When it comes to technology, cloud computing has been the cynosure of all eyes. This statement is supported by stats. In 2014, cloud investments had increased by 19% within a year. After a year, 9 out of every 10 organizations adopted at least one cloud application.
This trend provokes one question in all our minds: Will cloud computing nullify the presence of local computing? We may not be able to answer this question with certainty; nonetheless, we can make a strong case for local computing especially with Linux and other free and open source software offering varied and fairly stable solutions that are free, highly customizable and completely in our control.
Even though the audience knows well the fighters, the iconic ceremony of introducing the two hasn’t lost its charm. Cloud computing in the IT world is a concept used to refer the internet-based services that lets you store, process and manage your data through a network of servers located remotely and owned by service vendors. Three main areas of cloud computing are: SaaS (software-as-a-service), PaaS (platform-as-a-service), IaaS (infrastructure-as-a-service). In each case, the service vendor provides you computing as a service that offers storage, applications, platform or infrastructure for a fee. This means you neither own these nor are you responsible for these.
Local computing is neither a common term nor well acknowledged because that’s what everything was only a few decades before now. We had taken the concept for granted and it needed no definition as everything used be stored, processed and managed in local computers i.e. computers that are located locally and that you directly work on. Your PC or smartphone is the perfect example of local computing. The hardware is yours and so is the software. You own them and you are responsible for them.
In all probability, the smart money in IT is invested in cloud computing with Gartner expecting the adoption of SaaS to hit $250 billion by 2017 with a growth rate of 20% every year. 90% of the businesses have already adopted cloud in some capacity and 72% senior finance executives feel that cloud is crucial in their organizational strategies.
The manifold benefits of the cloud are listed below:
- Global Accessibility: As long as you have got an internet connection, you can access your data from anywhere around the world. This feature supports BYOD as employees can work via smart phones and tables in the office, at home or from anywhere their work takes them.
- Improved Collaboration: Global access and improved mobility makes it easier to easily share information and resources in real time and work together to achieve common goals.
- Uninterrupted Uptime: Your data is always available on the cloud. Many reliable cloud providers maintain 99% uptime.
- Unlimited Storage: If you are relying on cloud services, you never need to be concerned about storage issues because the cloud provides virtually unlimited storage capacity and you can increase your current storage space as and when you desire.
- Backup and Recovery: With cloud computing you will never lose any of your data as long as your cloud service provider offer backup and recovery options.
Apart from these the cloud computing is also a cost-effective method since it supports easy and quick deployment, enhanced flexibility, better security and automatic updates without having to actually buy any equipment and spend a lot of money on building and operating data centers and other facilities for operations related to local or traditional computing.
The following are its demerits:
- Downtime: When there’s no internet connectivity, you won’t be able to access the cloud. There are also technical outages for many cloud service providers especially when they take up more clients than they can take care of resulting in downtime for you.
- Vendor Lock-In: Switching cloud services or migrating from one vendor to another can put you in a quandary as there are interoperability and support issues that are yet in their nascent stages. This may keep you stuck with a vendor you wish to discontinue the services of.
- Limited Control: After all you are outsourcing your tasks and responsibilities to cloud service providers which means they own, manage and monitor the infrastructure and equipment leaving you and your customer to have only limited control.
Beyond this, the security issues in giving confidential information to a third-party cloud service provider cannot be said to be risk-free.
It is no joke that many cloud services rely on and owe a lot to open source software and initiatives. OpenStack is an excellent example to prove this point. In 2008, GNU founder Richard Stallman claimed that cloud computing was a trap that would confine people in locked proprietary systems that will cost more and more over time. GNU further compared SaaS (according to them ‘SaaSS’) as a ‘spyware’ leaking information about the users’ computing activities. Although there are concerns regarding the privacy and ownership issues of cloud computing, these claims are grossly paranoiac.
What is important to note is that there are enough free and open source software in the market in every realm of business that can replace software provided by the cloud service vendors. Much of the expensive software in different domains have switched to SaaS pricing model which means that they are only disguising how expensive they are by giving a monthly subscription instead of a flat fee.
Local computing through free and open source not only provides cost benefit when compared to the expensive SaaS but also gives the owner complete ownership and control over the software and its source code so that he can manage and customize the software the way he desires with no compromise on privacy.
Two things to remember during your decision making process is – never to overlook the open source alternatives when you are thinking of the possibilities and never to pay attention to the bigoted crusade on either side.
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