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What is Cloud Computing?
It's not just using a laptop on an airplane
By Red Squirrel

Advantages of Hosted IT
Save on local infrastructure and hardware: There is no need for a server room, other than maybe a small wiring closet where a couple switches and a firewall reside. Maybe a couple servers that cannot be hosted in the cloud due to their nature (ex: print server). There is no need for a big AC unit, FM200 fire suppression system or a tape backup safe.

Save in staff costs: Since the majority of the hardware and software is in the cloud and supported by that company, there is very little IT work to do locally. Maybe change out the odd hard drive and power supply, reinstall the OS, maybe walk users through stuff, and that's about it. Most of the IT work required is primitive and it is easier to find someone qualified to do the little work that does need to be done.

Backups: This is a big advantage for any IT staff you do have. They are not responsible for maintaining backups and recovering lost files. This can be a very nerve racking job as an IT person especially when you have a sub par backup solution and the business does not want to invest money into it. The cloud will take care of it for you.

Easy to grow: As the business needs grow, so can the infrastructure. This happens seamlessly, more or less, depending on how it is setup. Overall, it will be easier then replacing servers with bigger ones and migrating everything over.

Access from anywhere: While VPNs can make this possible with in-house IT systems, the cloud will have this by nature so accessing email from home wont be any different than accessing from work. VPN training can put a huge burden on IT staff. With the cloud, this is eliminated.

Disadvantages of Hosted IT
Security/privacy: While most companies probably have very good security managed by highly trained professionals, the kicker is, you are relying on them for it and do not have full control over it. Also being a big company that could be hosting 100's of thousands of various businesses, it then becomes a target as there is tons of confidential information on their servers. The odds of getting hacked are slim, but when you're in control, you can sleep better at night knowing exactly what is protecting you and not put your trust in someone else's hands.

Need for reliable fast Internet connection: Depending on where you live, this may not be available or it may simply cost too much to get more bandwidth. Some ISPs even charge based on usage, which would render a hosted IT solution too expensive to use. All the traffic that would normally be between your core switches and your servers (can easily have a couple gbps of capacity) is now going over the Internet. With everything in house you can probably get away with a lower end Internet connection but if all your IT stuff is in the cloud you'll need a very fast and reliable connection.

External support: You need to rely on an external support contract instead of in house staff trained specifically for your environment, and if the company has cut costs in support, you'll probably be talking to monkeys in India who you can hardly understand and you wont get anywhere because the plant in your office probably knows more than them. This will be very frustrating and it will take long to get any issues/requests solved. Meanwhile onside IT taking care of systems can update you on any issues and overall initiate a fix faster.

Availability: If the company's systems or your connection goes down, you are suddenly left with no infrastructure and your company is dead in the water and there is nothing you can do but wait. Normally downtime will be caused by your Internet connection being down, rather than the cloud itself. Ex: Fiber cut, unplanned/planned service interruptions etc. With in-house IT you can still operate more or less if your Internet goes down.

Cloud computing can cover a vast variety of services and pretty much encompasses any hosted solution where you do not need to be involved in the actual back end, and can just use the service. Some cloud computing concepts have been around for a long time, while others are popping up. This can be a great opportunity for certain businesses to look into an alternative solution to common needs. Anyone looking for an IT service solution should look into their available options and decide based on their needs if in-house or cloud is the solution, or perhaps a mix of both.

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