Cloud computing has certainly benefited many enterprises by reducing costs and allowing them to concentrate on their core business competence rather than IT and infrastructure issues. But, for all the generally well-earned hype, there are still distinct disadvantages of Cloud Computing – especially relating to smaller operations – that you should consider before taking the leap. In this post, I’ll try to offer some key concerns along with strategies for addressing them.
Point 1. Reduced Costs.
In the cloud, all IT resources and applications are maintained and managed offsite, so your company pays only for the services it needs and uses. All of the critical hardware, software, maintenance and management are provided, so businesses have minimal start-up costs and predictable ongoing operating expenses.
Counterpoint 1. Actual Costs
At first glance cloud costs appear to be a lot cheaper than in-house options. It's important to do a total cost comparison as cloud costs can be quite a bit more than you expect and not exactly the predictable ongoing cost they purport. Most often there is a minimum commitment you must reach regardless of your usage and with variable fees such as computing time, bandwidth usage and data storage, unchecked service prices can balloon. A Gartner study points out the primary savings will occur in the first two-years of a cloud service due to the lack of upfront capital investments, Beyond those two years, in-house systems tend to become the better cost-savings option as the capital assets depreciate.
For a start-up, the lean nature is great but for an established business you may already have underutilized hardware and investments that can be virtualized or inexpensively upgraded to provide further years of usage. The cost of managing their infrastructure also has to be passed onto the customer. This can be in real dollars or in level of customer service. Downtime is also a major consideration, as lost productivity is a real number that is never talked about in their calculation. Initial fee's can also be teasers to get you in the door, and since it's difficult to change providers they hold the power when it comes to fee increases.
Point 2. Scalability and Flexibility.
The beauty of the cloud is that it grows with you. Depending on your business needs, cloud computing provides the flexibility to scale IT infrastructure up or down. Your organization does not need to make provisions for future requirements - if the company needs more hard drive space, RAM, CPUs, or additional software user license subscriptions, each can be added quickly.
Counterpoint 2. Lock-In
The benefit of the cloud growing with you is a huge upside but you are giving up a lot of freedom for that. If you become unhappy with your provider, which definitely does happen, you will start to feel just how inflexible the offering really is. Differences between vendor systems can make it difficult to migrate from one cloud platform to another. This can be very complex and expensive as you will need to reconfigure your applications to meet the requirements of the new host. The migration can also expose your data to corruption, security and privacy vulnerabilities.
Counterpoint 2a. Sharing
Another thing to think about is the fact that you are sharing resources with a lot of other customers whose needs can fluctuate, resulting in inconsistent performance. Peak times vary, and you may not have the resources you need when you need them.
Point 3. Improved Accessibility.
By moving your applications and data to the cloud, any authorized user can easily connect to your virtual office from any location and any device with an Internet connection - allowing 24/7 access to your data. This type of anytime, anywhere accessibility offers users maximum productivity and efficiency to grow their business!
Counterpoint 3. Downtime.
Your business is now completely dependent on the reliability of your Internet connection. Provider is down or slow? Your business is down or slow. There are ways to increase the reliability of your network through multiple provider connections and special hardware that can virtualize and share your connections leading to more reliability. This all comes with a cost, something to add into point one - cost.
Also, it is relatively inexpensive to add remote accessibility to your existing infrastructure through virtual-private-network connections and remote access solutions. This provides the best of both worlds, in-house you continue to have the always-on access of a local network, and remote offices or workers can access anytime.
Point 4. Security and Privacy.
Data security is a major concern and should be a top priority for every business. Cloud computing maintains the integrity of your data by storing it in state-of-the-art, highly secure facilities that feature 99.99% up-time and daily backups, which ensures a secure and compliant environment.
Counterpoint 4. Limited Control.
You are relying on someone else to keep your data safe. If they slack off or miss an update your customers won't care who dropped the ball, and you will feel worse knowing it was done by someone out of your control. While the servers may be housed in a safe data warehouse, the servers themselves can remain vulnerable due to lack of patching or poor configuration. It's important to realize you can't just trust it is being handled by someone else.
Point 5. Full IT Maintenance & Management.
With the Cloud, you eliminate the entire back-end infrastructure including servers, databases, patches, VPN and upgrades, allowing your business to focus on more "value-added" activities. Additionally, cloud computing offers disaster recovery and business continuity solutions, so you are back up and running faster than ever in the event of a threat or disaster.
Counterpoint 5. Limited Access.
Industry ratio for staff-to-customers is 3:500. As the cloud infrastructure is out of sight out of mind we never know how the host is providing service. When you have a problem it is very difficult discovering where the problem resides, it could be hardware, saturated network, software issue all of which is hidden from you.
As with any technology, being educated is the biggest advantage when it comes to selection.
It's important to have a solid plan in place to utilize the best options available which are normally a mixture of in-house and cloud services.