What are the Advantages and Disadvantages of Cloud Computing?

esther carlson

esther carlson

December 13, 2019 · 9 min read

The adoption of cloud computing continues to rise, and that growth is expected to increase into the foreseeable future. Gartner predicts that by 2025, 80% of enterprises will move entirely away from on-prem data centers. Companies are embracing the reality that the advantages of cloud computing outweigh the disadvantages for the right business reasons.

Cloud service providers continue to expand and refine their offerings, including new entrants that offer regional and industry-specific services. The more mature providers are adding new capabilities and computing models.

If you’re new to cloud computing, this Dis.co blog post – Serverless vs. Cloud Computing: What’s the Difference? – provides an introduction. The post describes the four main types of cloud computing, which are IaaS, PaaS, SaaS, and Serverless. The four models of cloud computing – public, private, hybrid, and multicloud – are also covered in the post.

In this article, we’ll take a closer look at the pros and cons of cloud computing and provide recommendations for managing the risks associated with cloud computing.

Abstract Image of Cloud Computing

Initial Barriers to Cloud Computing

When cloud computing first became an option, cloud service providers had to address several concerns. Questions like:

  • How secure and private will our data be when stored in the cloud?
  • What happens if there are outages? How quickly will they be resolved?
  • What levels of protection will be in place to prevent hacking and other types of intrusions?
  • As a customer, how much control will we have over the quality and location of allocated servers?
  • How difficult will it be to replace vendors and cloud providers?

Some of those initial concerns have turned into reasons companies prefer cloud computing today.

There is one concern that remains, albeit less of one than earlier. It’s vendor lock-in. Yet, even that concern is being addressed to some degree by specific vendors. They are beginning to accommodate multiple programming languages, protocols, and technology tools. For example, Dis.co is a serverless compute solution that supports on-prem and multicloud in addition to providing a cloud computing platform.

Quote about Cloud Computing by Marc Benioff Salesforce Founder

Advantages of Cloud Computing

There are many reasons organizations of all types and sizes have adopted cloud computing. Whether it’s a legacy company forging a digital transformation or a startup looking to make its mark quickly, cloud computing provides many benefits.

Secure – Cloud security has matured significantly since the early days of cloud computing. Service providers have established policies, controls, and procedures, and implemented technologies that together protect customer systems, data, and infrastructure. 

In fact, organizations are now more confident in the sophisticated levels of encryption and other protections against hackers put in place by their cloud service providers than what their own IT staff can implement. A survey published by Clutch found that enterprises listed cloud security as an essential benefit of using the cloud (cited by 45 percent of respondents). 

Uptime – Customers expect uptime reliability from their cloud service providers. 80% of businesses require a guaranteed 99.99% uptime which equates to about one hour of downtime per year. Another 15% require 99.999% uptime, which translates to five minutes of downtime annually. The cost differential is significant. The average cost of an hour of downtime is $260,000.

Ease of access – Storing information in the cloud makes it easy to access – anytime and anywhere. IT teams, remote staff, or those who are traveling can connect via the Internet, which eliminates any issues with time zones and geographic locations. Being able to provide data access anytime, anywhere is a top reason for cloud adoption.

Faster time to market – Technical resources can now redirect their focus from maintenance and troubleshooting to pushing innovation, which leads to competitive advantage. Operating as an agile company becomes a reality that leads to faster development of new products and the ability to quickly adapt to market changes.

Backup and Recovery – When data is stored in the cloud, backing up your data and restoring it via the cloud rather than on physical devices is simplified. Cloud service providers have put systems in place to automate backups and ensure the restoration of data should the need arise.

Economies of scale   As your business grows, your cloud resources can be expanded exponentially to accommodate both temporary spikes in traffic or to increase overall capacity. The cloud offers flexibility and eliminates the need to purchase additional hardware as the business grows.

Fast to implement and deploy – Three factors impact the amount of time it takes to move data to the cloud: 1) the size of the business, 2) the age of the business, and 3) the number of services used to support the business. Depending on these factors, some companies may be able to migrate their applications and data to the cloud as quickly as the same day or a few days. Or, it could take weeks, even up to a few months, if there is a high degree of complexity to complete the migration.

