It is estimated that the cloud computing market will reach nearly $250 billion by 2016, an astounding $170 billion increase from 2011. In addition, more than half of Global 1000 companies are expected to store data in the public cloud in the next four years.
Cloud computing involves the delivery of on-demand resources through a computer network — typically over the Internet — permitting a separation between a user's computer and the actual resources they use. In essence, cloud computing delivers computing as a service rather than a product. A cloud can be public (Amazon Web Services), or private (internal corporate).
The benefits of adopting cloud communications can be many for a business — increased productivity, improved communication and cost savings.
But, how is this trend affecting traditional IT roles? What about data security? What are barriers to adoption? Will this last?
"Connecticut companies are turning to the cloud because it can be more cost effective for them," said Christopher Luise, executive vice president at ADNET Technologies in Farmington. "Companies are able to save money on hardware, staffing, power and cooling, and have a greater organizational efficiency."
Luise said the cloud has been a hit with many of ADNET's customers, not only saving them time, money and resources, but also allowing them to focus on their business rather than on running IT systems.
While not every scenario is appropriate for the cloud, he explained, the companies using it even in small ways are seeing benefit.
"Cloud computing has had a major impact on traditional IT roles and responsibilities," Luise said. "It has changed the way IT is driven because it is no longer necessary for a company to purchase IT assets, such as traditional hardware and software systems. They are now able to eliminate expensive hardware, maintenance, and labor in exchange for a single cloud provider who bills them only for the services used."
ADNET has been taking advantage of Comcast's business services, including recently adding the provider's Metro Ethernet service. Luise said Comcast is addressing the cloud computing trend by placing specific services in consumer Internet packages and encouraging consumers to start off using specific cloud services slowly —implementing only a few services first before jumping in completely.
Comcast offers a wide variety of options that are appropriate for all levels of cloud adoption including Metro Ethernet, which offers point-to-point, point-to-multipoint, multipoint-to-multipoint, or Ethernet dedicated Internet access.
Charlie Tzoumas, regional vice president for Comcast Business Services, says performance concerns almost always accompany a potential move to the cloud, particularly for businesses with large data sets.
"One of the greatest concerns for many IT departments is that they will not be able to access the cloud when they need it," Tzoumas said. "In order to prevent this from occurring, companies need to look at four key evaluation criteria: absolute speed (ability to turn up bandwidth quickly); network reliability (this is doubly important in the cloud); scalability (which allows for immediate growth if needed), and application-centric bandwidth control, which ensures that you have access to what you want, when you want it."
Along with the many benefits cloud computing offers, there are potential risks.
While the ability to transfer data at ever-increasing speeds at a lower cost is certainly a positive by any account, IT departments have realized that the proper management of data being moved to the cloud is more important than ever before.
The important decision-making cannot end even after a business selects a cloud provider. The final critical choice that needs to be made is ensuring that companies have a reliable, fast and secure way of connecting to that cloud.
Tzoumas recommends businesses ask potential service providers the following questions:
1. Does your network have the reach we need?
2. How quickly — and in what increments — can you change our bandwidth?
3. How often does your network experience connectivity disruptions?
"As more and more companies adopt this new technology, they will also begin to realize that simply having the cloud in their business isn't enough — it's how quickly and reliably they can access that cloud (and the applications in it) that will determine their success in the future," Tzoumas said. "Prepare now for the future by doing your due diligence and selecting a provider that can deliver reliable, always-on connectivity with the ability to scale up or down whenever necessary — this will help reinforce your position as an industry leader and leave your competitors in the dust."
Ryan Rose, co-founder of SmallTalk — a phone app that supports face-to-face networking by linking users with shared interests — agrees. SmallTalk uses a combination of Google services and Dropbox for cloud storage.
"Not all cloud service providers provide the same level of security. You really need to do your homework before choosing the best solution for your organization," Rose said. "Weigh the pros and cons for your organization."
"Have a reason to switch – don't get caught up in the hype. If your current solution isn't working, then the cloud could be the answer. However, if it's not broken then don't fix it."