Get Your Head Out of the Tech: A Realistic Look at Cloud Computing

Cloud Inspection

To understand new technologies, one must first get past the misinformation and pierce the veil of hype to see the product as it actually is. As you can see from the graph below, tech hype progresses in a fairly typical cycle. Currently, we’re just passing the peak of inflated expectations and are beginning to see the beginning of negative press. The relatively recent iCloud incident and death of Code Spaces are just the tip of the iceberg which soon will plunge cloud computing into trough of disillusionment, where it will remain until people realize what purpose cloud computing actually serves, climb the slope of enlightenment, and set out across the plateau of productivity. This same process happens with every major technology hitting the market. Video killed the radio star, and internet killed the video star, yet we still have radio stations, and television networks. The media simply hypes everything out of proportion.

In spite of the trend set by the media, many technologists try to provide realistic advice to people before they throw out their old technology in preparation for the new. Cloud computing isn’t going to eliminate the need for older systems. If anything, it will just augment their purpose. In the following post, I will outline five key elements of cloud computing in a way that shows their upsides and downsides.

Hype Cycle

Accessibility: Boon and Bane

If a user is on a business trip, they can access the same resources that they can at work. The simple ability to access resources from anywhere within the same network is a boon, as it removes much of the need for an internal infrastructure. Unfortunately, as was noted by a French Philosopher, British PM, and a man dressed up as a spider, “with great power comes great responsibility.” Accessibility without appropriate restriction is a highly dangerous risk. A cloud-based system on its own cannot know that your users should not be attempting to log in from Elbonia. If your system is made more accessible to your end-users, then it’s also being made more accessible to everyone else.

In a nutshell, IF your access security is well developed, then you can reap the benefits of increased availability, otherwise you’re going to have a bad time.

Maintenance: Can’t Someone Else Do IT?

This entry would have suited a different article entirely, but it works extremely well for the purpose of realistically portraying cloud computing.

There are two ways this scenario typically plays out. Your cloud-based service provider could be amazing — handling updates, resolving issues, and generally fixing everything before you even notice something has gone wrong. If that’s the case, then you’ve reduced the need for the services of your IT department and in-house infrastructure, thus significantly reducing overhead.

Unfortunately, such a result is not guaranteed, and if your provider leaves a lot to be desired, then your experience is going to be less than positive. Rather than staying ahead of new issues as your in-house techs did, your provider may instead do the bare minimum, only completing tasks when they’re specifically told to do so. Micromanagement is expensive, and the potential service outages resulting from poor service can be costlier than maintaining your old in-house IT infrastructure ever was.

In a nutshell, it all comes down to quality of service. If you move to the cloud and your provider is great, then things will run smoothly. If they’re less than stellar, then your experiences will reflect that.

Reliability: Now With More Points of Failure!

The reliability of a system can always be judged by the number of potential points of failure, and the redundancy (or lack thereof) surrounding those points. Cloud computing is very interesting in how it shifts the reliability of a system from hardware functionality, to relying on the availability of services.

Consider the following, if cloud based systems and in-house systems were both types of vehicles, then in-house would be some sort of SUV, while cloud-based would be some type of high-performance car. This means that their relative performance comes down to the presence of a well maintained road (internet connection). If the road is always going to be available, then the high-performance car will outright win; however, the moment they need to go off-road the SUV has a clear advantage.

I explain it this way, because it’s effective at pointing out the shortcoming of the cloud based model. If you have no internet, then you have no access. If you have an in-house infrastructure and the internet goes out, then work can still be done across the internal network. The high-performance cloud-mobile may be significantly less likely to break down, but without the internet providing access it will just sit idle during those periods.

Security: Something Old, Something New…

Security in the cloud is one of those hot-button topics, so let’s keep this as concise as possible. Companies like Code Spaces, which were bankrupted due to poor cloud security practices, provide a generous justification for their systems to be top-of-the-line. This means that cloud services and cloud service providers are often extremely focused on security. At the same time, there is no action without a cause. The reason why they are so security minded, is because they are aware that, in addition to the usual risks an in-house system may encounter, the new features which the cloud is built upon (such as multi-tenancy, shared resources, and availability) open up new vectors for attack which previously could only be theorized. This means that, while the security in the cloud is often quite strong, there are also new weaknesses which can or may circumvent those defenses.

Costs: You Get What You Pay For

In many instances, cloud service providers offer pay-for-usage models of pricing. This means that you pay based on the resources you are using, and the duration of the time they’re in use. In many cases, this is more cost effective than having the same systems in-house. This adaptability and scalability can be great for any business. On the flip-side, consider cloud based infrastructure the same way you would consider leasing a property. It can be more affordable and ideal to lease an office; however, in some cases it’s more cost effective and practical to buy the property. Whether or not you get a good cost-effective deal for your cloud-based infrastructure comes down to planning for your needs.

Whether you’re planning on migrating to the cloud, are remaining in-house, or are deciding on which you would prefer, the first step to building a strong IT infrastructure is finding the right platform to build upon. Kaseya was designed and built with security as the fundamental building block to its core architecture. To learn more: Click Here.

If you’re interested in some ways to protect your cloud-based IT infrastructure: Click Here.

Author Harrison Depner

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