For companies of virtually all sizes and industries, using remote data centers to access software has grown dramatically in recent years. This steady adoption of "cloud-based" data solutions has become commonplace for any number of reasons, and represents a viable alternative to the traditional method of running applications locally.
Marketing research firm Clutch performed a 2017 survey of IT professionals at companies already using cloud computing. Their findings provided interesting insight: respondents listed security (both of data and physical assets) and increased organizational efficiency as the primary benefits of using the cloud. And 67 percent said they expected their investment in cloud technology to increase in the coming year.
Yet some organizations remain hesitant to consider using "the cloud," even though the concept – retrieving usable information from an external source – is really no different than using Google's servers to perform a basic web search. Fears persist about security, data integrity, and, of course, cost. Many companies might talk a good game about joining the trend, but often ultimately stick with what they know.
Are their concerns warranted? Below we'll consider several common preconceptions about cloud usage, and see how well they stand up to established facts in the real world.
Myth No. 1: Cloud usage is too expensive for my company
Some executives take a "Why should we pay a third party for server access when we have our own IT staff?" approach to the cloud issue, voicing obvious implicit concerns about cost. One problem with this mentality is that while most companies do have some sort of technical presence on staff, many greatly underestimate the necessary investment in hardware (servers, dedicated CPUs, etc.) to run all the software packages they and their applications need on a daily basis.
The most typical savings advantage in cloud usage is avoiding these sunken costs of buying and maintaining hardware (plus hiring the expert personnel required to oversee it) by outsourcing. This practice, often called SaaS (Software as a Service), simply entails enlisting a cloud services firm that handles the servers and everything else needed to provide applications online to a client company, all at the provider's location. Some diligent comparison shopping among them should reveal some legitimate alternatives that manage a balance between reputation and affordability.
One key when considering a cloud partner is understanding organizational needs. SaaS providers typically offer different packages based on level of use. A sensible approach early on would be to make conservative estimates of necessary transactions per billing period, then adjust as needed (as the company grows, for instance) to eventually enjoy economies of scale in use of the service.
Gartner, another prominent marketing research firm, reports that while CIOs indeed often encounter resistance from financial counterparts hesitant to incur the operating expenses associated with SaaS subscriptions, the long-term benefits of prudent cloud usage make the investment sensible.
Myth No. 2: Data security is a problem using the cloud
Another concern often voiced by organizations is the fear that sensitive data can be compromised by allowing a cloud services provider to access it. Financial institutions and governmental agencies, for instance, have an obvious responsibility to ensure the privacy of any information that may be processed off-site. While this was a more legitimate concern in the early, less refined days of cloud usage, the adaptation of ever-advancing technologies has made it less worrisome.
And though data security is still clearly an imperfect science, as evidenced by highly-publicized breaches in recent years, companies are finding that a hybrid approach of implementing their own measures in addition to those employed by cloud service providers has proven to be the best available safeguard for keeping information secure.
A study conducted by Clutch showed underscored this trend. While nearly two-thirds of IT professionals surveyed said that cloud security infrastructure systems were safer than those they administered themselves, a full 75 percent said they employed their own methods – most often data encryption – in addition to those used by their cloud providers. This synergy appears to be the preferred approach to data security in the cloud world, with results that clearly benefit client companies.
Myth No. 3: Cloud solutions lack standardization among providers
Most business executives aren't technical experts, and thus feel intimidated by the task of searching for the best SaaS solution for their firm's particular needs. One reason for this is that they're often confused by the claims of various cloud providers competing for their business. How are they supposed to analyze and compare technical specifications of these solutions when there's no established set of standards to use as a guide?
Thankfully, the rise in popularity of cloud usage has led to the emergence of resources (written by neutral third parties) to compare the often bewildering array of options available in the market. Industry authority InfoWorld, for instance, published this comprehensive price comparison piece that evaluates options from what it calls the "big three" of cloud service providers (Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure and Google) as well as IBM.
Sitepoint takes comparing the biggest providers several steps further with this research piece, using criteria such as processing value (based on volume of use), storage rates, content delivery networks (CDNs) and the proximity of data center locations to target markets. Still another comparison, from cloud management specialist Caylent, factors in security and monitoring protocols for better evaluating the same big three providers.
These examples should help make clear that the cloud world isn't as nebulous as it may seem. Competition from the biggest names in the tech world has forced providers to be as specific as possible about their various offerings, and organizations of all sizes are the beneficiaries.
Myth No. 4: Cloud providers are hard to find
Like the previous point, this preconception is based on the faulty assumption that little available information exists about SaaS options. As the rapidly-expanding cloud market suggests, providers are constantly finding prospective clients and letting them know about their offerings.
And it's not just the heavy hitters of the IT world hawking available cloud solutions. Technology trade magazine CRN listed its top 10 providers to watch for 2018, indicating that while there are predominant options in the SaaS space that will likely always draw a disproportionate share of business, there are also ample alternative options that can also be evaluated to find an ideal fit for a specific organization.
Myth No. 5: Cloud technical support is poor
Competition isn't just driving cloud service providers to spell out the features of their SaaS plans; it's making them refine their support practices in order to retain business. Clients regularly dealing with slow or nonexistent access to remote applications will obviously be receptive to finding new cloud solutions, and the proliferation of options in the SaaS world demands providers be dedicated to top-level support.
Google Cloud, for instance, responded to this need in 2017 by creating its Customer Reliability Engineering (CRE) team, responsible solely for keeping applications accessing its cloud space running. Forbes reports that CRE's approach to support is to charge clients based on response time needed, rather than how much the client is already spending on cloud usage, in an effort to create an advantage over Amazon Web Services (AWS) and Microsoft Azure.
AWS has developed its own four-tier support plan as well, further suggesting that cloud providers sense the need for developing client trust that vital business operations will suffer minimally from outages. Any who fail to provide comparable commitment to support can't expect to stay competitive.
An important innovation to explore
Cloud computing isn't a difficult notion to grasp; it's a service used every day by a variety of businesses for a variety of reasons. There are costs and risks involved like with any other new venture, but as the studies cited above show, business leaders are increasingly turning to outsourcing at least a segment of their technology needs and are already seeing a substantial return on that investment.