Cloud Advantages and Disadvantages

A particular piece of software can appear to be a cheaper option on the cloud, compared to the same software run in-house. But is it the same? It might be a stripped down version, missing some features. Do you need all the features; maybe the stripped down version is better for you, or maybe something is missing. Is it an updated an improved version, but incompatible with the other software that you have on your own system. If you buy into somebody else’s cloud there tends to be compatibility between the different systems there (tends to be, not always though); but it may not be compatible with some package you have in house. Even moving text from a movie-script to a word package can result in pages of unformatted sentences – no paragraph breaks, no spaces, just one long lump of words. And that is a minor example.
Inflexibility. This need not be too much of an issue if you understand your own requirements in advance. There are so many cloud possibilities that you should be able to find one that suits your business needs. Else, you can have a private cloud that is set up the way you want. Transferring all your old files will be an issue, but remember that you are making a major upgrade, and that major upgrades are a step ahead and essential lest you be left behind. Your previous system is soon to be an obsolete system. Being locked into a system is an issue, however. The solution is a combination of flexibility and being locked into a system that works well.
Security issues. These receive a huge amount of publicity. Probably less common that the media might have us believe, but truly disastrous when they do occur. There is an advantage here that smaller businesses have with the cloud; the cloud provider can provide more security for a group of small companies than a single company could afford on their own. And if your company has a system on the net at all (even pre-cloud) is has some security concerns. Watch for situations where information is moved automatically. The celebrity cloud photo hacks seemed to be of photos that were automatically backed up to the cloud. If it was never on the cloud in the first place it is far less likely to be leaked. Also remember, you may have to convince your clients that the cloud is secure and not just yourself.
Possible downtime. Not a regular occurrence, but it is a fact of life. Can you afford to be offline for long? Can at least some downtime be scheduled in advance? There should be regular maintenance. Look for systems with redundancy that let you access data all the time; they run at least two systems concurrently and let one update the other. Also look for a minimal downtime guarantee.


With the cloud we can connect large pools of resources via a network, significantly reducing costs if we plan things well, and scaling use to suit our needs. But there differences in public, private or hybrid clouds.

Public clouds are owned by a third party. There is the advantage of sharing in something that has been bought in bulk, reducing costs. There is also the advantage that you only pay for what you use, and you can expand and pay for more use quite quickly. Your customers can also have this advantage, expanding rapidly if needed but only paying for what is actually used. This system is vastly different to the previous non-cloud model where companies had to estimate in advance what storage space was needed; overestimation meant paying for too much, underestimation meant missed opportunities and a mad rush to upscale the operation.
This disadvantage of this public facility was that users had that public’s infrastructure to work within, which may or may not have been what they wanted. However, with multiple third parties offering public clouds companies can usually find one that fits their needs.

Private cloud is built exclusively for an individual enterprise. The company can completely control the infrastructure and resources, and do whatever they wish to handle security. An on-premise private cloud allows complete control of the system, but the physical hardware and its storage capacity have to be estimated and purchased in advance, limiting the fast scalability that was one of the attractions of the cloud in the first place. Still, company employees can share resources and files efficiently.
Externally hosted Private Clouds are hosted by an external cloud provider. Unlike the public cloud there is a fair guarantee of privacy and the infrastructure can be set up to the individual business’s needs.
Hybrid clouds combine the advantages of private and public. Scalability can be external and provided as needed, but the system can use an infrastructure that the business find appropriate. There is more than one type of hybrid, so options vary considerably. It is possible for companies to use a public cloud to spill over any needs not met on their private cloud, and update the private facilities latter on.


Google’s cloud platform will be modified to make it more compatible with windows licenses and applications. As well as the obvious convenience of moving windows apps to the new cloud platforms, and the advantage of using familiar programmes, the compatibility of cloud means there will be no additional licencing fees for those already using windows licences.

