Pros and Cons of Business Cloud Computing

The traditional PC network model is being replaced by the historical precursor - terminals connected to a central computer or cloud.
The traditional PC network model is being replaced by the historical precursor - terminals connected to a central computer or cloud. | Source

An Introduction to Cloud Computing as a Service

According to “Guide to Cloud Computing” by Richard Hill, the cloud stack begins with the browser. Software as a Service delivers software applications through the cloud.

The cloud based applications could be accessed through a web browser or a software application like CITRIX. In all forms of cloud computing, virtualization is used to connect to the physical servers and network on which the virtual cloud runs.

Platform as a Service or PaaS delivers more than SaaS. Software as a service becomes platform as a service when the standard software applications are modified by application specific customizations by the cloud provider or deliver a wide array of customizable tools to the customer. With platform as a service, the customer owns and controls the software applications while serving them through the provider’s cloud platform.

Infrastructure as a Service or IaaS can support multiple computing platforms, operating systems and arbitrary software not supported by SaaS and PaaS vendors. “Guide to Cloud Computing” says that the provider manages the data centers on which the infrastructure runs virtually while the client is responsible for the deployment.

The book “Silver Clouds, Dark Linings” uses the term XaaS to refer to anything from software to whole computing infrastructures delivered as a service through the cloud. In short, the X in XaaS is any computing service delivered as a service.

What are the pros and cons of business cloud computing using these service models?

Cloud computing enables large scale, distributed workforces to work on the same projects.
Cloud computing enables large scale, distributed workforces to work on the same projects. | Source

Pros of Business Cloud Computing

What are the pros of business cloud computing? What advantages does cloud computing have compared to the traditional PCs on a network model?

  • Cloud computing arrangements from SaaS to PaaS to IaaS turn IT costs into a monthly cost like utility bills and standard services. Cloud computing solutions allow some organizations to entirely outsource IT functions except for the requests by Human Resources to set up new users accounts and deactivate users no longer with the company.
  • In many cases, switching to PaaS allows companies to outsource their software application support and IT functions.
  • Software as a service allows small businesses to use enterprise grade software applications without having to enter licensing agreements for an enterprise grade application. Tools like SAP for supply chain management and PTC’s Pro-Engineer and Windchill for drawing creation and management become practical for small businesses that wouldn’t otherwise be able to buy the applications.
  • Cloud computing allows users to access software applications from any work station on the network once they log in. Users can move from work station to work station or even work site to work site and use the same software applications.
  • Because Software as a Service and Platform as a Service with SaaS applications deliver the same software applications to all users, companies eliminate problems with documents, drawings and spreadsheets created in different versions of the same software application.
  • Because cloud computing relies on a network of connected servers, its capacity is almost infinitely scalable.
  • SaaS and PaaS can offer software applications that are only required for a short period of time. For example, an accounting office may only need access to the commercial version of tax preparation software for the first few months of the year. Cloud computing also allows companies to only pay for the licenses they need, scaling up licensing during peak demand and then dropping the license count and associated cost when those seats are not longer needed.
  • Platform as a Service allows customers to create multiple environments for software development and test. PaaS is also a natural solution for companies trying to develop their own applications for Software as a Service.
  • Software integration is rarely a problem with cloud computing.
  • With cloud computing of all kinds, the failure of a single server is not a serious problem.
  • You may be able to do away with dedicated computers with software installations and deliver all data and software applications through the cloud computing environment.

Cloud computing requires multiple layers of security built in to all application layers. Physical security of workstations is only a start.
Cloud computing requires multiple layers of security built in to all application layers. Physical security of workstations is only a start. | Source

Cons of Business Cloud Computing

What are the cons of business cloud computing? If cloud computing turns IT into a manageable and recurring expense, what are the possible problems or downsides?

  • Cloud computing is reliant on bandwidth. If a PC user cannot access the internet, he or she can continue working on spreadsheets or drawings on the personal computer until the connection is restored. Then the final version can be uploaded into the drawing database or a spreadsheet saved to a collaborative workspace. When everything is delivered through the cloud, the user loses access to the work in progress and the applications used to create it when the connection is lost.
  • Software as a Service and applications running in a PaaS environment are slower than they would be if they ran on a PC. All communications have to travel through the Internet, adding minor delays to all transactions.
  • Not every software application is available on the cloud. Older software packages and niche tools may not have been rewritten to be served on the cloud.
  • When the degree of reliance on the cloud increases, from SaaS to platform as a service to infrastructure as a service, customers lose control over the applications and the data. You cannot store data on a cloud unless it is a private cloud if intellectual property rules state that the data cannot leave your control. You cannot use cloud computing to store data that falls under ITAR regulations if the cloud servers are overseas or allow non-citizens accessing the systems, unless you have a private cloud. The privacy of the data can be improved by encrypting it.
  • According to “Computers, Privacy and Data Protection” by Serge Gutwirth, only the PCI-DSS privacy regulations have been written or updated to keep up with privacy issues raised by cloud computing. The Safe Harbor Agreement may be seen as a proxy for privacy regulations like HIPAA, but it is not legally viewed as such.
  • Information security is a problem with all forms of cloud computing. The cloud servers could be hacked or data leaked by malicious insiders. Data transfers between the user’s device and the cloud could be intercepted. And malicious software like keystroke loggers could capture a user’s credentials so that a hacker could log in as the user and access your cloud.
  • Cloud computing relies on web interfaces to run applications and platforms. “Auditing Cloud Computing: A Security and Privacy Guide” by Ben Halpert points out that the application interfaces used in PaaS can themselves be insecure.
  • Auditing the IT security of XaaS is a gray area. “IT Control Objectives for Cloud Computing” by ISACA describes how there are many different common frameworks that could be used to gauge the IT controls of cloud computing applications and environments, but there is not a standard framework as of 2013 that auditors should use.
  • Infrastructure as a Service interfaces are not yet standardized.
  • Cloud security standards have been created by NIST and ENISA, but they are still evolving to keep up with cloud computing, where the data and its processing can theoretically be spread across machines on several different continents. “Cloud Computing” by Nick Antonopoulos and Lee Gillam states that any company regulated by a financial services authority needs legal advice before it puts private financial data on a cloud.

References

1. “Guide to Cloud Computing” by Richard Hill, Laurie Hirsch, Peter Lake, Siavash Moshiri
2. “Auditing Cloud Computing: A Security and Privacy Guide” by Ben Halpert
3. “IT Control Objectives for Cloud Computing: Controls and Assurance in the Cloud” by ISACA
4. “Silver Clouds, Dark Linings” by Archie Reed and Stephen Bennett
5. “Handbook of Cloud Computing” by Borko Furht and Armando Escalante
6. “Computers, Privacy and Data Protection: An Element of Choice” by Serge Gutwirth
7. “Cloud Computing For Dummies” by Judith Hurwitz, Robin Bloor, Marcia Kaufman, and Fern Halper
8. “Cloud Computing for Enterprise Architectures” by Zaigham Mahmood and Richard Hill
9. “Cloud Computing” by Nick Antonopoulos and Lee Gillam

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