Busted! Five Myths About the Cloud

(This article was first posted on VMD Technology)

Change can be intimidating, especially when we don’t understand the impact it will have on our lives and businesses. When we’re intimidated by change we find reasons to justify doing things “the way we’ve always done them” even when those reasons are based on misinformation or misunderstanding. The cloud is a perfect example of this behavior. Cloud technologies are changing the way we run our lives and our businesses, and that change is happening quickly. As a result, many myths have been created to protect the status quo. Let’s examine of these myths in greater detail.

Myth 1: The cloud is not secure

Reputable cloud vendors implement redundant levels of security that are either too costly or simply unavailable to most small businesses. These include physical controls at their data centers (such as biometric scans, surveillance technologies and on-site security staff), and multiple layers of logical security (such as firewalls and intrusion detection). In addition, these vendors regularly back up their customers’ data. The same cannot be said of a server that crashes, is stolen or is destroyed in a fire. Nevertheless, it is important to regularly review your clinic’s security practices, and to carefully assess the security practices of your partners.

Myth 2: The cloud is not reliable

Perfect reliability in any system is likely an unachievable goal due to cost. Instead, we must examine what options are available to maximize reliability, and the cost of implementing them. Cloud technology vendors rely on a vast infrastructure of computing resources, hosting and redundancy that is available at low cost. This allows them to build systems that ensure that if any component of their infrastructure fails, their services can continue to function with little or no interruption. It is true that the same level of redundancy can be achieved with an on-premise solution, but the cost of the equipment, networking resources and staff required to implement such a solution makes it unattainable for nearly all small businesses.

Myth 3: The cloud is more expensive

This myth is based on a simple, but flawed, argument - since cloud technologies charge a monthly subscription fee, and on-premise solutions charge a one-time license fee, when measured over a long enough time period, the subscription fee exceeds the up-front fee. However, this argument is misleading for several reasons. First, it fails to account for the fact that cloud technologies do not require a large up-front investment in licenses and equipment (money that most new practices don’t have). Second, it omits the recurring support and maintenance fee charged by on-premise providers (usually 15 - 20% of the up-front license fee). Finally, it neglects to include the consulting costs associated with setting up and maintaining servers, networks and related infrastructure (usually charged by the hour, and always a significant cost). In comparison, subscription fees include support, updates, backups, security and maintenance of the infrastructure used to provide the cloud technology. When compared in this way, cloud technologies are clearly the more affordable option.

Myth 4: Customization is better than configuration

It is true that cloud technology vendors favor configuration over customization. This is a due to the fact that they utilize an infrastructure that is shared among their customer. Any customization that is made for a single customer affects all of their other customers. As a result, any action these vendors take must take into account what is best for all of their customers. This balancing act benefits customers for several reasons. First, cloud technology vendors pay close attention to their customers so that they can understand their needs. Second, these vendors must update their products frequently in order to stay current with best practices and market demands, which means that their products are constantly improving and evolving (and these improvements are provided to all of their customers for no additional fee). Finally, it is much cheaper to reliably maintain and support a single version of an application (even one that is highly configurable) than it is to do so for an application that has been customized differently for each installation. This saving is passed directly to customers. When viewed from this perspective, vendors who provide a configurable solution (as opposed to a customizable one) are able to provide a more stable product that evolves more quickly, and that is more affordable.

Myth 5: The cloud is just a fad

Some believe that the excitement surrounding cloud technologies will eventually fade. However, the facts simply don’t support this belief. Global spending on cloud technologies will exceed $131 Billion in 2013 according to Gartner (http://www.gartner.com/newsroom/id/2352816), and will continue to grow as more individuals and businesses adopt these technologies. The technology has already touched every aspect of our personal and professional lives, allowing us to get the information we need whenever we need it. Failing to embrace these technologies now means falling behind competitively.