Mention cloud computing to a business hack and you’re more likely to be given a restraining order than an interview.

“Not cloud computing,” they’ll groan. “But while you’re on the phone, does your client have a life-threatening illness and live in the North-West?”

cloud-vomit

Or something like that. But apart from what’s perceived as massive over-hype, cloud computing’s got real problems. A lot of people don’t know what it means. Even more think it somehow sprang up overnight to save small businesses everywhere, when the reality is that it’s a term describing manifold and incremental changes across decades in how we use IT. The web’s awash with IT companies propagating obfuscating Aascronyms.  But here are the kickers for business – can you feel the bile rising?

Security
It’s pretty clear that companies aren’t going to start whacking up lumping great chunks of mission-critical infrastructure into the “cloud” en masse. They just aren’t going to do it. There are no universal standards in place. And the all-encompassing term “cloud” hides the fact that data is actually stored right here, on Earth – and as Jamie Turner said recently, “you can have as much redundancy as you like at any given site but if it disappears into the San Andreas Fault you’ll be wishing you still had that magic DAT tape.”

The only reason CRM (e.g. Netsuite and Salesforce), for instance, has succeeded in the cloud is because there’s no viable alternative. This has forced people into trying it out. They seem to be happy but nevertheless there has to be a driver for people to take the plunge elsewhere.

Privacy
I’ve already discussed “Twittergate” here.
This is linked to cloud security and there are no concrete answers here either.

Control
This is my favourite. The irony is that often, if you outsource some function to the cloud, the guys who look after that aspect of your business operations actually do a far better job.

They should be specialists in that area, after all. Uptime, for example, is probably considerably better. The only problem, of course, is that when you’re totally in control of your own infrastructure you don’t mind so much about hiccups… you might even discreetly write them off. You might grumble but you won’t start tearing your hair out if something has to go down for a while.

Five minutes of down-time for a cloud-based operation can spell disaster and a reputation in tatters. Businesses need to choose suppliers with a good track record but they also need to accept their lack of control or make sure the service fails over elsewhere in the event of downtime.

Conclusion
“Cloud computing” covers a range of IT practices that really can benefit business. But there are problems, and they need to be addressed intelligently. “Cloud computing” – a dumbed-down blanket term which covers far too many processes – is a phrase which more often than not just gets in the way.