Cloud computing, an industry dependent on the availability of high-speed internet connectivity, grew on the realisation that internet bandwidth could be used for more than just downloading large files.
However, the cloud's initial lustre is starting to wear off and businesses are starting to query why they should move to the cloud and what happens once that leap is taken.
The sales pitch of cloud computing is pretty simple: why bother running your own storage and application servers when you can outsource the whole shebang to an outside company that will take care of everything. But despite all the hype and marketing, cloud services have yet to go mainstream, both in the consumer and business markets.
Phil Worms, director of corporate communications at hosting firm Iomart, explained that those organisations which immediately saw the benefits of cloud have for the most part made the move, but firms that are less sure of the advantages require "more hand-holding".
While cautious firms may require more convincing, the questions they are asking should benefit those that have already taken the plunge. Issues regarding security and service level agreements (SLA) are coming into play as the cloud services industry is, as Worms put it, "growing up".
Surprisingly, the growing pains are being felt not by the customers but cloud server providers, who are being asked to provide more 'soft' services and guarentees.
Not only are they having to compete among themselves in the private cloud market but against public clouds such as those provided by Amazon and Google. It's a daunting prospect going up against two of the biggest internet brands, but for Iomart it all comes down to service levels.
"SLAs are the battleground," said Worms, pointing out that public cloud providers such as Amazon and Google do not offer SLAs. He said Iomart's customers were increasingly asking what happens if their data "disappears".
It's a thought that would send a chill down any system administrator's spine, regardless of how rigorously thought out their data backup and recovery plan is.
SLAs have been commonplace in the IP transit and co-location industry for decades and are often used by firms to differentiate services. An SLA not only holds the provider accountable but gives customers the assurance that they will at least be financially compensated should a failure actually occur.
The fact that SLAs are coming to the world of cloud computing is a sign that the sector is maturing, something that should help to allay the concerns of firms that have yet to adopt the model.
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