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The emergence of the Internet as well as different computer hardware, software and technological gadgets enables individuals, private and public offices, schools, hospitals and government units to simplify its transaction and communication through its usage. Individuals are getting accustomed to storing and managing their photos, files and documents online, use social networking sites or webmail instead of maintaining these information through their computers. Businesses are offering products and services online providing convenience to its clienteles and perform business deals with its supplier via online purchasing systems. Such online services and management of different objects without the use of your personal computer or the company’s servers and hardware refer to cloud computing. Cloud computing, in layman’s term, refers to delivering and providing of resources and services via the Internet. Rather than purchasing and maintaining enormous data within a server, personal computer or external storages, an individual or an organization avail these kinds of services over the Internet. This paper explores the concept of cloud computing, its characteristics and services and deployment model, benefits as well as advantages and disadvantages upon implementation. This investigation also looks into the challenges with regard to the adoption of cloud computing and what companies can do to manage this. Furthermore, this study also cites an example of organization that implements cloud computing and how the company utilizes this services for the benefit of its employees.
Keywords: Cloud Computing, Implementation, Adoption
Cloud Computing Basic Architecture
Cloud computing architecture refers to the required components and subcomponents of cloud computing. Typically, the architecture is consist of front and back-end platform. The front-end platform can either be mobile devices, fat client or a thin client. The front-end serves as the interface for the user to have access to the cloud computing application or system. Cloud providers have different cloud computing interfaces with the user. Web mails, as an example, uses the Internet browser or Fire Fox in order for the users to get access to the system. On the other hand, back-end platforms can come in the form of storage or servers.
Apart from this, a cloud computing architecture has network and a cloud-based delivery. The network required for this architecture can come in the form of Internet, Intranet or the Intercloud. The architecture also has a centralized server where all activities that involved the application, infrastructure or platform require monitoring. This server provides tracking of online traffic and ensures that needed data transaction demands of the client run and perform smoothly. This server also includes protocols that allow defining of rules. Also, it has specialized software called middle ware that permits computers within the network to efficiently communicate with each other. The cloud computing architecture goes through server virtualization in order to maximize the output of individual servers. Cloud computing companies normally set-up numerous storage devices to accommodate the demand and increasing needs of their clients. As a best practice, a cloud computing service provider put in place at least twice the digital storage devices in order to keep the information and data of the clients. Furthermore, cloud providers ensure that there are back-up of the central servers in order to regain all data in case of trouble .
Service and Deployment Models of Cloud Computing
In availing of cloud computing services, organizations will have to lease computing software, hardware and storage from a cloud computing service provider. Firms pay these service providers based on usage or demand inclusive of the electricity and energy. One of the characteristics of cloud computing is its being on-demand. Customers can access an online service and perform transaction without the need for human interaction from each service provider. Cloud computing service also provides wide network access. Services based on cloud are available via cloud networks that are accessible through smart phones, tablets, PDAs and laptops. Another characteristics of cloud computing is that it is resource pooling. The service providers offer different virtual and physical resources available to multiple tenants and consumers that include, but not limited to, processing, memory, storage, virtual machines and network bandwidth. Cloud computing services are also both elastic and rapid and can easily become measurable.
Cloud services are typically available through, public or private cloud, community cloud or hybrid cloud. Public clouds are accessible over the Internet and managed by cloud service providers. An example of public clouds includes online storage of files, documents and photos, social networking sites or even web mails. Private clouds, on the other hand, are available solely to specific organizations. This set-up is either managed by the firm or a third service provider. Community cloud is a cloud service distributed among several firms and available to these groups alone. A specific organization manages a community cloud or through cloud service providers. Hybrid cloud offers a combination of different cloud service methods, i.e. private and community cloud, depending on the need of the cloud users .
Cloud computing services come in different forms. These forms include Software-as-a-Service (SaaS), Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) and Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS). SaaS, also known as cloud application services, get rid of the need to install software or application within the computer hardware environment of an organization. A cloud service provider offers different applications bundled with platform, hardware, network, storage and operating system to its clienteles. Pricing of SaaS is on per usage basis or through a subscription fee. Its pricing model is scalable in such a way that it is adjustable if there is a need to add or remove the number of users within the cloud at any given time. Given this service, service providers install and manage required application or software via the cloud and its users will access the software via the cloud clients. Managing of platform and infrastructure is part of the responsibility of the cloud service provider and not the cloud users. This service model is almost the same as the traditional thin-client where clients offer point of entry through the applications running on dedicated software. Access through the traditional client is through web browsers. Among the popular SaaS applications include the popular customer relationship management software Sales Force as well as the mostly common used Google Applications.
