Blog post by Kevin Garman, Project Engineer at SCADAware
Everyone is talking about the cloud these days. What is the cloud and should I consider using it? There are pros and cons to consider, and choosing incorrectly could be damaging if not fatal to a company.
What is the Cloud?
The ‘cloud’ is the trendy way of saying the Internet. When something is said to be “running in the cloud,” it really just means that it is a service that is running on a remote server and is accessed over the Internet. Generally, these cloud based services are monthly subscriptions that perform any number of functions ranging from accounting, to file sharing, to system monitoring and reporting.
Cost and Convenience
There are definitely good reasons for considering cloud base options for non-critical systems.
Cloud services can save you time and money. Setting up and maintaining in-house infrastructure is expensive and takes time that could be focused elsewhere. Cloud services are just another form of outsourcing and can free you to focus more of your attention on the core of your business.
Cloud services are convenient. Not only can you avoid the cost and hassle of maintaining infrastructure, but many cloud services can be used on an on-demand basis. For example, if you need a server for testing, you could buy and setup a new piece of hardware…or, you could spin up a virtual private server (VPS) in the cloud with just a few mouse clicks.
Outages and Security
Cloud-based computing opens up a whole world of opportunity, but there are some drawbacks to consider as well.
By definition, cloud-based services are remote to you and are ultimately not under your control. Given this, you need to consider the impact to your business when (not if) you are unable to access a given service. Outages can range from brief connection failures to permanent (and unexpected) discontinuation of the service.
Security is another important consideration. Depending on the service you are subscribing to, you may be sending them very sensitive data (think financial information or trade secrets). If your service provider has their security breached in some way, your business could be directly affected. For example, consider a file sharing service. Such a service offers great convenience, but it also is a very attractive target for those seeking to steal information.
A Delicate Balance
While there is definitely a place for cloud-based services, the convenience must be weighed with the risk. In my view, there are at least two important questions you must ask yourself:
1) “If this service vanished for 1 day, 1 week, 1 month, indefinitely…how would that hurt my business?”
2) “If this service was hacked and my information was stolen, how would that hurt my business?”
If you are considering cloud services, we’ve found an interesting whitepaper you may want to review titled ‘Security for Cloud Computing – Ten Steps to Ensure Success.’