CCL’s Ben Webber explores the rise of Cloud computing – transformational technology but not yet the only game in town
As the industry strides forward into an ever-changing future that is rocked by many things in life such as new technology, pandemics or other events that are unforeseen, discovery and the digital data way of working must keep up. In recent years this has seen a much greater rise in the use of ‘The Cloud’…that mighty term thrown around to make it sound rather impressive, when really it just translates into, a computer or server that is somewhere else. So, what really is it, and how can this affect our work?
First we need to clear up exactly what we mean by the Cloud. For most people with no technical background, it’s easy to see it as a magical thing, technology that is incredibly advanced that can be accessed anywhere and is flawless. The reality is quite different and far from infallible, though it is easy to see why people might assume otherwise.
The Cloud has come about for numerous reasons, with the main factor being that in everyday life everything is much more connected via the internet. This has allowed for a change in infrastructure of how servers and computers are set up around the world. Beforehand companies used to have to spend a lot of time and money setting up their own in-house IT/server system to support what they were doing. In recent times though, very large companies such as Microsoft and Amazon, who have the capital, expertise and facilities, have established extremely powerful, substantial and reliable ‘server rooms’, that represent something out of a movie. Then with the internet becoming much faster and more consistent for everyone around the world, this has meant that companies can instead pay a fraction of the price, and still get access the very latest equipment, which can be updated, controlled, backed up and changed to meet the needs of the user in no time at all.
The services that the Cloud can host can be pretty much anything that anyone requires: there will always be a company offering the things you need. Commonly though the main features that get used in the Cloud are storage, virtual machines and processing.
So how is the Cloud changing the data game? Looking at the key points above, with the fact that it provides access to very powerful devices at a low cost, this means that future work can be done much faster and with plenty of safety nets to protect any data put into the system.
Any business with a high-end internet connect (say 1GB) can rapidly upload and download from the Cloud at a rate which competes with anything that you could do in-house. This data then will be put into fully backed up servers that will give an incredible failsafe for data loss and protection. Normally also depending on what deal or set-up you take, you will only be charged for the data you actually hold in the Cloud - meaning that you are not being charged when you are not using the systems.
Processing and virtual machines hosted in the Cloud are normally top of the line equipment, which significantly decreases the time taken to process large amounts of data or run heavy requests in general. Combined with the storage normally being based off of SSDs then this overall greatly benefits anyone wanting to get work done fast and without the fuss of having to wonder if they are sharing that computer with anyone else. With in-house servers, you will always be limited to what there physically is, but with the Cloud, such well set up, dynamic infrastructures will always have plenty of power and equipment to spare.
What is the downside then? Depending on the nature of your business, you may hold data that simply cannot be uploaded onto the internet, such as high-end criminal cases or other highly sensitive information. Also, you have to be aware that despite the data protection levels afforded by the Cloud, there is the inevitable threat that they could become compromised and data could be lost or stolen. Something that would be outside of your control, though this risk is very small but never zero.
Then there is the fact that getting set up to use the Cloud requires some technical skill from everyone. This is because it will require management, logging into VPNs and ensuring that connections stay clear. This challenge though will become less as time goes one and the systems become easier to use.
With all these points considered it would seem that the Cloud is certainly becoming a much more viable option for people to turn to and utilise. It is, however, still something that needs careful consideration before just committing to it fully - but luckily it is something that you can slowly migrate to, expanding its use as the need arises. Though for anyone who loves having their own system on-premise, do not worry, this will never fully be eradicated, there will always be a need and want for something securely sat under your own roof.