Is That Cloud Full of Vapor?

By Les Spielman

So what is the “cloud”?

Believe it or not, most hoteliers do not fully understand what the “cloud” is. Yet the cloud is in the news daily. It touches all of our lives, but is the cloud, in its present form, and the security measures to protect users ready for prime time? The consensus is “cloudy”. Here is what a survey released recently, by a major respected firm has reported.

“Survey Reveals 68 Percent of Global Organizations Planning to Adopt Cloud Strategy”May 2011 Service management provider, XYZ corporation, today reveals the results of a global survey showing that more than half of IT professionals (51%) do not think their own internal service management software processes are mature enough to effectively manage cloud-based services.”

The problem is that most of these organizations are not sure of how much to rely upon the cloud and even in some cases what makes up cloud services. Cloud(s) are made up from computers, always linked or networked together as computer farms. These networks are sometimes hard connected to each other, and sometimes connected to other networks via IP connections.

In this new generation of cloud computing, purchases of hardware are much less of an issue than in the past. But payments for web Hosting, software hosting, storage, PBX hosting, and security suites as well as redundancy facilities never end.

Does moving to the cloud make sense?

There are many pros and cons associated with “Cloud” computing, and hosted solutions for the hotelier.

The Pros:

There are much lower start up costs. Not much equipment to purchase. There is less staff needed to maintain the equipment. There should be no need for future hardware upgrades. Simplicity. Hosting in the cloud can streamline many actions. The cloud grows as quickly as you expand. Cloud computing is very fast to implement number of work stations.

Then there is the fixed-Cost Advantage: Software provided online is upgraded and maintained by the provider, so the small business owner does not have to purchase the newest version of a software program or download fixes and patches. Not having to buy a program outright but entering into a monthly or annual contract (the “SaaS” or Software-as-a-Service model) is also appealing, as is the fact that many applications are offered for free. The fixed cost allows business owners to plan rather than be caught off-guard when a costly software or hardware upgrade must be purchased.

The Cons:

Then again, on the “con” side of moving to cloud computing: Security, security, security! Monthly payments never end. Ongoing cost of higher bandwidth demands increase total cost as the cloud grows to accommodate your needs. There is the natural inability of the hotelier withstand outages or hacker attacks in the cloud. Sometimes there are definite poor performance issues. You can lose control of what happens at the host’s location(s).

Redundancy: One of the misconceptions of cloud hosting is that it’s hosted “in the sky and not in a datacenter,” which is not true. Cloud hosting resides in a single datacenter.

Cost: The cloud gives businesses a hands-free method to scale their hosting, however some problems can arise that are financially surprising. For starters, automatic scaling can make people extremely lazy. If you’re not paying attention to your usage, you just might get a huge surprise on your next bill. One thing that’s a rising concern is that hackers can run up their victims’ hosting bills. One method that’s being used by hackers is a simple low-level DDoS (Distributed Denial of Service), which won’t take your site down but will keep your server very busy. Since you pay for usage with cloud hosting, your costs can spin wildly out of control. So if you’re using cloud hosting, make sure to pay daily attention to your usage.

App performance could suffer. Your data might not be cloud-worthy. By all means, don’t put an application that provides competitive advantage or contains customer-sensitive information in the public cloud. Your application could be too big to scale. The bigger you are, the bigger your IT resource pool. And the bigger your IT resource pool, the less likely it is that you’ll see any enormous financial advantage in outsourcing to the cloud.

Human capital may be lacking. Exploring next-generation IT models requires an adventuresome spirit and technical astuteness. If you don’t have the human capital that is willing to stretch and learn new things, taking on cloud computing can be very frustrating.

Service Level Availability Agreements: Since these agreements are very detailed, it is essential to verify all the services being defined in the contract. Nonetheless, it is very important to understand the amount that you are paying for the quality of services you are receiving. Having just a few minor apps at your property, with less hardware, one must be prepared for the lag, or loss of the full program getting lost in the vapor that is the cloud.

Making False Promises: Every cloud computing service provider that you come across will promise to deliver your demanded services. However, the reality is that they provide different levels of quality and services when it comes to actually installing them. Thus, finding a reliable service provider is a tiring and time-consuming job.

In conclusion

If you’ve been drawn in by the low cost of entry and fast implementation of the cloud, heed this warning that every rose has it’s thorn… even soft, fluffy, cloud hosting ones.

The future looks great down the road, but in the meantime there will be a great shakeout and much angst getting there. If Amazon and Sony can’t get it right yet, what chance do YOU stand?

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