In the past couple of years, cloud computing usage has grown from being a simple business concept for software users to becoming one of the fastest growing technologies in the IT industry. Considering the ease of implementation and speed of access, businesses are tapping more and more into the cloud to reduce infrastructure resource use and costs. Although everything about solutions in the cloud sounds great, is it really something everyone should be moving toward? Is it living up to the hype it has brought? Is it really the solution that the supply chain should be moving toward?
What is Cloud Computing?
Cloud computing is a style of computing in which largely scalable IT-related capabilities are provided ‘as a service’ (SaaS) using the power of the Internet to deliver accessibility to multiple external customers in real-time. Rather than building a local infrastructure in-house, customers would use their Internet connection to visit a URL hosted by their cloud solution provider’s infrastructure.
Cloud Versus Local
Cloud based computing is often in the thoughts of a warehouse owner due to its overlying benefits such as: lower costs in IT maintenance, increased information accessibility and quicker deployment times for solutions. In reality, all of these benefits exist but can be explained further to acquire their true meaning and are no restriction for locally-based solutions.
Lower IT Maintenance Costs
Cloud solution providers explain that your cost of maintenance is far less in the cloud versus maintenance of a local-based solution. In retrospect, the majority of the SME space can run a solution off a single server (or desktop) specifically purchased for the solution and is meant to last for the lifetime of the solution implemented. This would leave the maintenance costs only on the client’s side and is unavoidable even to a cloud-based solution.
In addition, cloud-based solutions require its users to work around their schedule and rely on their ability to maintain uptime, which will conflict with your daily operations and set schedule – from unpredictable system maintenance downtime, to in-the-dark complications with the cloud-based solution (i.e. server down, Internet browser issues, connection speeds, etc.) to making an attempt to contact third-party support representatives for assistance.
When you own your infrastructure, however, you are now working on your own schedule based on your specific operational needs without sudden downtime or roadblocks that are out of your control. Maintenance and support in case of server failure can be corrected in a matter of hours with local representatives at your fingertips.
Increased Information Accessibility
Yes, cloud computing does make room for better accessibility anywhere with an Internet connection, but knowing the reputation of ISPs and the large volumes of users who are taking advantage of the Internet, Internet service providers are beginning to throttle bandwidth and continually limit your connection speed unless you’re a Tier 1 player with T1 capability (we know this is not practical for SME space).
Already knowing about the inevitable results of Internet reliability, solely relying on its connection probably isn’t the best of choices when operating your entire business with it.
Cloud solutions are simple and easy to deploy and warehouse owners are told that it is as simple as opening up the Web browser on your desktop or mobile device and you’re ready to go. These facts are true (you may encounter browser related issues and security impairments), although not a limitation when using a local based infrastructure. Installation of a locally based .NET solution is as simple as receiving an e-mail and completing a copy/paste onto your server. They will also include the ability to auto-deploy to all devices (i.e. desktops, scanners, etc.) without manually attending all devices for installation. Updates thereafter are automatically pushed to your site and all devices.
A lot faster to implement a cloud-based solution than a locally based solution, right? Wrong.
Something that the SaaS industry fails to describe is what most impacts deployment time in terms of installation and updates; operator training durations and solution tailoring based on the specific needs of the client.
Information Security and Integrity
Often forgotten, but particularly important is the integrity and security of your information stored in the cloud. A survey conducted by Pricewaterhouse Coopers showed that more than three-quarters of respondents across a range of different businesses believed that cloud computing did not increase their security risk – a hope that held no regard after a report published by security firm Imperva which highlighted the simplicity of hacking even one of the world’s largest online companies which could access their customer’s private information. (Ref. Imperva Attack Report)
Considering vulnerability and the growth in popularity of cloud-based solutions; breaches of the software have been proven to occur more often than not, resulting in the reduction of infrastructure integrity and appeal to potential threats. Customers interested in cloud-based solutions must ensure they are reviewing and validating the reputation of their provider, making sure their data is in good hands. The reason to why cloud computing security companies exist is because of the size and scope of potential issues and compromised cloud solutions.
The top security breaches due to threats towards cloud solutions are as follows:
(This survey was completed by cloud users including consumers, service providers and consultants around the world.)
• 91 percent data loss/leakage;
• 90 percent insecure APIs;
• 87 percent account/service and traffic hijacking;
• 88 percent malicious insiders;
• 84 percent abuse of cloud computing;
• 82 percent unknown risk profile;
• 81 percent shared technology vulnerabilities;
• 81 percent distributed denial of service (DDoS).
(ref. Top Threats to Cloud Computing PDF – Cloud Security Alliance)
In comparison to a local-based solution, having to deal with major security requirements is non-existent. Your data is completely secure within your localized server making the ability of outside attacks irrelevant. Encryption over your wired and wireless connections are an obstacle that is regularly encountered no matter what type of solution is put in place.
What you see is what you get
The cost of cloud versus local solutions can be compared to buying versus renting a home. Local solutions appear to be more expensive, but these are the upfront costs that aren’t divided into endless payments over the course of your contract, otherwise known as cloud billing. Staying local allows you to retain your assets after completing the purchase giving you complete ownership over your solution, system and data. On the cloud side, you are purchasing a temporary rental location for your business to park at while making data transactions, you will not own the infrastructure and your money sort of floats into the sky; No pun intended.
If circumstances came to be that a business wished to move from one cloud provider to another, or to a local solution, it would then be faced with mountains of excel sheet data which would need to be transferred over.
Article by Corey DeNeire. If you wish to learn more about the cloud, please visit http://www.warehouseinabox.com/.