The “Bewares” of Cloud Computing …

26 05 2010

I have posted about Cloud Computing a number of times, a couple of times looking at some of the downsides and others the big positives of cloud computing. However, answering a question on eBizq.net today got me thinking just what the definitive list of downs is for cloud computing….Surprisingly there are many more than you expect.

Don’t get me wrong, I love cloud computing and for certain applications and for businesses under a certain size, the Cloud and SaaS provides a great solution and a great cost reduction in entry to certain forms of software. There are numerous occasions that I do, and will recommend SaaS (Sofware as a Service) and cloud based solutions to organisations. However, there is quite a list of things to take into consideration:

1. Stable communication – This is a basic and fundamental issue with the cloud computing ideal. If your internet connection goes down during the day, then you are going to have issues communicating with the cloud and any SaaS. In the UK, many organisations experience downtime from the internet daily, sometimes for considerable time periods. It is great to presume that our internet connection will always be up, but it simply won’t be.

2. Communication performance – I know we are in the 2010, but internet performance is not as good as my LAN, especially when I have hundreds of users trying to connect and use particular software. Bandwidth, local area usage of the internet in general, internet provider and cloud provider’s internet connection rates etc etc are all potential issues. I know many organisations which struggle to access the internet at 3:45pm-4:30pm each day, why? Simply because the school kids are now at home and checking their facebook accounts….

3. Application performance – I love SaaS, but to use it heavily on mission critical software is a no go. Not only do you have issues with communication stability and performance, you also have issues with the actual software performance itself (waiting for calls to be made across the web etc). It is also worth noting; just what technology is used to deliver SaaS applications. Standard web pages with AJAX place quite a load on the server, and will no doubt have further performance issues. Web based applications cannot compete with traditional desktop applications in terms of usability and performance

4. SaaS usability – Often web based software has issues with usability of the UI. This is an issue that is starting to be negated with technology such as Silverlight, however, with traditional web pages this is a real issue. Some cloud providers also place a restriction on how web based applications are delivered, this is not good and really restricts the flexibility and ultimately user experience.

5. Just where is my content / data – Some organisation have commitments to customers and regulatory bodies to ensure their data is stored in-country. However, on the cloud, what does this mean? Your actual storage could be in LA though you are committed to store data in the UK. In addition, many organisations (by law) have to know exactly where their content is stored. This doesn’t mean “it’s in the cloud” rather you need to know its exact location (which server and where) and who has access to the physical hardware it sits on. In the cloud, this just isn’t possible.

6. Limitations on integration – Many organisations need to embrace cross application integration to raise efficiency and at the end of the day customer experiences. On the cloud this is very limiting

7. Different implementations / ideas of a cloud – Some implementations use virtual environments of actual servers, others limit the things you can place on the cloud (sometimes to be written with a certain language etc)

8. Reliance on more than a single provider – some cloud providers utilise other cloud providers. This means that your applications etc become reliant on not just one set of “cloud based variables”, but many.

9. Too many people jumping on the bandwagon – by this I mean IT companies and providers. Many now state their software is cloud enabled or are providing solutions for the cloud (which is fine). However, what constitutes a cloud solution between software providers varies quite a bit

10. Lock in – locked in to a certain cloud provider, or more importantly, into the way in which they deliver cloud computing.

11. Costs – Believe it or not, cloud computing for certain tasks will be more expensive than sticking to using your own in-house environment. Always always look at the actual operational cost as a whole to your organisation and not just a comparison like for like on a particular peice of software (or SaaS variant).

 I am sure there are more points to add to this list, however the list is not meant to scare people off utilising cloud computing and SaaS. Rather this post is to make people aware of some of the restrictions of using the cloud, and help organisations make better informed decisions on how to use their IT and what type of solutions work best for them. My fear with “cloud hype” is that organisations jump to use the cloud only to find it doesn’t meet their requirements, expectations or compliance obligations…

The cloud has its place and we need to ensure the lines between what works well on the cloud, and what works best in house are drawn more clearly…Unfortunately, many cloud and IT vendors and providers will always try to make this line more “foggy” or even inform us that it doesnt exist…Just to sell you cloud computing…

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