7 Popular Misconceptions About Cloud Computing

By Jeff Barr
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After talking to thousands of people over the last few years, I’ve learned that there are a lot of misconceptions floating around the cloud. Some of this is due to the inherent unease that many feel with anything new. Other misconceptions reflect the fact that all the technologies are evolving rapidly, with new services and features appearing all the time. What’s true one month is overtaken the next by a new and improved offering. With that said, here are some of the most common misconceptions. Parts of this list were adapted from work done at the University of California, Berkeley.

The Cloud is a Fad

Given the number of once-promising technologies that have ended up on history’s scrap heap, there’s reason to be skeptical. It’s important to be able to respond quickly and cost-effectively to changes in one’s operating environment; this is a trend that’s unlikely to reverse itself anytime soon, and the cloud is a perfect fit for this new world.

Applications Must be re-architected for the Cloud

I hear this one a lot. While it’s true that some legacy applications will need to be re-architected to take advantage of the benefits of the cloud, there are also many existing applications using commercial or open source stacks that can be moved to the cloud more or less unchanged. They won’t automatically take advantage of all the characteristics enumerated above, but the benefits can still be substantial.

The Cloud is Inherently Insecure

Putting valuable corporate data somewhere else can be a scary proposition for an IT manager accustomed to full control. Cloud providers are aware of this potential sticking point, taking this aspect of the cloud very seriously. They’re generally more than happy to share details of their security practices and policies with you. Advanced security systems, full control of network addressing and support for encryption, coupled with certifications such as SAS 70,8 can all instill additional confidence in skeptical managers.

The Cloud is a Single Point of Failure

Some developers wonder what happens if the cloud goes down? Unlike traditional data centers, the AWS cloud offers a wide variety of options for functional and geographic redundancy to ensure high availability.

The Cloud Promotes Lock-in

Because you can run existing applications on the cloud, they can be moved off as easily as they can be moved on. Operating systems, middleware, and applications can often be run in a cloud environment with little or no change. Of course, applications can be updated to take advantage of services offered by the cloud and that’s what we’ll be exploring in this book.

The Cloud is Only Good for Running Open Source Code

This argument no longer holds water. Commercial operating system and application software vendors now recognize the cloud as a legitimate software environment and have worked to ensure that their applications have the proper cloud-friendly licenses. Forward-thinking vendors are now making their licensed software available on an hourly, pay-as-you-go basis. Instead of buying, for ex- ample, a database license for tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars, you can gain access to the same database for a few dollars per hour.

Cloud Resources Are Too Expensive

Making a genuine comparison between internal IT resources and equivalent cloud computing resources has proven to be a difficult task.9 Establishing the complete, all-inclusive cost of internal resources requires a level of tracking and accounting that’s absent in most large- or mid-sized organizations. It’s far too easy to neglect obvious costs, or to compare internal resources at a permanent hourly cost to scalable cloud resources that cost nothing when idle.

Image via biletskiy / Shutterstock

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  • Craig

    Totally agree with you, especially the one about security. Unless your own data center has all the same security systems in place as your cloud provider (unlikely), it is more secure in the cloud. And it is many times more secure than having data under a desk like in many small businesses.

  • Allan

    I have neither seen or read (including this article) anything that convinces me that the “cloud” is anything more than corporate speak. Take the name, for example “the cloud” for the sake of clarity shouldn’t it be called “the internet”? Isn’t the internet what you are referring to when you talk about “cloud based”

    I can see it being useful, albeit of limited appeal to home users but for corporate use, even small business use, I am not convinced. The cost is one of issues that you have fudged in your article, along with security. These are major issues especially for small business users (like me) I know exactly what it costs to purchase all my IT equipment and licences, I know exactly how much it has cost me in maintenance and I know how much it has cost me in training. Moreover, if I lose my server, or if I lose my internet connection my staff can still work, we are not crippled. If I am using “the cloud” what happens if I either lose or, cannot get an internet connection? The presumption being that “cloud” vendors “presume” worldwide coverage of the world wide web, this, unfortunately is not the case.

    Storage is also a major factor, off-site storage for a small business is (I would think) a complete no – no, considering the number of big names that have recently “lost” highly confidential data. It might be possible to convince IT managers to let others store (and therefore control) their data but I foresee huge difficulties getting it past Managing Directors or CEO’s.

    I don’t see the “cloud” as a fad, in fact, the complete opposite.

    • David Bitter

      Allen, I understand your concerns. But the fact is, with the cloud you can do much more. Costs are not as a easy to understand or predict– but they are competitive and high-value (meaning you’re happy to pay for the additional things that make your life easier in the cloud).

      Security is better in the cloud than almost anywhere else. Your local ISP is not as secure. Your office building is not nearly as secure. Cloud providers have higher security standards and adhere to them better than any small business ever could.

      You are right about needing an internet connection. But in my opinion, that concern is getting weaker and weaker all the time. My business relies on an internet connection, so we do what it takes (including choosing a location and working with multiple providers) to ensure we always have one. If your internet connection is unreliable and you can’t do anything about that– you’re right, the cloud may not be for you. But for most businesses, I believe a reliable connection is within reach.

      As for home users– they already use the cloud every day. Their iPhone and Adroid Apps use the cloud. Netflix (millions of users) is completely cloud-based. Everything Google does is cloud based. Home users love the cloud and they spend hours every date utilizing it. Many home users even use cloud services directly– most PC backup companies are cloudbased.

  • IT Mitică

    First, it’s obvious that some will be cloud users and some not. It’s not realistic to believe the cloud will take over.

    One thing I would have to disagree with is relying on cloud for security reasons.

    The moment a cloud operator is forced to give access to my data solely based on a notice from a (often foreign) government institution, this means that no matter how secure the cloud is, my data is easily compromised.

    And yes, the cloud is a single point of failure. Real world vs. Theory. Recent outage events made that clear, since even the cloud operator said it shouldn’t but it did.

    It’s possible this is cloud v1.0. And it’s also possible cloud v3.1 will bring with it some new, more attractive angles. Still, a single basket for mankind to put its eggs in… I don’t know, it just doesn’t feel like history would agree.

  • Doug

    I found the article interesting, but this type of list kind of bugs me. The article is trying to debunk myths, but the myths are big, bold headers and the counter to them is in the content. Even if people read the content, I wonder how many will remember the shorter, bolder words than the actual content. Maybe it’s just me?

  • Brajeshwar

    Here is the best misconception ever. Remember to turn on Subtitle – http://brajeshwar.com/2011/cloud-computing-and-phone-security/

  • eezeer Andre

    Was always opposed to the whole “cloud” vibe. Think I almost changed my mind, and never knew that cloud computing would be that much safer.
    It’s is still early days with this new way of thinking so I’ll stay away just yet and see how it all pans out