The origin of the expression cloud computing is unclear; however, it seems to derive from the practice of telecom companies drawing of cloud looking bubbles to denote networks in diagrams of computing and communications systems. For many businesses, the term cloud computing can be vague and confusing to the point of creating a barrier and preventing them from adopting the services.
Research by Lero revealed that a significant barrier to cloud adoption is people’s perception of the word ‘cloud’ to the extent it ‘scares’ people. The research, conducted at the National University of Ireland, found that while people are comfortable ‘banking online, passing around hard drives and USB keys or running the risk of leaving laptops on trains, once the word “cloud” is mentioned, it evokes a negative reaction’. They reported that as a result, some providers, when dealing with customers, purposely tend not to talk about ‘cloud’ but refer to a new service delivery model.
One of the problems is that the term cloud computing is universally used to cover a multitude of services that probably shouldn’t be lumped together under one heading. It begs the question whether the industry chose the right term to depict the service categorised as ‘cloud computing’. Firstly, the term is too broad and includes services such as remote storage (Dropbox), hosted email accounts (Gmail), platforms offered to IT professionals (Rackspace) and the industry has also adopted an entire range of acronyms including, IaaS, PaaS, MbaaS which add to the confusion.
This is as misleading as grouping together Lewis Hamilton, Ford Motors, and the local mechanic down the road, as providers in the ‘Automobile Industry’. Cloud is an almost meaningless terms without understanding the details. Whilst the word automobile is roughly related to what cars actually do, the word Cloud bears no resemblance to the kind of services it is meant to depict. Clouds are temporary visible mass of liquid droplets; they evaporate and shift and are anything but stable and yet may cloud computing services offer a more resilient, stable and secure kind of computing than traditional in-house server set up.
Whilst it is true that some computing storage or email hosting services do not guarantee storage of the customers’ data in a known location and can shift the data around based on the service-provider’s convenience – this is not the case for the majority of Providers serving the business community.
Typically, they will store their customers’ data in a known location (UK- or EU-based for example), secured by a 24/7 manned double gated premises equipped with smoke and humidity alarms. The data is backed up to another secure known and fixed site so if one server fails the load automatically falls over to other servers in the cloud, keeping the applications live and ensuring business as usual at all times.
A growing number of organisations are embracing the cloud through a privately managed cloud computing service, such as a Desktop as a Service, (DaaS), often referred to as a Hosted Desktop Service. This is a cost-effective, hassle-free and environmentally-friendly IT solution and provides business users with the freedom to work from any location, using any device, at any time, and access their desktop together with all their business applications.
The key benefit is that a Hosted Desktop solution removes the burden of IT administrative from the business. The solution is completely bespoke and unique for every company and offers flexibility so the business can scale up and down as needed. It is usually provided with services such as the latest software, regular data backups performed by the Provider and a 24 hour help desk service.
Customers with servers in their offices are more prone to theft (of data on a laptop for example), power or telecom outages or lack of proper back-up. Moving to a Hosted Desktop is actually the safe and secure option. Indeed we, along with our vendors are certified with ISO9001, ISO14001 and ISO27001 – all information security standards. There is some irony in the fact that the more secure IT service is called cloud when perhaps a more suitable name would be Safe Computing or Secure Computing.
Will we continue using the term Cloud then? The answer of course is yes, but it’s important that potential customers understand that there is significant element of confusion created by this term. Providers have a responsibility to explain to customers that not all cloud providers are even remotely similar in the service they provide and for some of us; we provide services that are stable, resilient and robust, far from the airy-fairy connotations that the word Cloud may suggest.