Is your data up in the clouds?

I first heard of cloud technology when apple launched iCloud along with their iOS 5 (operating system) on October 12, 2011 (Hendela, 2011). Instead of syncing your iOS devices with your computer every time you add new information, the information is stored wirelessly on their icloud service on the internet, which automatically syncs new information between the devices without having to manually connect the devices together. When I upgraded to the iOS5, I was extremely happy to see that every time I added a new contact, picture, music or appointment on my iphone, it magically appeared in my computer at home.  This post explains everything you need to know about Cloud Technology.

What is cloud technology?

Cloud technology allows companies to shift the location of their information technology (IT) infrastructure location to the internet (cloud network) to reduce costs associated with managing hardware and software resources (Skar, 2013). Skar explains that by doing so companies can take advantage of economies of scale to help drive down the cost of computing infrastructure. Furthermore other cost savings for companies including buying software and hardware services on a utility basis (pay-per-use) without the need for upfront costs and only for what they use, when they use it. Cloud computing enables convenient, on-demand network access to a shared pool of computing resources such as networks, servers, storage, applications and services that can be utilized with minimal management efforts or service provider interaction (Vuyyuru, Annapurna, Babu, & Ratnam, 2012).

In the figure below, you can compare a typical enterprise network setup versus a cloud computing network setup. On the left-side, you can see where the information is stored in a business server is connected to the internet through a router. In cloud computing, all the information is stored on the internet and can be accessed through multiple devices through the internet.

CloudcomputingBigger

Figure 1 source: https://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/library/ee247409(v=ws.10).aspx

In the enterprise network on the left, the internet represented by a blue cloud on the upper left hand corner and plays a small role in the overall enterprise network. The business server is the foundation of the enterprise’s network system which connects to other systems through cables and wires. On the right side, the cloud computing image shows that the internet can host the entire enterprise’s network and is completely wireless so it can be accessed through multiple devices simultaneously anywhere in the world with internet connection.

Clouds Networks Types

There are basically four different types of cloud networks: private, public, hybrid and community, which are summarized in the table below (Vuyyuru, Annapurna, Babu, & Ratnam, 2012):

Cloud Network Type Description
Public Third-party cloud providers made available to the public
Private Organizations use their own servers and data centers that are protected by their own security systems
Hybrid Uses both public for general computing and private for storage of sensitive data such as customer information and internal expertise
Community Used by distinct groups (“communities”) with shared concern over compliance and security using internal or third party suppliers

Cloud Services

Cloud technology basically provides three types of services: software services (SaaS) such as customer relationship management; platform services (PaaS) that allow for software development and deployment capabilities such as source code management, testing and deployment; and infrastructure services (IaaS) such as servers, network technology, storage and data center space (Singh & E., 2011).

hybridservicesBigger

Image source: (Singh & E., 2011)

Cloud Computing in Action

Software as a Service (SaaS) model is used in many applications. A popular CRM application is the use of Salesforce.com where according to their website; it provides real-time updates and has the ability to link your contacts to their activities on popular social networking sites (Salesfore, 2015). The customer contacts can easy be accessed through the computer or smartphone over the internet. Salesforce stocks have risen from $12.97 in Aug. 31, 2009 to $62.85 on Feb. 2, 2015, which is almost an 80% increase of share price in six years (Yahoo Finance, 2015). This is an example of the increasing value of cloud computing and CRM software.

At my work, we are currently we are using CRM software that is only accessible through our computers, which is connected to our network. If we are offsite and need to access the database remotely we have to use another service that allows us to connect to the network via internet. There have been many complaints from the sales representatives that the database connection is extremely slow, it often crashes and is not user friendly. Because of these inconveniences our sales representatives despise  entering their sales activities. We only use the basic features of this database because there are not that many features available and requesting to have it configured to our needs is very costly and time consuming.

Platform as a service (PaaS) is described as “middleware… a set of services aimed at developers that helps them develop and tests apps without having the provisioning the servers, storage and backup associated with developing and launching an app.” (Butler, 2013). In other words, SaaS is the full service and PaaS doesn’t offer the software but the backend for companies to build software on without needing the backend end infrastructure.

Infrastructure as a service (IaaS) is the basic level where clients have direct access to the cloud’s server and storage. This way it allows companies and clients to outsource the need to maintain and secure servers to store information. The benefits of using IaaS are not having to physically place large servers on site and maintaining them. When you buy hardware you have to guess how much space you require and when you need more space, you need to add more servers. With cloud computing you can use as much as you need to use and it can be scaled infinitely (Skar, 2013).

