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What are the Advantages and Disadvantages of Cloud Computing?

What are the Advantages and Disadvantages of Cloud Computing?

With the advent of cloud computing, instead of storing and accessing data and software on your personal computer's hard drive, you can store it on a remote server and access it via the Internet. This Techspirited article throws some light on the advantages and possible disadvantages of cloud computing.
Deepa Karandikar
"Cloud computing is about gracefully losing control while maintaining accountability even if the operational responsibility falls upon one or more third parties."
― Cloud Security Alliance

According to the Oxford dictionary, cloud computing is "the practice of using a network of remote servers hosted on the Internet to store, manage, and process data, rather than a local server or a personal computer." The cloud in 'cloud computing' refers to the diagrammatic representation of the Internet in flowcharts.
The 3 broad categories of cloud services are:
  1. Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS): It is also called Hardware as a Service (HaaS). In this service, you outsource the storage, hardware, servers, and networking components that you require to the cloud service provider. However, the onus of managing the data, runtime, middleware, and OS falls on the user.
  2. Platform as a Service (PaaS): In PaaS, the cloud service provider manages the OS, virtualization of data, the servers, storage of data, and networking. The customer manages the applications that he avails of.
  3. Software as a Service (SaaS): In SaaS, you get access to the interface of the software you require. You only use the software as and when you need. You don't have to install the software on your machine; it resides on the cloud service provider's server who also manages its maintenance and support.
As cloud computing is taking over the market, we dwell on its pros and cons.
Advantages of Cloud Computing
  • Pay for what you need, only as long as you need: With cloud computing, if you want to use a particular software, you can opt for SaaS (software as a service) and use the software over cloud. This is a cheaper option as compared to the conventional way of installing the software on a desktop. You save on licenses for each of the multiple users in your organization. You pay only for the service you require. If you stop using the service, you don't have to pay for it any longer. You also save on software maintenance and software upgrade.
  • Vast amount of storage capacity: The data is stored on the service provider's servers. Cloud service providers offer unlimited storage of data. So, you do not have to worry about adding new hardware for increasing your storage capacity if you happen to fall short of it.
  • Easy backup and recovery: With cloud computing, you can archive your data on a cloud-based server instead of a hard disk or a tape. Cloud service providers also provide dependable recovery of data. Hence, backing up your data becomes easy and efficient.
  • Access from anywhere, anytime: Cloud services can be accessed from anywhere and anytime via any device (e.g. a personal computer or a smartphone) connected to the Internet. Thus, the constraint of a different geographic location and a different time zone is removed.
  • An eco-friendly alternative: Resources are optimally utilized on the cloud. That means, at any given time, servers are used as per requirement. This saves a lot of energy.
  • Quick to set up, convenient to integrate: Once you have opted for this service, it can be set up easily and quickly. You can avail of it within a short span of time. Further, if you want to add a new user, it can be done conveniently. You choose only those software that you require. Also, the software can be customized and integrated to suit your needs very easily.
Disadvantages of Cloud Computing
  • Technical issues and network problems: There will be times when the system might not perform well, owing to outages, downtime, and other technical issues. Even the best cloud service providers have faced these problems so far even though they maintain their systems according to the highest standards. It is great to access this service via the Internet, but it has a downside too. If any network or connectivity issue crops up, the system cannot be used.
  • Security of the data depends on the service provider's reliability: When you use a cloud service, your company's private and confidential data resides on the service provider's server. The security of the data is their responsibility. Hence, they should be very reliable. Choosing a trustworthy service provider is very crucial.
  • Beware of hackers: Since the medium of delivery of this service is the Internet, this very feature turns into a disadvantage. As it is a public service accessible worldwide, anti-social elements can identify loopholes in it. Someone else can hack your data. However, this can be avoided with proper user authentication and dual firewalls, to name a few.
  • Vendor Lock-in: Vendor lock-in means being stuck with one cloud vendor. If you are using the services of one provider and now want to change your vendor, it is very cumbersome to do so. It involves transfer of a huge quantity of data. You should thoroughly consider all the alternatives prior to choosing a vendor. You can overcome this problem by using cloud management tools that can recognize virtual file formats of major vendors. Enstratus, Cloud Lifecycle Management by BMC, and Abiquo are some such tools.
  • No control over hardware and software: Remember that you are only using the applications over the network. The applications are running on a remote server, a third-party virtual environment. This means that you do not have control over the hardware and software that a traditional system offers.
Cloud computing is evolving at present, and with further development, its drawbacks can be overcome.