A large portion of today’s business needs run on windows, and Google wants to cater to this cloud. Other cloud platforms have already had windows compatibility, but there is a desire with some companies to be present on more than one platform. One reason for this is that the companies want to avoid being locked into one service provider, where fees can be considerable. Using one vendor makes any future changes difficult, as everything has to be moved. Multiple platforms means that only the contents of one platform needs to be moved during a change. The other reason for multiple platforms is to take advantage of the different services each platform offers.

It has already been announced that Windows server 2008 R2 Datacentre Edition is running on the Google cloud platform, with the latter Windows server 2012 and 2012 R2 coming in the near future. SQL server and sharepoint and exchange server are already transferable to cloud to those who have already paid their Microsoft fees, without additional cost. And customers are also being offered free use of the popular chrome RDP app, which has been optimized for cloud.

Google has come a little later to the cloud hosting game, but if the customer’s companies do want to spread themselves across platforms then they may not be too disadvantaged. Google is a large group in its own right. Customers wanting several cloud platforms will certainly consider including Google along with the other bigger names.



Find the right cloud Provider for you.
There is platform as a service; Infrastructure as a service, software as a service, backup and disaster recovers… etc. You may need all of these, or just some. Just because it is all called cloud does not mean you need all that’s there.
Shadow IT. Prevent multiple versions of the same solution. Innovations are good, incompatible versions are not.
Assess which application to migrate. Consider compatibility, interoperability.
– You can re-host the same application as before, which makes for a quick move, but you will not be optimising the application for the cloud. Consider upgrading as you move.
– Revising an application to suit the Cloud and changing business requirements will take some time, and risks incompatibility if you don’t update everything else at the same time; yet everything will need updating eventually.
– Consider application as given by the service provider, they probably know their own cloud system well.
Realize that moving to the Cloud system might mean being locked in for an extended period of time. Ask is this good or bad in the long term. Are you going to be locked in by penalties?
Always think of Cloud as a move forward, but also a total change in approach. It’s not a better version of the old way of doing things; it is a new way entirely. Consider making changes to the applications and the architecture in order to take advantage of the Cloud system.
Look for redundant issues, including licenses
Don’t limit yourself to short term thinking. Your business should expand; Cloud should have room for this and more.
Find what other companies have done, but realize that they all did it differently. Listen to advice, but find what works for you, and what you what your system to do in the future.

Azure in Australia

Microsoft has announced data centres in Melbourne and Sydney for Azure cloud services. They have also announced Azure app stores and connections dedicated to the new centres. These dedicated connections ensure a high quality of service. Previous Australia’s connections to Azure in Singapore were plagued by slow connection speeds because to the distances involved.

Apart from the availability of Azure the new centres would provide a greatly increases economy of scale, keeping prices down. Each location can accommodate about 600, 000 servers. The fact that there are two data centres means information can be stored at two locations, providing backup.

Previous Australian Business use of Azure meant there were issues about data being offshore. Information time delays were minor compared to varying security and privacy laws in different political jurisdictions. Some Australian companies preferred to keep their information storage local, even if it meant a lesser-known, more expensive provider.

Azure cloud offers many advantages for users. It uses the familiar windows platform and is easily scalable for a very small to vary large number of users. The fact that a business only needs s to pay for what is used means there is no redundant hardware outlay, further reducing running costs.

A recent Azure outage in November had no effect on Australian servers. The outage was found to be in a configuration change recently introduced into the Azure system.

Change to the Cloud

It is tempting to just tell people to move their business onto the Cloud. But Brevity is the embodiment of untruth. Sure, move your business onto the Cloud, you’ll be better off; but the point is that you’ll be better off for making changes, and that you’ll quickly be out of date if you don’t. Some general advice consultants may charge you a fee for telling you to move to the Cloud; the questions and services you should demand of them concerns how to move and what needs to change. You’re not just storing it all in a different place, you’re moving up to the next business standard.

