Although the full promise of cloud computing is not yet realized, you get a lot of benefit from it today, with very little risk, in some areas. Our top 5 best uses of the cloud today are these:
1. Hosted electronic mail. Although it’s been around for a while, hosted electronic mail is a clear example of Software as a Service. Because it’s been around for a while, it’s familiar and there are all kinds of testimonials to how well it works. For most organizations, the time and money savings are clear, too.
2. Online backup. The advantages of disk-to-disk backup over tape have become clear. Data stored on disks can be recovered faster, with more granular selection of what you want to restore. It’s also more reliable, because recovery is easier to test. Off-site storage for disk-to-disk backup means sending it over the Internet, either to another location within the organization or into the cloud. As with cloud computing in general, the economics of using a service instead of building your own remote vault are often compelling. The best total solution today is to use both local disk-to-disk backup and cloud-based storage. By installing a local virtual machine or appliance with disk-to-disk backup software, restoring locally becomes fast and easy. Moving the data off-site from the appliance provides the next layer of protection.
3. On-demand servers. Cloud computing’s ability to supply servers for which you only pay when you are using them makes them ideal for all kinds of temporary uses: development, testing, quick projects, or emergency replacements. The largest number of these may be for development, where the scale and rhythm of writing code fits with a pay-as-you-go model. This has already become a very popular use of cloud computing infrastructure as a service.
4. Scalable services. Traditional Websites, and, in some cases, traditional databases, face the problem of how to deal with spikes in traffic. For example, when a community foundation offers a scholarship through online applications, the foundation can expect a surge of applications in a few days surrounding the deadline. With virtualization, it’s possible to bring additional services online to maintain the site’s performance, and doing this in the cloud means you only pay for the additional services while you’re using them.
5. Shared data sets. For academic and scientific organizations, one of the great benefits of cloud computing is that an organization can put its data in the cloud in a way such that other organizations can analyze it. Geospatial, genomic and census data are three examples of huge datasets that many researchers are sharing. Access to the data sets is often free, and the compute time, like other services in the cloud, is pay as you go, so projects can be completed much less expensively than before.
The flip side of what cloud computing can do today is what is better left until tomorrow. Stay tuned for our next post.