1. Computing

What is Cloud Computing?

Benefits and Risks of Living in the Cloud

By

The Benefits of Living in the Cloud

Vandervort very succinctly sums up the benefits of living in the cloud: presence, cost and redundancy. When you're using applications like Google Docs for writing and collaborations, it's available to you from any computer, any time, anywhere. Dan Hoffman of M5 Networks points out that most everyone uses the cloud this way, citing online banking as an example. "You don’t have to call someone everytime you want to transact from your bank account, or write checks, or keep a spreadsheet for records," he expounds. "You can work from anywhere. Your computer can die and you won’t lose anything. It keeps getting upgraded."

This upgrade is where redundancy comes in. Cloud computing companies have larger resources than the typical business or individual. Instead of one laptop and a desktop computer or a couple of servers, there are multiple servers keeping track of data. When one of them goes down, it doesn't mean everything is lost, nor does it mean that everything grinds to a halt.

And cost? Well, the cost benefits are obvious. Both Symantec's Paul Wood and enStratus' George Reese speak to the extraordinary opportunities cloud computing provides for companies. Wood points out that it allows companies to shift from capital expenditure to operational expenditure, because instead of factoring in the costs of hardware deprecation, the cost of the cloud computing subscription model remains relatively steady. Reese says it allows companies to focus more on functional usage costs than investing in (possible) non-critical expenditures.

The Risks of Living in the Cloud

As with everything, cloud computing has its risks. Velte and his co-author, Toby Velte, outline some of the risks of moving to a cloud computing society. "As we are ever more dependant on our IT services to run our businesses, outages can be disastrous," state the Veltes. "So we must have a very high level of confidence in our providers. There is also compliance issue (is the provider keeping us compliant) as well as geopolitical issues (where is the data really sitting?) and control challenges (what if I need to make changes now)."

Reese speaks of these concerns as the flip-side of the "not my problem" view of cloud computing. "If," he says,"the cloud means 'not my problem', it also means 'not in my control.' As a result, you have to be very aware of the security and privacy controls your cloud vendor has in place so you can feel comfortable they are supporting your needs."

Do the benefits outweigh the risks? That's a question each business and individual needs to answer for himself. If you want to see what the experts have to say, though, we can certainly help you out there. Take a look at our interview series What Do The Experts Have to Say About Cloud Computing?

©2014 About.com. All rights reserved.