The Cloud has now crossed the threshold of technology to being a question of political and cultural debate. Cloud technology is at the centre of a controversy on the collection of data from the National Security Agency in the name of counter-terrorism. It has also initiated conversations about the future of the workplace in the era of teleworking. However, while the Cloud has pervaded our lives in recent years, the myths swirl the concept.
- Cloud Technology Is For Geeks
A recent episode of CBS’s ‘The Good Wife’ captured a very popular mix-up about Cloud technology. “I need a favour”, a character played by Julianna Margulies told her boy. “I want to save my company details from the business Cloud to my private Cloud. You can do that, right?” Her son answers, “Mom, you have no idea what these words mean, right?”
She is not alone. Certain studies over the years have revealed that most adults could not comprehend the concept of ‘Cloud technology’, with 55% believing that a tempestuous climate condition could affect it. Roughly 54% even claimed they had never used it, which just so happens is not true, as 95 % of them actually did.
Cloud technology is used in online banking and shopping, as well as email programs like Gmail and Yahoo, social networking, online photos, music storage and digital archives such as Kindle and Netflix.
The basic concept is that data and applications stored remotely can be distributed via the Internet, transforming information technology into a utility such as electricity and water. ‘The Cloud’ is only a metaphor, as nothing really happens in paradise. For us as people, it means we can use our computers, phones or tablets to access our information wherever we are. For businesses, it means they can access technology resources on a scale that was previously only available to companies with huge amounts of money and technological know-how. The Cloud can help you survive without needing to hire many geeks.
- Cloud Technology Is Trendy
Although ‘The Cloud’ has become a key phrase in popular culture in recent years, neither the concept nor the technologies that support it are so new. The idea that information technology should be organised as a public service company dates back to 1961, when computer scientist John McCarthy spoke about it at the celebration of the centenary of MIT. However, that vision only became practical when the internet matured. Subsequently, Salesforce.com started providing applications through a website as well as Amazon.
What has changed most recently is the level of investment in The Cloud, which ensures it will not disappear in the short-term. Research firm Gartner predicts companies will spend $788 billion on public Cloud services over the next four years. Meanwhile,consulting firm McKinsey expects Cloud technology to have an economic impact of $ 1.7 billion to $ 6.2 billion a year by 2025.
- The Cloud Is Not Secure
Security issues are the main obstacle to Cloud adoption, as highlighted in the North Bridge survey. When the subject of security threats is broached, identity theft, hacking and phishing schemes are what comes to mind.
The key is to assess the relative risk. Are PCs, local servers and networks better protected than Cloud-focused resources? In most cases, the answer is ‘No’. Data centres and networks in the Cloud are interesting targets, because of the high number of records they have. However, the biggest providers of Cloud services can invest a lot more in security than the average business, yet the average business is still vulnerable. They’ve also advised businesses to switch from ‘HTTP’ to ‘https’. These days, customers are more likely to click on a “https://www.umbrellar.com/cloud-platforms/umbrellarcloud/virtual-machines/” for instance, as against a “http://www.umbrellar.com/cloud-platforms/umbrellarcloud/virtual-machines/”. This is because they feel their information would be much safer in the former.
In a 2011 survey, 90% of companies said they had been hacked in the previous 12 months. Security experts will tell you that the remaining 10% simply do not realise they have been hacked. A different tension of security anxiety in the Cloud implies concern for government espionage. This concern was understandably heightened last year by reports that the NSA were extracting data from nine Cloud-focused online firms and had infiltrated the Clouds of both Google and Yahoo. Cloud service providers and technology executives responded by increasing their cryptographic efforts.
Just as retailers have convinced customers that their personal and financial data are safe when they perform online transactions, Cloud service providers will finally be able to mitigate security concerns.
- The Cloud Is Not Reliable
There has been a lot of news about the disruptions to large Cloud providers. Almost all of them were affected for a short time in 2013, with significant interruptions for companies such as Yahoo, which had problems delivering mail for five days one month; The Verizon Terremark Cloud service, which eliminated HealthCare.gov for several hours in October; and Amazon.com, which lost millions of sales for half an hour in August of that year.
What about all the cuts that are not news though – or the times when your laptop or PC crashes? These instances can be devastating, because there’s not the same level of support, redundancy and flexibility that Cloud providers can offer to contain the damage. The studies of Microsoft and others have confirmed that when companies change to the Cloud, they see a better availability services on offer.
- The Cloud Hurts The Environment
This myth was perpetuated by the campaigns and stories of Greenpeace, such as the series of ‘Cloud factories’ of The New York Times, according to which “the basis of the information industry is in disagreement with its image of elegant efficiency and respect for the environment.” There is no doubt that data centres consume large amounts of energy. However, when companies move from structures in data centres to The Cloud, saving energy and reducing pollution, as well as relying on electricity companies, it is better for the environment than if everyone had to operate their own generator.
In a simulation last year, researchers at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and Northwestern University estimated that all US companies would be able to do so. Changing email, spreadsheets and customer management to The Cloud reduced their processing power footprint by 87%.
Even the leading Cloud service providers try to be more environmentally friendly. For example, Apple announced few months ago that it had achieved 100% of renewable energy in its data centres. Google is studying ways to reduce demand for energy and efficiently cool its data outlets. Also, Facebook has a Swedish data outlet cooled by Arctic air and powered by hydroelectric sources. Consequently, in the future, we can expect Cloud service providers to further reduce their environmental impact.