Benefits of Cloud Computing:

  •  charges on a utility basis (pay-per-use) to reduce costs
  • simplifies hardware administration by giving access to large range of applications with having to download or install anything
  • reduces the need to purchase hardware by allowing companies to share resources in one place through the web
  • eases software deployment and upgrades
  • delivers products and services to market quickly
  • maintains availability (even when network failure or datacenter has gone offline)
  • gives access from any computer in the world through the internet
  • allows for scalability to support large databases with high request rates
  • adapts quickly to cope with changing applications

Sources: (Skar, 2013) (Vuyyuru, Annapurna, Babu, & Ratnam, 2012)

Challenges of Cloud Computing

The main concern about cloud services for organizations are giving up control over security, availability and quality of data (Boyd, J.D., & CIPP/US, 2014). Many celebrities have been victims of their smartphone data stored in cloud technology hacked and released to the public. Even when the data is deleted from the device, the cloud service may have created several backup copies stored to unknown locations (Janus & Chittley, 2014).

Other weaknesses include the lack of:

  • transparency to deal with fluctuation workloads;
  • ability to remove computing resources as necessary to release resources back to cloud provider in order to lower costs;
  • transaction support to undo/redo commands
  • ability to benchmark cloud performances, due to various usage scenarios, to provide stakeholders with meaningful information
  • knowledge when creating service level agreements between the host and customers due to the unpredictable workload volumes from various users and its effects on performance in underlying cloud resources

Source: (Skar, 2013)

Future Impacts on Businesses with Cloud Computing

Businesses are always looking for ways to cut costs and cloud computing can be solution for reducing IT expenses. Sakr says that cloud computing provides companies with a “Database-as-a-Service” solution where software applications are built on top of relational databases to alleviate the need of: purchasing hardware, upgrading software, hiring professionals for administrative and maintenance tasks. Because companies are essentially outsourcing how their data is being managed, the main risk is that they lose control over the security of the data.

Managers today need to understand how cloud computing will affect their data security with considerations of privacy laws and regulations that are relevant to their businesses. Managers not only have to think about the nature of the data such as employee records versus customer information but also the type of industry in which they operate in (Boyd, J.D., & CIPP/US, 2014). Stakeholders hold the companies accountable for protecting the privacy of information they collect and not the cloud service.

When selecting a cloud service provider, Boyd recommends that managers will have to do due diligence and carefully examine the cloud service provider’s:

  • financial condition;
  • insurance policies;
  • security coverage;
  • data center locations;
  • disaster recovery plan;
  • reputation; and
  • clientele

Lastly, cloud computing will have a major effect on IT roles, supply chain and performance management in the organization due to utilizing a new computing paradigm (Carlos Jr., Biancolino, & Maccari, 2013).  Companies will require knowledgeable staff and appropriate professionals to manage the business, services, and service contracts with the cloud host provider. Experts are predicting that over 80% of business will be using cloud services by 2025 (Boyd, J.D., & CIPP/US, 2014). If organizations are currently not utilizing cloud services, the challenges for managers would be to think about when and how they will transition to these services without putting their company’s valuable information at risk.

Exam Question:

What are some benefits of using cloud technology?

References

Boyd, B., J.D., & CIPP/US. (2014). Cloud Control. Information Management, 20-25.

Butler, B. (2013, February 11). Cloud Computing. Retrieved from Network World: http://www.networkworld.com/article/2163430/cloud-computing/paas-primer–what-is-platform-as-a-service-and-why-does-it-matter-.html

Carlos Jr., A., Biancolino, C., & Maccari, E. (2013). Cloud Computing and Information Technology Strategy. Journal of Technology Management & Innovation, 178-188.

Hendela, T. (2011, October 4). Apple Press Info. Retrieved from Apple.com: http://www.apple.com/ca/pr/library/2011/10/04Apple-to-Launch-iCloud-on-October-12.html

Janus, A., & Chittley, J. (2014, September 14). Celebrities hacked: Why you shouldn’t go looking for the nude pics. Retrieved from CTV News: http://www.ctvnews.ca/sci-tech/celebrities-hacked-why-you-shouldn-t-go-looking-for-the-nude-pics-1.1986389

Salesfore. (2015, February 15). salesforce. Retrieved from Sales Cloud: http://www.salesforce.com/ca/sales-cloud/features/?70130000000lxiw

Singh, G., & E., A. (2011). Comparative Analysis of Various Cloud Technologies. International Journal of Computers & Technology, 23-27.

Skar, S. (2013). Cloud-hosted databases: technologies, challenges and opportunities. Cluster Comput, 487-502.

Vuyyuru, M., Annapurna, P., Babu, K. G., & Ratnam, A. (2012). Overview of Cloud Computing Technology. International Journal of Soft Computing and Engineering, 244-246.

Yahoo Finance. (2015, February 13). Yahoo.com. Retrieved from Yahoo Finance: http://finance.yahoo.com/q/hp?s=CRM&a=05&b=23&c=2004&d=01&e=16&f=2015&g=m

Feature image taken from: https://www.data-hive.com/academy/advanced.php

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