There are consultants who get paid whether their advice is right or wrong, or at least don’t suffer much if their client makes a mistake. This is different to a group that has invested in the cloud technology and is accountable for the decisions. There is a lot to be said for signing on with the vendors who built the software and continue to manage it. These groups want the customer and they want their system to work. It would make sense for them to optimize their software and structures to accommodate their clients, or to advise their clients how to alter their operation so as to best use the latest systems. An independent source will not have this communication channel between supplier and user, neglecting a potential means of keeping operations at their best. An independent advisor might be good for advising which vendor best suits their needs, but a little net searching should yield the same information. Impartiality is needed for finding the most suitable vendor, but as this is a new area the impartiality is already there; we shouldn’t have too many preconceived notions if we remember how new this all is. But we should bear in mind that these decisions for cloud operations can make or break a company in record time, and changing plans after the initial decision may be difficult.

Moving to the Cloud is a turning point for a company. Think of it as upgrading and not just changing location.

Cloud Myths

Backups aren’t necessary? Of course backups are necessary. Ignore at your own peril. Sometimes the service will do this automatically; it would make sense if the backup were at a different location so both copies were never lost together. For my money, I backup everything somewhere else, just to be certain.

Scalability is taken care of? Not always; but it seems better on Cloud. You need only pay for the space you use, and unlike buying your own storage space you need not worry too much about underestimating the space you need. But applications on Cloud may not have unlimited data capacity, or only interface with other application up to a certain point. As with other situations in the past you may need to change to a different database system if you expand past a certain point. It should be easy to scale up shear computing and storage power, but applications upon the platform may have their own limits; the same limits they had on any other storage mediums.

Everything is fast? Like time on the net, you are there with a lot of other users. The net is slow on some days, fine on others. Nobody is keeping up posted on why it fluctuates, but the amount of traffic has to be a factor. Lots of people use Cloud, so we’re sharing space with a lot of others. Not difficult to see how this slows things down.

Cloud means Public Cloud? Not really. Public clouds are bigger, and receive more media coverage, but there are more private Clouds that work for just one company. Hybrid Clouds also exist. Companies have multiple options.

Cloud has a uniform approach to everybody? Not really. Different companies use it in different ways, set up their system differently …etc. On the positive this mean you can set things up in a way that best suits you and your company, you’re not forced into some generic system. On the downside, somebody has to figure out what that best system is; you are forced to specialize, but can take advantage of it.

Cloud is pay-per-use? Well it can be, or it can have a monthly subscription, or fixed annual cost. If you have a long –lived, stable application that only requires occasional accessing, then a yearly fixed cost may well be a better bet. This is an advantage here if you can estimate in advance which option is best for you.

Multiple Clouds are better? Well, if you want things to be neatly integrated then one Cloud server might be best. Transferring information between systems is an issue. But is you have some logical division between two parts of a company, and think there is a security advantage or less chance of data loss in an accident, then there might be an advantage here.

Cloud Means Lower cost? Probably, but that’s not the only reason to adopt it. It certainly seems more economical if you only pay for the space you are using, and don’t have to estimate your future data expansion in advance. But companies see using Cloud systems as a step ahead. Even if it did cost more, which it probably won’t, using Cloud is expanding a business. Sure, you can buy data storage as a one off cost, and that seems cheaper than rental; but the devaluation of storage mediums is considerable. Look how rapidly USB drives come down in price and go up in storage space! Cloud is pay as you need it. Any storage medium that you own devalues, whether it is used or not.

BIG Data

Big Data is any amount of data so large that it is hard to process; too much information to handle. Yet what happens if you want a seemingly simple fact of trend, and have to look through a whole country’s census date to find it?
Big Data needs develop with the Cloud storage needs. More storage means there is more data collected and stored, but then in turn we need more storage space for the programs to analyse the initial data.

A few points:

“Data is best optimized when you know how it all fits together”.

It is useful to strip down the data to what is relevant to your needs, but there is no neat dividing line; everything interconnects. If it too simplified, you may leave out something useful, or that might be needed in the future, or that could lead you onto a new, overlooked market ; If it isn’t simplified enough you risk losing sight of the data, or taking so long to analysis it that the opportunities have already passed you by.