PaaS, on the other hand, provides the cloud users a framework where they can utilize during development or customization of an application. This service model provides quick, simple and cost-effective services to cloud users especially during development and testing as well as deployment of an application. When cloud users avail of the PaaS, there is a provision to develop, host and deploy software or application, putting aside the need for the developers to manage the intricacies of setting up and configuring the needed infrastructures. The service providers offer the required development tools and customize it based on the need of the clients. PaaS comes in the form of hybrid, public or private, as well as mobile or open PaaS. Some PaaS service provider charge a flat fee for monthly subscription in order to access the platform including the applications hosted within it. Examples of PaaS providers include OpenShift, GoogleApp Engine and Heroku.
Similarly, IaaS is cloud computing service that offers a virtualized hardware. It also encompassed network connections, space for virtual servers, load balancers, Internet Protocol addresses as well as bandwidth. The cloud service providers maintain the physical group of hardware resources where authorized cloud users can access through the virtualized mechanisms to develop their platform and application. Mostly, firms use IaaS as part of its enterprise infrastructure, virtual data centers or for cloud hosting purposes. Providers of IaaS offer these servers through an API or a dashboard. IaaS is the most adaptable cloud computing framework and provide for deployment automation of servers, networking and storage. Clienteles of IaaS has direct control of their infrastructures as compared with PaaS and SaaS. Among the popular provider of IaaS include Softlayer, CloudSigma, ComputeNext and HP Cloud. Cloud service providers of IaaS offer its service through subscription basis or via pay-as-you-go pricing scheme .
Benefits of Cloud Computing
Cloud computing is becoming popular and the companies are slowly considering and exploring its usage to replace their internal and external services. Some firms are adopting this technology to replace few functions of its operations while other large organizations implement an enterprise-wide cloud computing services within its organization.
Although cloud computing is merely on its early years since its introduction, organizations started reaping its benefits to its operations. Among the benefits obtained from adopting and implementing cloud computing services include speed, capacity and scalability. Cloud computing service providers can easily increase the usage and capacity of its client especially during its peak time and revert it back to its normal usage during down time. Cloud users can easily request for additional licenses for new employees if there is a need to provide them with access through an enterprise application. Similarly, an organization need not invest on separate hardware, software and servers as well as the required electricity and energy . All these services are available from a cloud service provider based on demand.
Also, cloud users can request for increase in speed and performance especially when transactions are increasing and there is a need for immediate response time. Another benefit of cloud computing is its lessened infrastructure cost. Obviously, cloud computing service providers offer all the needed computing power once cloud subscribers avail of its services. Organizations no longer need to invest and maintain a dedicated computing infrastructure for its services as this requires recurring investments. Furthermore, these computing infrastructures eventually reaches it obsolescence cycle, thus, companies need to invest and upgrade on its software and hardware in order to maintain its competitive advantage within its market .
In the long run, cloud computing services reduce the overhead costs including human resources, IT resources, power, data storage and potentially real estate. It is necessary to consider, however, that the cost reduction depends on the cloud services availed by the cloud users. Cloud computing also boasts of its secured physical environment especially for services that entail public cloud. Bundled with data security, cloud computing service providers offer efficient and cost-effective back-up especially for organizations that are geographically separated, thus, separate servers is not needed to maintain the organization’s data. This set-up also eliminates the need for a company to establish separate security team in every location of its subsidiary as it will mean additional cost for the organization . Cloud providers invest heavily on data security that is far better and efficient compared with a single organization.
Ubiquity is one of the reasons why most cloud users avail of its services. Cloud environment is available everywhere, thus, users can access their data, files and documents via the Internet . One of the popular consumer applications in the cloud are iCloud, Google Drive and Dropbox. These cloud providers offer free usage of its cloud environment for users to experience managing their documents, photos and files without the need for them to access their personal computers. Cloud computing also transcends the different geographical locations of various companies, thus, allowing its employees to access company information, generate sales forecasts or management report via cloud-based applications. Sales representatives and organization benefit so much with such kind of set-up as customer and sales information are now accessible via their smart phones or tablets wherever they are in the field. Cloud computing service providers ensure that it complies with requirements for security for regulatory compliance. Hence, this ensures security on the part of the cloud users. Many cloud providers now are assisting its clienteles in ensuring that their data complied with different regulations including the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability (HIPAA) or the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS) . Other benefits of adopting cloud computing is that it frees up the management of every company with the responsibility of managing their data, thus, allows them to focus on growing and ensuring the profitability of their business. Furthermore, migration of data becomes the business and responsibility of the cloud provider and no longer the cloud users.
Challenges of Cloud Computing Implementation
Cloud users must also consider looking into the challenges posed by the adoption and implementation of cloud computing services within an organization. Beyond its numerous benefits, among the challenges established by this technology includes security and privacy concerns, loss of control and cost ambiguity.
