Choosing to Work In a Cloud Environment Part I: The Public Cloud

‘In the Cloud’ is something we hear all the time. There are public clouds and private clouds, and they’re different.

An example of a Public Cloud is gmail, yahoo, and other free email services. Other examples include, a cloud-based CRM that is available through the internet; QuickBooks is available in the cloud and allows you access to their software through an internet browser.

One advantage of a public cloud is access to ‘free’ services such as email. Software as a Service (SaaS) such as the two products listed above is available on demand for a monthly fee. This lowers the barrier of access to the software (no upfront purchase cost), and allows you to pay for only what you need, when you need it. You’re always on the latest version, so there’s no need to plan ahead to install software upgrades, perform system maintenance, or upgrade hardware (drive space, memory, and Operating System updates are the most common). Your computer hardware is less critical since the computing power is on the ‘cloud’ side.

On the downside, ‘free’ isn’t necessarily business-friendly. Should you need an email or attachment from the free email account that was deleted last month or last quarter, it’s not there; only the most recent files can be recovered. There may be data size limits (Drop Box is an example). Not all cloud data is backed up the same way. And, have you read the legal terms of these agreements that you clicked on? They have control and rights to everything you have in their environment. You don’t have control over security, password policies, or other network choices. For the ‘free’ email services, what if you are hacked or someone changes your password and you lose access? Are those emails and attachments critical?  You bet they are!

When the software provider decides to upgrade the software, that’s it, whether or not you want it, and you may find changes in how the software works, or in available features. Cell phones are a great example of this; you wake up to your phone alarm and nothing looks like it did last night when you plugged it in!

What if you don’t have internet – a storm or natural disaster, for example. If the internet speed is awful (or down) in your location, you may find the software is unusable. You can’t just work locally because all the software, and the data, is only accessible through the internet.

Although you may avoid the upfront software purchase investment and annual support renewals, your monthly fee may change and your business-critical data is now under the control of the provider. What if you don’t want to pay the increase? Your choices are limited. Even if they’ll send you flat files with your data, you won’t have the software to make use of the information or to restore it somewhere.

You know, it’s not really a ‘cloud.’ Everything we’ve been talking about runs on hardware, requires software, needs power, and has to have internet access. These server ‘farms’ are located all over the world. Your data could be on a server in Iceland, somewhere in the US, in Canada, on any continent. If you’re using a public cloud, it’s very likely your data is outside the US.

Next time we’ll talk about the Private Cloud, what it is, how it works, and the pro’s and con’s of using a Private Cloud solution. In the meantime, if you need assistance, give us a call – 630-850-9039!  – CMW