Cloud computing holds tremendous potential to revolutionise the way many businesses operate, but organisations considering a move to this model should be fully aware of the risks and benefits before taking the plunge.
Several industry experts have warned enterprises to make sure that their data and business processes are properly protected, and that there are clearly defined systems in place should something go wrong.
Calum Murray, head of software-as-a-service at Capgemini UK, urged businesses to look at cloud computing services with their eyes wide open. He gave the example of Coghead, a cloud service provider that had its intellectual property snapped up by SAP, effectively leaving its customers 30 days to get their data off the system.
Even assuming that customers can get their data saved locally, this type of eventuality can still leave an organisation with no business applications in place, severely disrupted processes and a stack of valuable business information stored in a format that may or may not be open to other providers.
Murray stressed that trust is vital for businesses to fully reap the benefits of cloud computing, and that organisations must work closely with providers and service integrators to properly identify, evaluate and mitigate the risks. He also highlighted the importance of open standards and platforms, which can help to encourage competition and provide peace of mind to customers who can rest assured that they can port their information to other providers if they need to.
Scott Fletcher, chief executive of managed services firm ANS Group, pointed out that the widespread failure of Google's Gmail service earlier this year left millions of users unable to access their accounts for several hours.
"Cloud computing undoubtedly offers some cost-saving benefits, and is great for mobile and flexible working. No longer do workers need a desktop, as all applications and documents can be held in the cloud and accessed on portable devices from anywhere," he said.
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