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The cloud: democratization of service offerings
The cloud can be compared to IKEA. Whilst the furniture provider allows small and medium households to afford pretty furniture, with cloud services small and medium enterprises (SMEs) can make use of cloud services that would require to invest millions.
Tags: Frink  Magazine  Business Factors  Tech Factors  collaboration  business relevance  business impact  cost saving  risk calculation  hybrid IT  flexibility  24/7 accessability   security  cloud  data loss  data theft  intercloud fabric 
But there is another human instinct which is often a contractor of progression: the requirement of safety. We ask ourselves where is my data saved? Can my data get lost? Is my cloud account prepared for a hacker? These questions are leaving people doubtful and are the reasons why many companies have not transferred to cloud computing yet.
Nonetheless, the time for the cloud is NOW. Why? Because cloud computing is filling a fast growing gap caused by the increasing dissatisfaction of companies whose dedicated capital expenses are rising beyond measure. Expenditures altering the future of a business, especially the costs for electricity and hardware are huge as they result to make 50% of the capital expenses.

Welcome to the century of collaboration!

However, due to the ease of sharing data, collaboration between companies IT performance got to a whole new level. Advancement in terms of working speed and efficiency are most likely the biggest advantages the cloud can provide. In other words: advanced collaboration services such as Cisco’s WebEx wouldn't be possible without the cloud because midmarket companies couldn’t afford it. It is unlikely that SMEs can invest in one datacentre per continent (we are talking about roughly 30 million euros here). A cloud account on the other hand, can be purchased for about 30 euros a month.
The cloud also opens the door for the so-called “shadow IT” which means that IT spending can be executed without the consent/knowledge from IT departments. The purchases do not require IT infrastructures or other changes to be done in order to be used. Besides, everyone with a credit card can buy the services. Prominent examples in the corporate “shadow IT” world are Cisco’s WebEx, box (storage space) and salesforce.

A huge problem in the past was the fear of a crash of your cloud provider. Today, the providers are bigger and more professional so the risk has already been minimized significantly.

Brightening up: solutions

But the really good news is: there is a steady development to clear out possible dangers of the cloud. Especially security is crucial in the development. New approaches and technologies (e.g. Inter Cloud Fabric, New Security Models) make cloud consumption easier, more flexible and securer. Data loss is mainly a result of a lack of knowledge about the cloud and it’s settings. So the best way to prevent data loss is knowledge about handling and setting up cloud computing. With a good background research and an educated choice of provider there won’t be any problems.

Heavenly views: advantages of the cloud

The advantages with biggest impact are doubtless the improvement of flexibility, accessibility and collaboration. You have access to the cloud wherever you are as long as you have a network connection. This gives you the possibility to work and obtain data anywhere, meaning: with cloud computing it is no longer a big deal to globalize your workforce - a basic need for any venture that wants to survive on a competitive market.
Popular use cases are taking advantage of storage space, CRM systems and productivity applications as time tracking, invoicing, accounting, etc. (For a more detailed listing of how enterprises can benefit from cloud services click here)

Between the cloud and servers: Hybrid IT

But like every new advancement, its introduction should be taken step by step. One of these steps is called Hybrid IT – a technique in which an enterprise uses dedicated services as well as cloud services. Hybrid IT makes it possible to use the advantages of cloud computing without relying 100% on the cloud. Especially for companies who decide to proceed with the change to the cloud slowly, this technique can be recommended.
The range of applications is large. It reaches from a mobile phone connected to a cloud system (like Cisco Spark) to the use of entire dedicated server combined with a cloud server. One of the most common ones is the use of long-term cloud storage combined with a normal server. It can be compared with the cellar in your house which you fill with stuff that is currently of no use – but if needed it can be easily obtained. Common examples for sensitive data that need to be kept for a potential check in the future would be for example invoices or insurance data.
Is the cloud the heaven of IT?

But let's go back to the beginning and define the cloud in general. “Cloud computing is a model for enabling ubiquitous, convenient, on-demand network access to a shared pool of configurable computing resources,” explains Alexander Braumann, cloud expert and Technical Solution Architect at Cisco, in his interview with Frink Magazine (for the full interview [title] click here). That means, especially for ventures that e.g. networks, servers, storage, applications and services can be rapidly provisioned and released with minimal management effort or service provider interaction.

As a result the cloud can improve your business' IT performance of companies significantly. Just think about how hard it was a couple of years ago to share files larger than 20MB. With cloud computing it is no longer an issue or a hard task to share files.

Another example for the many advantages of the cloud would be provisioning. Normal server provisioning including setting up the approval and network infrastructure takes more than 3 days. Cloud computing provisioning can be done in a minute.

The (potential) dark side of the cloud

But – as for pretty much everything - there are also potential disadvantages. A major factor in terms of disadvantages is the perceived lack of security. More accurate: data theft, hackers and data loss. Unfortunately, the cloud opens up new ways for hackers to thieve data and there is a possibility of losing data. But data loss can be prevented easily by generating a backup. In addition, cloud computing has a network connection dependency (just like your iPhone) although nowadays we have access to the internet almost everywhere.
"Advancement in terms of working speed and efficiency are most likely the biggest advantages the cloud can provide."
The future starts now: predictions & trends

There is no denying that the cloud's time has come due to loads of advantages and improvement of the IT performance. However, in the near future the Hybrid IT approach will be the most common one. Especially in the SMB/ Midmarket segment a big ramp-up is predicted according to Alexander Braumann from Cisco EMEAR.

"In 2015 there is a total addressable market in Austria of around 150 million dollars,“ Braumann knows. "Our customers are developing their individual Hybrid IT strategy. As Cisco we help them together with our partners to develop and realize it." Bernhard Albler from Frink Advanced Services looks even a bit further: “By 2020, 95% of the companies in DACH will have at least a footprint in the cloud.”
"Hybrid IT makes it possible to use the advantages of cloud computing without relying 100% on the cloud."
Back to Frink Magazine
Editorial Team: Benjamin Hummelberger, Claudia Kaefer, Bernhard Albler, Christina Forster
Ever since the beginning of humanity we have been looking for ways to improve at any category so we can outdo our rivals. There was Gutenberg's printing, the compass, electrical light, the first radio, Pac Man, Tamagotchis, the first Apple, GPS, Smartphones – all advancement that lead us (more or the less) into a new area. Cloud computing is such a new advancement as well. And it's a very powerful too - because it is affordable regardless of your company size.