In and Out of the Cloud

By John Schroeder

First, let’s get some reality. There is no such thing as a “cloud.” Everything is eventually landing on a file sever somewhere in the world. The major problem is we don’t always know where those servers might be. They could be in US or China. And the type of security on those servers is equally elusive. This can be of great concern to anyone whose business touches upon some kind of regulation. (SEC, HIPPA, and even Sarbanes Oxley).

Secondly, the concept of “cloud computing” is not new. It’s been around for 15 years or more.

Nevertheless, it continues to capture the imagination of both business and residential users.

We are going to explore some of the pluses and/or minuses of cloud computing.

On the plus side, these days, the communication networks are more robust. Granted in the past, our providers boasted a 99% uptime but in reality communication was erratic. Uptime during non-peak hours was factored into the 99% claim but downtime during critical hours was and is the real concern.

However, the general communication network has been improved in the last ten years. There is more bandwidth available and theoretically there is no upper limit on “land based” connections as fiber is being added everywhere.

However, communications via the cell networks is clearly more strained than ever and it’s an arena where more bandwidth is not possible. Instead, technology has been used to squeeze packets into ever more crowded networks and still making reliability difficult to achieve. By the way, the same can be said for internal local Wi-Fi networks as more such devices (tablets, phones, and printers) are added to the local environment.

In general, as far as bandwidth is concerned for “land based” connections, cloud computing is starting to become sustainable and, other than occasional downtimes on the circuit, a more reliable business tool.

Types of Cloud Computing

There are basically two types of Cloud Computing: 1) Data Storage and 2) Applications

Data Storage:
This is a typical situation of copying your data files “off to the cloud” to be recovered later if needed. This would also include Dropbox type options which also significantly allow for data sharing with remote users. (Assuming you can tolerate the download times to bring the data down locally).

It seems everybody and his brother is offering offsite data storage. Banks, computer manufactures, and outside sources almost to many to list.

There are three potential pitfalls to watch out for:

  1. You may not know where the servers housing your data are located. This could be a problem with regulated industries.
  2. Often “free space” is soon used up and charges start rising accompanied by charges to your credit card. The wise thing to do is to read the print and be aware of what you need to and are backing up.
  3. Data transfer can be slow. It could literally take weeks to drag your data back across the circuits if you need to bring it back.

Cloud Applications (which includes inter-data transfer between diverse applications, such as iCloud):

On a simple level, this could be writing a letter in an alternative Cloud Application as opposed to a local copy of Microsoft Word. This is generally not difficult.

Simply spreadsheets are also pretty easy to write and maintain. However, with more complicated sheets, the experience is going to be “clunky.

Things start to get even more difficult when databases or specific applications are involved. Generally, these “web-based” systems need to restrict data entry level points (to say nothing of reporting) due to the need to “conserve bandwidth.”

As a general rule, a lot of people who have gone to these web-based applications have decided to migrate back to a local environment solution.

We have several customers who have decided to migrate their application-based system back to their own local environments.

An exception to this has been with Exchange Server.

In 2003, Exchange became the industry standard for business email systems.

At the time, Exchange gave businesses users access to a global address list, share calendars, and shared contacts. Remote access to Outlook was pretty seamless and a Service Pack upgrade to Exchange 2003 provided a fantastic Web Interface which looked and acted like Local Exchange with Outlook without having a local Outlook program installed.

All of this, plus the proliferation of Email Providers has made Exchange Email a major success story in the arena of Cloud Computing. Companies can now establish a “Hosted Exchange” solution rather than hosting the product internally.

Nevertheless, you will pay extra for the “Hosted Exchange” environment since many providers offer Exchange as one of many choices of services. Moreover, we would suggest picking “unlimited mailbox storage” as an option to avoid eventual escalating costs.

Unfortunately, Hosted Exchange remains one of the few success stories in “Cloud Computing.”

A quick word about cloud based inter-data transfers between applications such as iCloud.
The major function promised is to transfer via “the cloud” from specific local data sources to other storage system. Typically, this could include things like Contacts being transferred to a smart phone’s Contacts. Ditto for Calendar items. It can also include syncing items such as pictures and music.

I’m going so say the results of these “solutions” is mixed.

The major problem is that all of the underlying applications (on both sides) are constantly being updated and upgraded. This can result in a break of the syncing process and it simply stops working.

This can result in more of “management headache” than simply managing the devices manually.

Conclusions:

“Cloud computing” is really a delusion.

It promises a lot of solutions but comes with its own overhead of headaches.

You end up simply swapping one headache with at least one if not more.

Bottom line is: think twice about adopting any “cloud based solution.”

Leave A Comment...

*