The cloud: services, advantages and disadvantages

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A recent trend, the cloud is a range of services directly accessible online and whose added value lies mainly in the remarkable flexibility it offers. This technology can still be baffling for a good many people and companies. Let’s have a closer look at cloud computing trends, advantages and disadvantages.-

  • A. What is cloud computing?

    Around since the 2000s, cloud technology consists of virtualizing data storage or software. This means abandoning the traditional hard disk implanted into computers, in favor of distant servers managed by a provider and accessible over the Internet.

     

    Cloud computing therefore refers to both data virtualization and procedures for access to these online digital resources.

     

    a)     Cloud Solutions

     

    The cloud offers users different software solutions. The most widespread among these solutions are those offered by Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure, IBM, and so on. Simply put, they can be categorized as follows:

     

    • IaaS (Infrastructure as a Service): this allows users to subscribe for virtual services based on their needs. Thus, users rent the storage space (calculated in bytes) or storage and computing capacity that they need. Their needs may be driven by various peaks in activity that their company may face over the course of a year. For example, online retailers would need to reinforce not only their human resource services but also their storage space requirements during end-of-year holidays.

     

    • PaaS (Platform as a Service): this offers users online platforms (work environments) for web development purposes. The underlying infrastructure consists of application, database and development (programming languages) servers, etc.

     

    • SaaS (Software as a Service): with this all-round, “ready-to-use” offer, users externalize their functional applications (CRM, HR, accounting, etc.), which are then managed by the service provider. Users have available online access that they pay to use. Today, certain solutions are charged per second of usage time (cf. Outscale)

     

    b)     Public Cloud vs Private Cloud

     

    There is a general distinction between public clouds (where resources are mutual) and private clouds (where each client has their own dedicated environment). Regardless of the type of cloud, performance is based on three main factors:

     

    • The quality of the software solution and of related support

     

    • The availability of the software solution (which directly corresponds to the efficiency of the host data center and the Internet connection used)

     

    • The security of the software solution (also closely tied to the data canter’s security).

     

    For more information on distinguishing the two, please read the article: The private cloud, public cloud and hybrid cloud explained

  • B. Some key figures

    A study by the firm PAC (Pierre Audoin Consultants) in 2014[1], showed that 55% of French companies turned to cloud services for their business (compared to only 29% in the previous year). Among them, a little over half (54%) used SaaS solutions while the rest opted for the IaaS offer. IaaS was the preferred choice among SMEs who used it for their applications and websites. Lastly, only 18% of French companies use PaaS, whereas developers make up its biggest user group. According to the same study, the French cloud market was worth €5 billion at the end of 2014, and is expected to reach €7 billion in 2018.

     

    In addition, services geared to the cloud are also developing. They include consultancy work, managed services, integration, and so on. In 2014, these expenses amounted to about €1.2 billion, and are expected to see an increase of 39% by 2018

     


     [1] http://www.zdnet.fr/actualites/chiffres-cles-le-marche-du-cloud-computing-39790256.htm   (Site in French

  • C. Why Move to the Cloud?

    Cloud computing offers multiple advantages:

     

    • Immediate availability of numerous applications and work environments.

     

    • Systematic updating of software solutions by the provider, relieving the company’s Information Systems department of this repetitive workload.

     

    • Maintenance carried out by the provider under set terms guaranteeing an adequate Service Level Agreement.

     

    • Simplified data sharing between users. Office 365 and Google docs, by Microsoft and Google respectively, are a good example of a solution.

     

    • Powerful computing power that can be increased if needed.

     

    • Greater flexibility with free and immediate access, anytime and anywhere, essential for when an employee is away from the office. This is what lies behind the success story of Salesforce.

     

    • Investment spending is turned into operating costs.
  • D. What risks does it pose?

    The main risk tied to cloud use is data confidentiality and security. In the case of theft or loss of “sensitive” information (whose impact on activity can cause significant financial loss), following malfunction or hacking, the consequences for a company may be devastating.

     

     

    With this in mind, the Patriot Act is a real issue concerning the protection of personal and professional data (cf. The cloud and computer data security). French providers such as OVH, Outscale, and Ikoula deal with this by offering additional security for data sovereignty.

     

    These risks are all the more real considering that the hosting is done outside the company so it no longer has full control. It is up to the provider of a cloud service provider to take the necessary measures to protect data (in conjunction with the security ensured by the data center). Users must ensure that their provider offers exhaustive security for all data, with data recovery services. In addition, users must also take their own precautions: secure passwords, regular backups, encryption, etc.

     

    Today many certifications exist, such as those listed at the end of the article: The cloud and computer data security

The cloud is a practical ecosystem that allows for both storing data online and facilitating the use and operation of software solutions. However, hosting data on the cloud raises questions of confidentiality and security that may be of issue to users. Although certain solutions guarantee data security, IT directors may still hesitate before taking the leap. Proximate data centers are therefore a possible answer to this concern.

 

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