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Benefits of cloud outweigh the risks

The “cloud” is one of the technological currents rolling through business development these days. Perhaps you are already on the cloud which means services, software and data storage online instead of on your computers, servers or storage discs, for the most part.

For the business owner cloud computing sounds scary. It's like giving away the keys to your business to a stranger and leaving you dependent on a secure and available online connection to gain access to key operations. What if that connection goes down? What about data protection? What are the legal implications?

The benefits obviously outweighed those fears, and others, among the many businesses already using the cloud or planning to use it for their major IT operations. Almost one quarter of businesses in 15 countries out of 800 surveyed said they already run all core IT services on the cloud (10 percent) or are in transition to do so (13 percent).

The KPMG survey found that 81 percent of businesses are either planning, are in early or advanced stages of experimentation or already have full-on cloud implementations. The report acknowledges the dangers: “Cloud adoption is fraught with business and operational challenges surrounding technology, security, total cost of ownership (TCO), and the intersection with business strategy and operations. Most have very little experience with actual implementation. What's more, few have addressed the full impact of cloud integration with other applications and data, organisational redesign and change management, compliance, taxes, and security.”

The risks of poor provider performance, downtime and data security dominate given recent temporary shut-downs of various organisations and cloud providers. Bermuda's IT professionals should not worry right now that a good part of their business would be outsourced through the cloud, but they should worry further on down the road.

Cloud providers are rapidly learning from the mistakes and closing the holes. Financial services are among those where regulatory and compliance issues need to be overcome and they will require specialised services.

The benefits for everyone are more effective and timely interaction between clients and suppliers, speed of service and IT cost reductions. The impact “can readily be seen across the enterprise” in areas from human resources, customer relationship and IT infrastructure, KPMG says.

Early adopters are testing the cloud by trying it out in areas that are self-contained, primarily ones that are not rife with complexity and multiple applications, and that do not require integration with core applications or infrastructure.

This was a survey of the big, companies with $200 million in revenues. Could the small business benefit? Well yes, since many are testing the cloud by using basic, available services: email, sales management and other available software services. Small business owners could easily take advantage.

KPMG makes a lot of recommendations of how to go about examining using cloud services, divided by role within a company. The full report will be available on 19 October. It is being released as part of Oracle OpenWorld 2011 in San Francisco. The summary, along with the recommendations, is available now at KPMG's global site (www.kpmg.com/global), or do a search for “Clarity in the cloud”.

A few weeks ago I wrote about Google's cloud services for businesses and noted that many critics said it was not quite ready for prime time. Now, I find that Gartner has put out a study claiming that Google's Gmail is a viable alternative to Microsoft's Exchange Online for businesses. The analyst takes the optimistic view. The intense competition between Microsoft and Google will make both vendors stronger and “enable them to apply cloud expertise to other enterprise cloud endeavours”.

The cloud is moving into the personal space as well. Last week I took a look at the Kindle Fire and noted the company was offering cloud storage as part of the package, making up for the tablet's relatively low disc space.

To counter, Apple has now announced it will launch a cloud service today. Can you guess the name? Users will be able to store their iTunes purchases, photo albums and documents on iCloud, all for free. The service is typical of the cloud, allowing users to automatically and wirelessly store their content on Apple's servers and push it to all their devices, which translates as more than the iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, Mac or personal computer. When content changes on one device, all other devices are updated automatically and wirelessly.

Apple has opened up the company's relatively closed universe. The photo storage service, Photo Stream, is a new business for the company, but an obvious one given the popularity of cameras on the iPhone and iPad. The storage will take photos from any camera.

This is part of Apple's new device neutral tack. Your device does not have to be an Apple one. You also do not have to have purchased your music via iTunes to get them on the cloud and synced.

Documents, apps, books, email, calendars? All on iCloud and available to all your devices. The cloud becomes part of the consumer mass market today, I think.

Send any comments to elamin.ahmed[AT]gmail.com

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Published October 12, 2011 at 2:00 am (Updated October 12, 2011 at 9:39 am)

Benefits of cloud outweigh the risks

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