What is cloud computing? The concept of cloud computing is similar to Berners Lee and Cailliau’s original business model, revised and expanded to take advantage of the growth of the world wide web (Bernes-Lee, Cailliau, Nielsen & Secret, 1994). There has been much interest in cloud computing in the media over the past few years. Many people have written about its potential for the future. However, the definition of cloud computing is still being debated. For example, the science fiction writer William Gibson (2015, p. 36), who created the term ‘cyberspace’, has argued that its “main usefulness lies in its vagueness”. In other words, the term ‘cloud’ is useful precisely because it is not clearly defined. Larry Ellison (Evans, 2012, para. 8), the co-founder of the computer company Oracle, has argued that cloud computing is simply a term to describe “everything we already do”. Both Gibson and Ellison are correct because the cloud is everything the web does and so it has to be vague, otherwise it would be inaccurate. Despite the interest that cloud computing has generated, not everyone is of the opinion that it is beneficial. Therefore, this essay examines some of the arguments for and against cloud computing.
In order to trace the development of the cloud, early ideas behind the development of the Internet are discussed. The Internet has its origins in the American military but the world wide web is a more recent phenomenon. There was a document called ‘World Wide Web: A Proposal’, which was written in 1990, by the British computer scientist Tim Berners-Lee and his colleague Robert Cailliau. It states: “Hypertext is a way to link and access information of various kinds as a web of nodes in which the user can browse at will”. In other words, the web is a variety of connection points, a network, which people can browse whenever they want. The authors claimed in this document that a relatively small number of links was enough to get from A to B, from somewhere to anywhere in the world. Thus, essentially, the web has evolved in the same way as a food chain might develop in the natural world. After a brief posting in the newsgroup in August 1991, it went global extremely rapidly. In an article about the web, Tim Berners-Lee mentioned “collaborators welcome”. Many people took up that invitation. By 2009, there were 230 million websites and an average of six million new ones being added every month. Thus, looking at the Internet in a different way, it could be argued that it had already become the size of a cloud at that point.
Cloud computing offers businesses a number of advantages. Firstly, it allows a computer user to have additional capacity beyond their existing capabilities (Ford, 2012). For example, they can get access to software, data, and extra storage space on a needs basis when they need it. How does that work? Well, companies or individuals can get additional hard disk space by paying a fee for what they use. This fee is very much lower than the cost of buying, installing, and maintaining new hardware. As a result, a company can have sophisticated IT infrastructure with minimal investment. This also means that they do not need to invest in expensive upgrades as well. Hence, cloud computing can offer an economic advantage to companies.
The second advantage is connected to the way that the hardware and the software are provided. Cloud computing is basically the delivery of a service rather than a product (Wallace et al., 2013). For example, things such as software, shared resources, and information are supplied to users’ computers from a centralized source, via the Internet. Thus, it allows different levels of use depending on how busy one is. It is also greener because there is less waste of resources. There is normally automatic data protection, backup, and recovery as part of the service. Therefore, cloud computing offers benefits in terms of efficiency and security.
However, there are several disadvantages in using cloud computing. Firstly, the nature of cloud computing means that all security services are managed externally. This implies that the users are placing their trust on an unknown third party with their data which may be valuable. For instance, cloud computing service providers are able to control and monitor communication and data. In other words, they can access any confidential information at any time and utilize it according to their own intentions. Although there is an organization known as Cloud Security Alliance which promotes best practice for security assurances, it is not a legal code (Magruder et al., 2016). Another disadvantage is that users can become too dependent on an external cloud service provider (Smith, 2011). For instance, there is a probability that cloud computing service providers could go out of business because they face the same economic challenges as any company. They can also have technical problems. This means that users’ data may not be accessible when they are needed. While this can occur with any service model but with cloud computing, there is absolutely nothing that the user can do to rectify the problem. Thus, the issue of security, dependency and technical problems are yet to be resolved.
In conclusion, cloud computing may become the normal model for many business users. However, there exist certain risks related to security and reliability. There is still much room for both legal and technical improvement in this type of computing. It is hoped that cloud computing can be more beneficial for global users in the near future.
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