Cost-Effective – The cloud service provider owns the responsibility for selecting and purchasing the hardware. Fewer physical assets equate to lower overhead for companies. Instead, they simply pay a monthly rate to utilize dedicated cloud computing resources. While IT still owns the responsibility for managing the cloud computing resources, less on-prem IT infrastructure means fewer IT resources will be necessary.

Access to data analytics, ML and AI services – Many businesses don’t have the time or resources to build these services that are now available from cloud service providers. Access to these services can make the difference of whether companies continue with business as usual or advance as a market leader in their industries or sectors.

Sustainability – Eliminating underutilized IT hardware to reduce a company’s carbon footprint may not be the top reason to adopt cloud computing. Yet helping protect the environment is what companies achieve when they purchase less IT hardware and avoid having to dispose of outdated machines. 

The list of advantages is quite extensive, and as you’ll see in the next section, they outweigh the disadvantages.

Photo and Quote by Paul Maritz VMWare CEO

Disadvantages of Cloud Computing

As mentioned earlier, many of the earlier barriers to adopting cloud computing have been addressed or minimized and are now viewed as advantages. Yet some barriers are still considered by some to be potential disadvantages. We’ll discuss them here and provide steps companies can take to reduce the risks.

Potential Downtime – If and when outages do occur, it’s costly to companies. Depending on the length of the downtime, losses can mount up to hundreds of thousands of dollars or more. Here are two ways companies can reduce their exposure:

  • Leverage multi-region or other geographic-based zones that enable automated failover.
  • Set up a multi-cloud infrastructure to avoid having a single point of failure.

Security and Privacy – While there’s an expectation that the provider will implement the best security standards and certifications, the risk of a data breach or attack still exists. Instead of relying solely on the cloud service provider, the IT team needs to be actively involved. Here are two ways companies can reduce their exposure:

  • Be clear about the shared and assigned responsibilities when it comes to applying preventative measures including threat detection.
  • Frequently audit how you’re using the cloud – whether through official solution architects from the cloud provider, or internally.

Limited control and flexibility  Although IT Ops Teams do have full control of applications, data, and services, they are reliant on the provider to manage their back-end infrastructure. The provider may choose the specific type or brand of hardware and the physical location of the infrastructure. Two ways companies can make sure they have the maximum amount of control is to:

  • Ensure you understand the level of support provided and research any additional tiers of support offered along with their costs.
  • Be clear about the terms of any SLAs for infrastructure and services.

Hidden Costs – Just like any other agreement, you need to make sure you understand the basic terms and read the fine print. Otherwise, the actual costs of cloud computing can quickly spiral out of control. Here are a couple of ways to reduce the likelihood of receiving the unpleasant surprise of an expensive invoice.

  • Confirm what your agreement includes – such as server capacity and the number of hours per day your servers will be up and running. Also, find out what other services are available and their costs. 
  • Look beyond the server capacity. Do you require data storage? Do you only need 8 hours of running time per day and then will turn it off on weekends? Or will you need time to power up and power down other systems such as login/authentication and firewall/network – before and after the server is up and running? These scenarios must all be factored in as potential costs.

That’s it for our look at the advantages and disadvantages of cloud computing.

Photo of Muted Colored Lights
Image by Sebastian Muller, Unsplash

Beyond the Pros and Cons

Despite the potential downsides, cloud computing is the fastest-growing part of network-based computing. It offers a great advantage to customers of all types and sizes such as single users, developers, startups and enterprises. So, you can be confident this technology is here to stay for the long term. And you can expect it to continue to evolve and become even more specialized. Think serverless computing, distributed computing, edge computing, Internet of Things (IoT), and more.

Dis.co is one company that is leading the way to take one of the more recent cloud computing models to the next level. Our vendor-neutral, serverless computing solution provides an easy and cost-effective way to use many machines to run compute jobs across on-prem and multicloud resources. This distributed computing approach dramatically reduces the time it takes to complete heavy-demand computing workloads such as processing video footage, running simulations, or training a machine learning model. 

Contact us today to get started with a free account and take a test-drive to experience how Dis.co can and securely parallelize, accelerate, and optimize your compute jobs.

esther carlson

esther carlson

December 13, 2019 · 9 min read