Defining the cloud

One of the problems when it comes to talking about security in the cloud is defining what ‘the cloud’ is and what needs to be secured. What most people do agree on is that cloud computing offers a compelling balance of three key elements: security, convenience and cost. While there are some security issues, they can be significantly outweighed by the convenience and cost benefits offered by well-implemented and well-structured cloud-based solutions. The outsourced business solutions that the cloud offers make it cheaper, especially for smaller firms, to gain access to the kinds of applications and server power that only larger enterprises have traditionally been able to afford.

Matt Ballantine is head of IT at Imagination, a creative communications agency with clients that include Ford, Shell, Jaguar and Land Rover. “We run complex global events, with 300 to 450 staff in 14 locations around the globe and an IT team of 14 based in London,” he says. “When it comes to collaboration tools, cloud computing is a no-brainer, as it gives us the ability to deliver services at a manageable level. It’s given us global reach, stability and scalability, and massively reduced our costs.

Ivan Retzignac, CEO of MedicAnimal, an online veterinary supplier, is equally positive. “We are a high-growth company and it is particularly difficult to estimate our server and infrastructure costs, as traffic is growing too erratically, and too quickly, to forecast. As such, the flexibility and ease of scaling resources that the cloud offers is absolutely essential.”

Cloud computing offers scalability at a significantly lower total cost of ownership, with a greater variety of applications that are far better than those that most businesses could have built themselves. “People are now able to do things they were unable to do before,” says Ballantine. “I recently had an email from a member of staff telling me how, using video chat, he had just watched the first big dress rehearsal for a major event we were running for a client in Hong Kong. There is no way I could have achieved this using a traditional IT model.”

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