Businesses are nervous about taking a walk in the clouds

3 Sep 2009

A CLOUD computing revolution is under way, but security concerns are holding business leaders back. Ian Cassidy is Accenture’s senior executive for cloud computing

Why does cloud computing matter so much to the business world?

Cloud computing is essentially a software platform that is offered via the internet. It doesn’t sit on your computer or your server and you can turn it off any time you don’t need it.

Most consumers are familiar with the concept, although many don’t realise it because they use services like Hotmail and Gmail and would access new albums and videos via services like Apple’s iTunes. But for large organisations and small to medium-sized enterprises in particular, it means workers can access their email or other business applications via their internet connection at any time, anywhere.

If so many people use services like Hotmail and Gmail, why do businesses have a hang-up about cloud computing?

From a pure cost perspective it is a no-brainer, but I think the biggest inhibitors are concerns over security and taking the leap to accessing vital data via the internet.

It is only a matter of time before cloud computing permeates through organisations. Individuals are already using it in droves whether it is for social networking via Facebook or LinkedIn. Many businesses use technologies like to run their businesses. They just log in.

For firms that are cost-conscious and are striving to be more thrifty, cloud computing is an ideal platform. The total cost of ownership is relatively small because you’re building it all yourself.

If firms have such concerns over security, why is the cloud being trumpeted as a computing revolution?

There are many examples of large organisations that are quite comfortable with the mechanisms they have in place for protecting sensitive information over the internet.

Companies with strong privacy and security policies also use measurable ways of securing vital information via the cloud.

We have just signed off on a cloud computing deal with one of the biggest healthcare providers in the US using the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act [HIPAA] Privacy Rule as a key policy.

What are the key advantages of using cloud computing?

Firstly, for many of the applications or information you need, it doesn’t require major bandwidth or investment in a major systems integration project.

There are many established technology players like Amazon, Google and Microsoft with robust cloud computing platforms that businesses can store and back up key data on. It is possible to go online today and self-provision another 8GB of data storage for your business for the price of a cappuccino.

How typically could a firm use the internet cloud to cut costs and collaborate better?

Internally, we use the internet cloud to collaborate, for document management and for content sharing. Externally, we’re working with 80 companies. Historically, to deploy a new customer relationship management or enterprise resource planning system it used to take weeks, even months. Now you can just set it up on the Amazon cloud, for example, in a relatively short time.


John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years