October 22, 2013

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Rise of the Cloud

Is cloud computing the harbinger of the next Industrial Revolution? The time of large data centres holding hundreds of data servers is becoming a thing of the past. As traditional physical methods of storage are becoming obsolete and expensive, the accumulation of data has shifted to the cloud.

In the last few years cloud computing has presented numerous new opportunities and threats on our world and the way we live, and has dramatically changed the way organisations operate in different business environments. This has made cloud technology one of the top drivers of organisational disruption in 2013 and an over $131 billion market, as stated by Gartner.

Breakdown of Cloud Computing
Before diving into the growth of cloud computing, we should first understand the finer details of this technology. Everyone, in some shape or form, has heard of the cloud. Some see it as a buzz word, while others know it as a technology that can revolutionise the way we work; but few truly understand what the term ‘Cloud Computing’ really means. Simply stated, the cloud is any electronic data that is captured through the internet, but not stored on a device.  It is the ability to perform computing tasks using software and applications that are not installed on your computer (or phone).

While accurate, this definition is a little too simple.  A deeper look at cloud reveals that it can be split-up into many different areas depending on the user’s needs, as shown by the diagram below.

One of the main advantages of cloud computing is that it enables the user to increase storage capacity without the need to buy new hardware. In addition, it allows the use of different applications and provides access to music, TV programmes, and more on demand via the Internet. With all these different cloud products and services being offered, it can be difficult for any organisation to understand it well enough to readily accept and implement cloud computing.

Cloud Computing and its critics
When someone brings up cloud computing, people either embrace it for its usability or ignore it due to a lack of understanding or concerns over its risks. As with any new form of technology, there will always be critics who first dismiss something that later becomes a game-changer. Just think of a world in which everyday technology such as Bluetooth, fibre optics or even the internet did not exist because a few close-minded individuals were unable to see the potential.

Many people are against transforming their business to a cloud based model due to the inherent risks involved, such as security issues, data being tampered with and data ownership once uploaded. In addition to the internal politics and operational barriers that many businesses face, making the transition to cloud based solutions can be an uphill battle. These fears are especially strong in industries that are governed by many regulations, and were heightened with the recent high profile viral attacks in which large online organizations had personal customer data stolen by hackers. It is no wonder that some organisations are nervous about adopting this technology. But if the CIA is willing to invest over $600,000 for Amazon to create a private cloud system, might all of these fears over security in the cloud be over-exaggerated?

Enabling a platform for change 
Cloud computing has transformed the way organisations operate across a wide range of industries by providing affordable data storage. Over time, cloud technology has evolved, making accessing, updating, and sharing files from any device easier and faster for the user. Whether you are in the office, on the go, or at home, cloud allows these abilities instantaneously. The cloud has also fostered the Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) trend within the workplace, which has enabled a higher level of employee flexibility, resulting in greater productivity and creativity in the workplace.

As a result of this transformation, businesses need to change or they will be left behind. Below are some examples of how businesses have changed their operations by adopting the cloud:

  • Software giant Adobe has realised the potential of the cloud by moving its software to a ‘Creative Cloud Application’ that gives customers a more flexible, collaborative and intuitive way of working compared to its traditional licensing platform. With the latest upgrade, users now have the ability to access a larger pool of applications, from PhotoShop and Illustrator to newer tools such as Adobe Muse, from any device. 
  • New applications like Dropbox, a cloud based data storage company, have realized they can play in both the corporate and commercial sectors. Employees are using it to share business documents, while personal consumers have found Dropbox to be one of the easiest methods to share photos and other files among family and friends. Dropbox is building on its success by announcing plans for a new service, ‘Data Stores’, that allows developers to write apps that use Dropbox as their storage system.

Cloud computing has led to a more efficient use of computer hardware, as businesses can add or remove computer resources when needed, giving organisations of all sizes, across different industries, unlimited computer processing power.

What’s Next!
In the next few years, hybrid cloud technology will create a format that increases analytics and reduces cost, capacity and capability. Organisations are beginning to turn to hybrid cloud technology, as it incorporates the best of public and private cloud technology with fewer risks, while also leveraging resources internally and externally. Public cloud offerings have become less popular overtime due to players like Amazon saturating the market. Organisations such as GoDaddy are moving towards hybrid solutions to provide more value to their clients. This shift is supported by Forrester researchers, who believe that 66% of businesses will move to a hybrid solution within the next 4 years.

With pioneering tech companies such as Google, RackSpace, Microsoft and, of course, Amazon, making big waves in the cloud computing market, even more traditional businesses are being forced to rethink their current strategies and take notice of the unstoppable movement in cloud computing. It is time to take this revolution seriously!

Takeaway
The world of computing is going through a huge tectonic shift and cloud computing is widely seen as a disruptive technology that is accelerating and driving change across industries.   Cloud computing will undoubtedly affect your industry and how your organisation operates over at least the next five years. In fact, industry analysts estimate that the market for cloud computing will reach over $6.2 trillion by 2025.

HCL works with our clients to understand the challenges they face and the new opportunities they can take advantage of as the world of business changes. We will make sure that you are not left behind. HCL offers a wide range of cloud based solutions across numerous industry verticals.

How has the cloud impacted your life? What are your views on cloud computing and what challenges or benefits has the technology posed for your business?

To find out more about how HCL can help your organisation with our wide range of cloud solutions, please contact us at hcleas@hcl.com