However, you also need to factor in Internet redundancy to make sure that you have 100 percent access to the Internet at all times. Everyone could certainly use their phones, or an air card from a wireless provider, but those all cost money, too.
"Cloud computing will change the way everyone spends their money, but it is not the silver bullet. The money will still be spent - you'll just have a lot less control as you send your complete business future into the cloud and rely on others to keep it running for you.

"You'll lose 99 percent of all control and will be at the mercy of the cloud with minimal control of decisions regarding upgrades, changes, enhancements, etc. The cloud has more to do with the cost shift of your IT expenses more so than the user experience."



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