There is always the chance that the information you want falls in between the questions. We have all had the experience of survey forms that don’t give us the option that best reflects our opinion. Bear this in mind if you have any influence in how the data is collected. Asking the wrong questions will skew the data.

Companies need to collect all possible data, using tags, using data management platforms, and use a tool to sort, correlate and analysis it. It helps if the final representation is something that can be visualized.
Older methods of analysis used a representative sample of the data find patterns; hopefully this showed the pattern for the whole system, not just the sample at that particular time. Big Data aims to use every bit of relevant information, not just a token or (hopefully) typical sample. Problems can occur when two or three patterns exist at once; Big data aims to find the set of products or services that work for the different individuals in the market place, and avoid one answer that averages out to something that is not right for anybody.

The Analysis of Big Data reflects the immediate past, which is close to the present if the analysis programs are fast enough. How this relates to the future is never certain. We might follow trends with the data we have, but not pick up on some factor that abruptly changes everything. In fact, we need to know that if we act on the data patterns that we have, and make a change, then we might be the factor that changes everything! Similarly, analysing the past patterns may not give insight into how a new, future product will perform, though it may be helpful in showing how the product is adopted over time. New products and ideas mean new categories and questions for data collection; quite possibly questions that have not been previously asked. Combining analysis with computer simulations may alleviate some of the myopic tendencies here.


FASTER Under-sea Data Cable

Google, in partnership with several large Asia-based telephone companies, has announced a plan to run a new undersea cable, called FASTER, between Japan and the US west coast. This cable will have the fastest trans-pacific data capacity ever, at 60 terabytes per second. With construction beginning immediately the cable has been designed with 6-fiber-pair cable and optical transmission technologies.

This is hardly the first trans-ocean cable. There are already about 200 fiber optic cables run through the ocean, carrying an estimated 51 billion gigabytes per month; a data amount expected to increase to 132 billion gigabytes in the next few years. A substantial part of that data is on the UNITY and SJC cables, which handle 3.3 Tb/s and 28 Tb/s respectively; and which are also invested in by Google. Showing how fast the data needs are growing the 28 Tb/s SJC was only opened last year, on July 2013. Already the FASTER cable, which aims to be operational in 2016, has nearly triple the earlier cables capacity.

The system is designed to handle the increasingly intense data demands for broadband, mobile phone and business needs across the pacific. It is of particular benefit to Google which can connect its data centres in the U.S. and Asia. Years ago such cables were solely for the use of (land line) telephone connections. The fact that internet companies require them too means there are more companies investing in the facilities; but also that the facilities require much greater data capacity.

The future estimate of triple capacity in three years may be taking more into account than recent increases. The FASTER cable of today (actually 2016) is almost 20 times the capacity of UNITY cable’s 3.3Tb/s from a mere 4 years ago. Presumably data needs will continue to increase, but not indefinitely or always as rapidly as recent years.

Amazon Trust Advisor

Cloud Security with Amazon

amazon cloud

Amazon has been supplying the trusted advisor program for a while, which gives advice on the best way for a customer to use the company’s IaaS (Infrastructure as a Service) cloud services. It inspects the Amazon environment and reports opportunities to improve system performance, reliability and way to save money. More importantly, it gives security advice.

As of the 1st of August Amazon has added four free checks for its trusted Advisor customers.

Service limit checks: This prevents a resource from being over or underused. Overused mean overcapacity, and preventing the overcapacity of a resource increases fault tolerance and availability. Under capacity means potential that the user might otherwise have remained unaware of.

Unrestricted checks: Checks which warns users of anything on the Amazon cloud system that could be changed without proper credentials, thus defending against hacking, data loss or denial of service.

IAM (Identity and Access Management) Use check: Which warns customers if only basic account-level credentials are securing Amazon Web Services resources.

Multi-Factor Authentication root check: which makes sure that customers are using more than just a password to identify themselves. A device authentication, such as a mobile phone Id, is also expected.

When logging onto the Amazon Web Services Management console a customer has the option of seeing these alerts. Higher level services are available for a fee.