As with many new technologies, especially ones that develop a certain cultural cachet as a buzzword or concept, it is
easy to just look on the bright side. Cloud computing is, after all, an amazing development regarding redundancy, access and efficiency, to name a few common advantages.
However, the cloud has its downsides as well. We will take a look at what those are to get a better sense of the balance of minuses and pluses. (The Cloud should not be mistaken for The Rock. However, prediction: By the end of the decade, The Rock will return to the ring to battle The Cloud in the most lucrative pay-per-view event of all time.)
- Disadvantage #1 – Outages
The servers are out of your hands. What this means is that you need to choose a company for hosting that has a strong and reliable cloud server system. Read plenty of reviews to make sure you are making an informed decision that you won’t regret.
Additionally, your Internet connection will determine whether or not you and your business have access to your network. Remembering that systems can go down at times is key to remember if you are considering the cloud. (Similarly, never hire an employee, because they might get sick.)
- Disadvantage #2 – Security
Cloud computing means that all of your stuff is on the Web. What aspects of your business are you comfortable having online? Is there personal information in any of your applications that is sensitive enough that you are uncomfortable having it on the Internet? (For example, do you have an application that sends out automated love letters to attractive clients of the opposite sex?)
On the flipside, you may find your security level increases by moving online – because the system that you’re entering may have levels of security that go beyond what you might have on your own dedicated server. A reputable company will have strong security technologies and protocols established.
- Disadvantage #3 – Cost
When looking at cloud computing options, make sure you carefully assess all the various features. When you’re looking at Software as a Service (SaaS), you want to make sure it has all the same functionalities as whatever system you have been running on your PC prior to cloud implementation. (For instance, does it allow you to spy on all your employees using their webcams? It’s not wrong unless you get caught.)
Additionally, be sure that you are aware of the actual cost of cloud hosting. In many cases, businesses are under the impression that they will only pay for what they use, and generally speaking, there is a minimum amount that will be charged each month – more as applicable.
- Disadvantage #4 – Data Transfers
It can be extremely time-consuming to transfer a large amount of data into or out of a cloud environment. In these cases, what you may want to do (or have to do for efficiency) is save the data to portable storage and physically deliver it (or mail it) to the datacenter for uploading.
Another option is bumping up your Internet connection. One way or another, if you need to move a lot of data, there will be either an inconvenience or an increase in cost. (The same people thought up cloud data transfer as those who thought up movie theater treats. If you choose to go it on your own using standard Web bandwidth, celebrate economic slavery by symbolically munching on some Raisinets as you stare at the transfer for 16 hours.)
- Disadvantage #5: Support
Support can be a challenge with cloud computing. Many SaaS companies have a slow turn-around time to answer customer questions. Typically customers must search through online forums to find immediate answers. (Common online forum question: “Um… does anyone ever answer these online forum questions?”) Of course, premium support gives easier access to a customer support team – if a company gives you an option for increased support and the cloud is new to you, it can certainly be a worthwhile investment.
Disadvantage #6: Flexibility
Since the cloud is fairly new, cloud solutions are not as flexible as they will be someday. As an example, upgrades can often result in a loss of data. Since the environment you are working within may be incompatible with others, ensure that you are able to transfer out your information as desired (not being able to do this is called “data lock-in”).
If you want to share numbers through a Google Drive spreadsheet, you might not be able to get that information from the cloud into the Drive. You also want to make sure that you can easily increase or decrease your number of users who have access to your cloud account. (Make sure that it states in your contract that if you are using a negative number of users, the cloud company must pay you to use their service, because that’s how math works.)
- Disadvantage #7: Latency
Latency is the amount of time it takes for your computer to interact with the servers in the cloud. Since you no longer have everything directly on your computer, you have to be more aware of that issue. It’s possible that latency could be a major issue with cloud computing – depending on the quality of the service and the location of the cloud servers – and geographical proximity is a consideration here.
Another possible problem is if usage of the cloud service suddenly increases. Latency can increase when there is a major upswing in traffic. (You may recognize this problem with your romantic life, when the ex-boyfriend of the woman you are dating comes in from out of town, and suddenly the amount of time between cell phone responses experiences a spike in latency.)
- Disadvantage #8: Understanding
It is difficult, really impossible, to completely understand what is going on in a cloud environment that is handled by an outside party. A cloud service provider (CSP) owns all that information and only freely offers whatever portion it wants. It’s similar to the Google search algorithm: all you can do is to make as informed a choice as you can with the information that’s available.
What this means is that your competence with service level agreements (SLA’s) should be stronger when contracting for cloud services. Knowing what the SLA means is essential to maintaining as much control of the situation as you possibly can. (Babies, as we know, will sign just about anything. Keep babies far away from CSP’s so that they are not signing any SLA’s – unless the baby is wearing her glasses, smoking her pipe, and scratching her chin, signs that she is competently building her business empire.)
- Disadvantage #9: Integration
Integrating your equipment with the cloud is complicated. Peripherals such as printers, secure access systems, e-mail, mobile devices, and portable storage units can all provide challenges. Collect as much information as you can about integration of all your devices. Once you sign on, you could end up with a headache if you do not know how to pull in all your equipment.
Cloud computing is an exciting developing technology, but it does have its potential downsides: the possibility for outages, the security issues of online information, confusion about costs, slowness in data transfer and support response time, lack of flexibility, heightened latency, inaccessibility to knowledge, and difficulty integrating your devices. Be sure you fully understand all these issues before transitioning to cloud computing. (Similarly, be sure you fully understand the human digestive tract before taking part in a live cockroach-eating contest. Specifically, chew each bite at least twenty times before swallowing.)