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Following on from my previous post (Thinking Out Loud – Part 1) here are three more common questions people always ask me about cloud computing. If you have your own questions about cloud computing, don’t hesitate to ask.

1 – Are there risks involved, I have heard that there are some concerns about up-time, data security, data ownership, etc?

This is a very common and important question. Just because a service is provided under the banner of cloud computing doesn’t automatically give it immunity from all ills. Just as all traditional businesses are not equal, not all cloud computing providers or services are equal either. It’s not that long ago that we all assumed that because a corporation was of a certain size or scale that it was “as safe as houses” if you pardon the expression, but unfortunately over the past year not even size was an adequate predictor of the success or stability of some corporations.

Choosing a cloud computing service is an important decision and you should make sure that you are comfortable with the service and the vendor before you sign up. It’s always a good idea to ask for references or recommendations from existing users of a given solution to give you confidence in your decision. The question of data ownership is something I have heard frequently and so far I have not seen any commercial cloud computing vendors who claim ownership of your data, however it is always wise to read the terms of any contract carefully before you sign it and if you have concerns don’t be afraid to seek advice or ask for clarification.

Regarding up-time, security and backups, most vendors provide their solutions on distributed systems with significant redundancy and security measures built-in. In my experience cloud services tend to be at least as robust, secure and reliable as their traditional counterparts and in the majority of cases are significantly better in all these areas – after all, cloud computing companies are experts at providing their services and “they are in the business of computing”. Seek clarification regarding backups etc – although cloud computing services are much more robust than their traditional counterparts it doesn’t hurt to have a reliable backup plan in place if this isn’t something your vendor offers as part of their solution.

2 – Can I integrate Cloud Services With My Existing Systems and Applications?

Again this varies depending on the particular vendor or solution you choose. The majority of cloud computing solutions have the ability to interact not only with your legacy systems but also with other cloud computing solutions. In some cases this is as easy as installing a little app (or plug-in) and in other cases it will require a certain amount of programming or application development to integrate the systems – mostly this depends on the complexity of the solution, and simple services such as file sharing tend to require little effort where more complex solutions may require a higher level of effort.

3 – Are there performance issues with cloud computing services / what if my Internet connection is down?

Cloud computing services by their very nature rely on having an Internet connection, many providers have taken steps to maintain service even in the event of an Internet outage. Google for example has Gmail Offline, Salesforce also has on Offline feature and Egnyte has a “Local Cloud” solution. All of these solutions provide service by caching data during any connection interruption and seamlessly synchronizing cached data with the cloud application once full connectivity has been restored.

As for performance, applications and systems tend to perform better when the user is on the same network as the server or application, however the difference is usually marginal and in most cases mitigated by the scale of the infrastructure and computing power available to most cloud applications/services.

About the Author:

Finbarr McCarthy is IT Director with Premier Group a private global staffing company. Finbarr has 20 years experience in Information Technology with more than half of this spent in senior management roles, he is a member of The Institute of Engineering & Technology (MIET), The British Computer Society (MBCS) and The IEEE (IEEE). Finbarr is a Cloud Computing advocate and a technology innovator. Visit Finbarr’s Blog for more on Cloud Computing

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