As cloud computing transforms the management and maintenance of data, information and files of an organization, security and privacy concerns are becoming alarming because of the involvement of several technologies including virtualization, operation systems, data storage and networks. It is important that the cloud user and cloud service provider stipulates in the service level agreement on how the management and security of data, authentication of processes, applications and users, separation of data between the cloud user and the other customers, regulatory and legal issues and security of data while in transit. In order to protect data, there should have an appropriate encryption mechanism especially for those data in transit. Furthermore, standards for integrity and authentication protection guarantee that data goes through its appropriate recipient and not changed during its transfer.
Since cloud service providers utilized virtual machines in managing all data for its client, it is necessary that appropriate VM integrity is in place in order to guarantee strong and robust network security and separation. It is also important that cloud users have their legal and regulatory experts to look into the compliance of the cloud providers in order to eliminate the possibility of raising legal issues once implemented. Among the possible regulatory and legal issue that may arise include data deletion and retention, data export, compliance, auditing and legal discovery. In terms of loss of control, cloud users can experience organizational and technical loss of control. In order to address the organizational loss of control, it is imperative that the adoption and implementation of cloud computing within an organization has the full commitment of the executive sponsors and its higher management. Furthermore, cloud providers must ensure that there are available tools that will allow the cloud users to have full visibility of its cloud operation in order to address the issue of technical loss of control.
Cloud Computing Implementation
A Singapore-based PTE LTD start-up company is a consulting firm founded in 2011 aimed to democratize the labor market globally. In order to do this, the company provided services for client and professional platform, security and administration, bringing expenses under control while offering full time work solidity among professionals. It specializes in online hiring and engagement of consultants for its clienteles based on opportunity and talent matching, targeted marketing and advertisement, financial matching and advisory. The company developed a system that will allow online hiring, recruiting and selection of consultants for companies in search for specific skills. Through a talent matching algorithm embedded within the online application, the system should allow recommendation of most fit consultants for a project based on its requirement. Once the selection of consultants become successful, this Singaporean company assisted its clientele in managing their projects, project resources and schedule through SaaS-based project management and collaboration tool.
The company partnered with an online company called Zoho to integrate with its online consultant engagement service with Zoho’s Project Management, Collaboration, Invoice and Books (account receivable, account payable and general ledger) module. Its clienteles can start managing its project milestone, schedule and resources through the integrated system for project management. Planning, tracking and monitoring of project progress and deliverables of its engaged consultant become easy and accessible. Project milestones, task, task list and work break down structure is visually available for monitoring and managing purposes. Online charts are also available to provide a comprehensive visual progress of the task assigned to every resource, at the same time, visually identify which resources are productive, engaged and overloaded. Since the location of the engaged consultants varies, the online system allows flexible collaboration and feedback mechanism in order to keep abreast with the status of the projects. Documents for review and comments are available online. Posting and conducting of online meetings are available online where automatic reminders of schedule are also accessible and modifiable. Also, engaged companies have the convenience of generating management reports that include business intelligence application as well as advanced analytics. These online tools apparently serves the consultants and companies well as it offers in-depth insights on the progress of the team and allows anticipation of upcoming works.
Upon completion of task and deliverables, engaged consultants prepare their timesheets and log their billable and non-billable hours through the online tool. Whenever ready, the consultants generate their invoice and automatically sent to their project managers for review. Upon approval of the timesheet, payment automatically reflects in the Zoho Book’s module where account payables, receivables and the general ledger of the Singaporean company get updated.
Technologies evolve and continuously simplify and provide convenience not only to individuals but to various organizations. The introduction and emergence of cloud computing offers numerous advantages and the most apparent one is that there is no need to purchase, manage and maintain separate infrastructures or develop the necessary knowledge and skills to administer the development application or environment and the involved infrastructure. These responsibilities rely heavily on the cloud computing service providers, thus, organizations lessen its overhead cost not only on the IT equipments, but also with the needed human resources, maintenance, energy and electricity. This ensures cost-efficiency as there is no need for separate investments in order to technologically improve the operation of the company.
Despite these benefits and advantages, organizations must also become aware of the constraints, risks and vulnerabilities that the operation is about to face. Hence, it is imperative to prepare and guarantee that there is a clear definition of required service level agreement especially when it comes to addressing security and privacy concerns of the company. This is critical for every company that decides to adopt and implement cloud computing because if not properly addressed, this will jeopardize the operation of the company, thus, results to probable legal, ethical and regulatory issues. More importantly, any company that considers adopting the cloud computing services of any provider must plan and perform it gradually. Conducting a feasibility study and understanding the readiness of an organization with regard to the adoption of cloud service ensures low impact and low risk to business. The overall success of the implementation of this kind of technology heavily depends on the commitment of the management and the executive sponsors as this ensures that the company is ready to take on the risk involved in implementing the cloud service.
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