Up in the cloud: The great data debate that we need to have now
Since Compaq first uttered the world “cloud” in an internal document way back in 1996, we have seen the idea of “computing anywhere” reach incredible heights. Think about the sheer number of various cloud softwares that you use on a day-to-day basis. Apple iTunes and their app store, Google Drive, and Amazon Elastic, just to name a few – how on earth did we ever live without it?
In fact, cloud computing has become so popular, that we have a serious dilemma on our hands. The vast majority of cloud platforms were designed for user numbers at the time. With many new and existing companies looking to make the switch – Oxford Economics predicts that 69% of companies worldwide will move to a cloud platform in the next three years alone – something simply has to give.
In this article, we’re going to be shining a spotlight on the current state of the industry, which direction that it’s likely to be going in, and how it will address concerns of privacy and security. By the end of this article, we hope that you will have an idea on the ins and outs of cloud computing. We’re also going to talk about taking all of the information into account, and how you can fine tune your cloud platform, making it so that it will be a huge success.
The growth of the cloud
Cloud computing first grabbed our attention in 2006 with Amazon’s Elastic model, which revolutionised workable, online storage space. Since then, it hasn’t let go of our psyche, and cloud development growth has reached an unprecedented level of speed. The GigaOm Research team has even forecast the worldwide cloud market to grow by an incredible 126%. This is quite a feat in what is a typically progressive industry regardless.
Down here in Australia, cloud computing is already starting mirror our overseas counterparts. In the recent Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) report, it’s estimated that growth rates in those transferring to cloud platforms will rise between 19% and 25% per annum for the next ten years. What’s more, over 80% of Australia’s working population are said to already use some form of cloud software in their occupation.
So what’s the problem?
Right across the globe, we are seeing a situation where cloud platforms simply cannot keep up to speed with the extra data being fed into the cloud. The incredible growth figures that we’ve noted, plus a wider awareness of cloud platforms compared to only a few years ago, have all contributed to this dilemma.
In Australia, high profile infrastructure projects, such as the national roll out of the controversial fibre-to-the-node network, have also acted to hinder, rather than help this problem. There are also many other concerns that we need to address as a result. Should Australia, like the US, still be wishing to compete with tech powerhouses such as Japan, China, Indonesia, and Singapore, we too need to up our game in this instance.
Interestingly, those that have either just jumped onto using their own cloud platform, or are reluctant to make the switch, all share very similar concerns to industry experts. These concerns come straight from the general populace, and include:
- Concerns about privacy (14% of Australians don’t trust companies that use cloud software)
- Concerns about security (15% of Australians question the safety of their data on a cloud platform)
- Concerns about reliability (12% of Australians wonder whether cloud software is as good as they say)
Many of these, it must be said, can be put down to there being little understanding on how a cloud platform works. Again using Australian figures, we find that over 48% of businesses without cloud software believe that there’s no way their company can benefit from it. Of this number, 22% of small to medium sized businesses admit to not knowing enough of the technology, and are not brave enough to try it on.
Are these concerns valid?
Security and privacy on the internet has been a pivotal and divisive issue for a few years now, with many high profile events keeping it firmly in the public spotlight. Whilst there has been many bad news events relating to security recently, it’s important to remember that vast majority of cloud based software are as watertight as they can be.
Despite this, it will also help to keep in mind that hackers and data miners are just as innovative and as progressive as the industry itself. Keeping on top of security and privacy concerns, whether they are major or minor of scale, is the only way to ensure that your data will be secure. This, however, is a strategy reliant on the platform providers themselves, it must be said.
Given this, a true sign of a secure cloud platform is their willingness to adapt to the many security threats that arise. Any cloud provider that rests on its laurels isn’t only acting in a manner that is highly irresponsible, but they are also putting their platform at risk, and by extension, you. As for reliability, cloud platforms have proven themselves in real time to be just as, if not more reliable than conventional, stand alone software, such as Microsoft Office.
Right, so where to from here then?
So far, we’ve come across three, critical points that need to be addressed by the industry:
- Ongoing privacy and security enhancement.
- Increasing physical storage space.
- Interconnectivity between numerous devices, to grow in line with demand.
Given that, as mentioned earlier, cloud computing is set to increase by a quarter each year for the foreseeable future, this has become a pivotal issue. This is not saying that the industry has dragged its feet for far too long, in fact far from it. Rather, the technology was so great, and its development so rapid, that it can no longer keep in step to match the skyrocketing demand for cloud services.
So yes, there are improvements to be made, cloud providers have worked hard to deliver us great solutions, and these new upgrades need to happen now. But why, you ask?
The Internet of Things
The term “Internet of Things”, whilst vague, has been capturing the imagination. IoT is the concept of a world where everything from your car, to your oven, can be interconnected in such a way for our utmost benefit. Cloud platforms are just one cog in the IoT machine, and allow these devices to interact with one another in a more closed, secure setting.
The IoT is predicted to be the next biggest technological advancement, and could arguably be the most important in history. More critically, the philosophy of the IoT is right on our doorstep, and we, as both cloud providers and small to medium sized businesses, need to be on the ball. The benefits that can come from an integrated network of different devices, such as the IoT, is far too large, both in scale and in numbers, to ignore.
So what’s the solution?
Considering that usage of cloud platforms is set to skyrocket over the near future, both providers and businesses will have to make sure that their standards can meet the demand. Luckily, the solutions to this problem are relatively straightforward, and only require a little attention to detail, and more in depth management of cloud systems.
At some point, business owners will have to accept that their employees will be bringing in their own devices to work on. Rather than reject this notion, it should be embraced. Employees that work on multiple platforms and devices show a trait for multitasking and problem solving. With productivity being the key buzzword of the 21st century thus far, this is vital to the overall success of your business.
The other concern about sensitive corporate data being shared via numerous home devices, comes down to the management of the cloud system itself. Both employees and employers need to get into the habit of structural organisation. Having an extensive tree of information that can be shared easily and to the right people will minimise the threat of sensitive data being leaked, as a result of theft or loss of a device.
Despite all of the concerns regarding the overall cloud market, the future does look bright. As the Internet of Things takes a stronger hold of our daily lives and the way we communicate, the potential for streamlined work processes and increased productivity will far outweigh any concerns.
However, due diligence must be kept in regards to protecting privacy and security, and the best way to do this is to be organised, and make it easier for data to be shared to the right person. The best safeguard against protecting sensitive information is to allow for easier control as to who will receive it. Over to you, cloud providers.