For all of the benefits it offers, cloud computing can be a confusing topic. Here we will look at what cloud computing is and answer some common questions about its uses and risks.
What Is Cloud Computing?
The “cloud” refers to the internet in this context, where data is stored online rather than on one’s own computer hardware. Cloud services range from online storage like Dropbox to complex software suites which allow companies to host their websites and applications without having to purchase, manage, and maintain their own dedicated servers.
For example, the popular open source CMS (content management system) WordPress is pre-configured for hosting on major cloud services like Amazon’s AWS (Amazon Web Services).
What Are The Benefits?
As detailed in the referenced article, the benefits of cloud services are numerous. The biggest benefit is that they take a lot of time and money off the table for businesses which would otherwise spend it on hardware and maintenance. For example, around 5% of operating costs at IBM went towards maintaining servers before they began adopting cloud computing practices in earnest. In addition, cloud computing allows businesses to scale their capacity up or down as needed, which is particularly important during periods of rapid growth.
Cloud computing also makes it much easier for companies to share data with trusted business partners. Many businesses in an industry, suppliers, or even competitors can store their data securely in the cloud without having to worry about privacy concerns.
What Are The Risks?
One of the most prominent risks with cloud services is that a business’s data can be hacked and accessed by cybercriminals. There have been multiple high-profile examples of this over the last few years, but perhaps the most notable was the hack of Sony’s Playstation Network in 2011. Hackers gained access to private data on more than 70 million accounts, including credit card information. Another prominent example is the 2015 cyberattack on healthcare insurer Anthem, which exposed almost 80 million records.
But we have come a long way in security and protection since 2011 and 2015.
Cloud computing is an extremely useful service for businesses in any industry, but it’s important to weigh the benefits versus risks before choosing a provider. Some companies opt for hybrid cloud solutions in which the data is stored in multiple locations rather than relying on one platform to host everything. Regardless of how you use or store your data, be sure to do some research and find a reliable, reputable business to partner with.