There is no doubt that using cloud computing services has many benefits for both companies and individuals alike. However, using a cloud computing service also involves some risks, and before signing up to a cloud computing platform or software provider, you should be aware of the pros and cons of cloud computing.
The Pros of Cloud Computing for Businesses and Individuals
Clients of cloud computing services can access their data and applications at all times from anywhere as long as they have a computer or other device that can connect to the Internet. Without a cloud computing service, data has to be stored on the local hard drive of a computer, and can only be accessed from one machine. If a person wishes to take his data with him, he would have to burn it to a CD or put it on a USB stick. This is not necessary when using cloud computing services.
Cloud computing reduces hardware costs. There is no need for businesses to invest in the latest technology or advanced hardware. A business does not have to upgrade to faster computers with more memory; this is taken care of by the cloud computing company. All a company needs to supply workers with is a terminal with a keyboard, mouse and monitor. As long as the terminal has adequate processing power to run the middleware software that connects the user to the cloud system, it is sufficient.
- Large hard drives are not needed because all data is stored on a remote computer in the cloud.
- Users of the cloud service can share data and work on projects together without having to email attachments or upload files to a server.
- All company employees can be granted access to the same software. There is no need to acquire an extra software license every time you hire a new person.
Companies can pay a metered fee for cloud computing services. This way, they only pay for what they actually use.
Cloud computing services are scalable. If the size of your company increases or decreases significantly, you simply contact the cloud computing service provider and adjust your plan accordingly. If cloud services were not available you would need to find a lot of money and space for additional hardware, or in the scenario that you needed to downsize your business, you would be left with hardware that you paid a hefty price for but no longer need.
Work days do not need to be lost because of circumstances. If a member of your staff cannot get to work because of a sick child or because the train service is on strike, he is still able to access the necessary documents and applications to perform most duties at home.
You can allow your staff to be more flexible with their working hours spent at the office because they can complete many duties from home. This usually allows you to pay lower salaries as workers do not need to spend many hours commuting, and it also gives stay-at-home parents the possibility of working in full time employment.
- Companies need less office space as their hardware and storage requirements are reduced.
- Corporations can save money on IT support. Any problems that arise are fixed by the cloud company. When a problem does occur it is likely to be fixed quickly.
- Individuals can store their audio books and music libraries online, and access them from mobile devices. There is no need to take up space on your phone or iPad with large MP3 files.
Documents can be stored with cloud services such as Google Docs or Dropbox. This eliminates the possibility of you finding you are not able to do your work when on the go because you forgot to transfer the relevant documents to your laptop.
Software costs for Individuals are reduced. Many useful applications are available in the cloud such as video and photo editing software, note taking apps, and website building software. If you can’t afford to pay for productivity software like Microsoft Office you can use a free cloud service like Google Docs or Zoho.
Your files can be backed up cheaply. Instead of buying an expensive external hard drive to back up you data locally, you can use an inexpensive cloud based service like LiveDrive, MyPCBackup or Mozy. In the event your original PC was damaged in a fire or lost due to a natural disaster such as a flood; there is a good chance your external hard drive would suffer the same fate. Data stored in the cloud is safe.
Before cloud services were widely available, if you wanted to share photos or videos with friends, you would usually email them or burn them to a CD. Cloud services allow you to organize your entire photo collection into albums which you can share publically or keep private. Privacy settings allow you to decide for each individual album or photograph.
With the cloud, you do not have to worry about updating drivers or downloading the newest version of the software, as this is done by the provider of the service.
You don’t have to sit for hours trying to get hold of a tech support member of staff like you may have to if you cannot get a desktop application to work. Cloud computing apps tend to be very easy to use as they are designed with all levels of users in mind, including complete beginners.
Cloud computing allows users to find the exact service that they need without a big time investment or financial outlay. Before cloud computing services were widely available, it would not be unusual for a consumer to purchase software only to find it did not do what he actually required.
The Cons of Cloud Computing
The biggest issue that many people have with cloud computing concerns privacy; businesses and individuals often have reserves about handing their data over to a third party. There is a fear among some users, which is also a real possibility, that sensitive data could be accessed by unauthorized persons or hackers. An online cloud service is more prone to such threats than an office or personal PC.
Data stored in the cloud can be lost. Although your data should be backed up on multiple servers, there is still a possibility it could be lost. Therefore to be absolutely certain your data is safe, you should download it regularly, or at least the most essential items needed for your business to continue to operate.
There is a risk of downtime. If the service temporarily goes offline for any reason, many work tasks will not be completed until normal service is resumed. You should be aware that this is likely to happen at times with even the most reliable cloud computing companies.
When using a cloud computing service you are dependant on the company and have no personal control. If backups are not performed as regularly as they should be it could be too late when you find out.
When using a class computing service you are relying on the financial health of another company. If the cloud computing company goes under, you find you are suddenly left high and dry it without the software and access to your data that you require for your business to run. In the event this were to happen, it is unlikely that migration to another cloud service provider would be a simple task.
You have to trust the cloud service provider that the measurement of the resources you use is correct. If you feel you are being overcharged there is little you can do if the service provider denies this, other than accepting the monthly costs or moving to another company.
It may be difficult to use your computer peripherals such as printers and some USB devices with cloud computing applications.
You need a constant internet connection to use a cloud service. If your Internet provider goes offline you cannot even access the most basic of documents. If you live in an area where internet connection is unreliable, it is not a good idea to rely solely on cloud computing services. In the same vein, if you only have dial up in your region, cloud computing may not be possible as web-based applications require large amounts of bandwidth. Cloud computing is only realistically an option for those with a reliable broadband connection.
Even with a fast Internet connection, cloud computing may be slow. An application accessed over the internet will never run as smoothly as the same app would if it was installed on your desktop computer. Every small detail and change you make when using an app is sent and returned countless times between your own terminal and the computers and data storage devices of the cloud system. This does not allow the seemingly instant reaction you get when an app is installed on a high-performing local machine.