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Cloud Computing Pros and Cons for IT Professionals

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Cloud computing moves computing from the desktop and the network out into the "cloud." This change can provide many benefits to IT professionals - along with some concerns. Is cloud computing right for your organization? Michael Miller walks IT professionals through the pros and cons of cloud computing in today's business environment.

Long-time IT professionals have seen the industry evolve from the client/server model to the desktop model to the network model. The next evolution goes beyond the network into the cloud, in the form of cloud computing.

Cloud computing harnesses the power of thousands of individual servers and computers in remote data centers to provide computing power across the Internet to enterprises and individuals. While an IT department can utilize the almost limitless power presented by the cloud computing model, shifting in-house resources out into the cloud involves some risks.

Read on to learn the pros and cons of cloud computing for IT professionals.

On-Demand Computing: More Power, Less Investment

The needs of a typical IT department are simple: You must deliver adequate computing power and data storage to all users within the company. Of course, this must be done within a set budget, and there's the rub; meeting peak needs or adding capacity for new users can often send an IT budget soaring.

And here we come to the first and perhaps most significant benefit of cloud computing—the ability to provide more computing power at lower costs. This advantage is particularly apparent when managing peak computing loads. You see, it's not financially prudent for most companies to add capacity that will be used only a small percentage of the time. The IT department needs a way to increase capacity or add capabilities without investing in new servers and networking gear, or licensing new software. Cloud computing speaks to this need via on-demand computing technology.

As the name implies, on-demand computing packages computer resources (processing, storage, and so forth) as a metered service similar to that of a public utility. In this model, a company pays for as much or as little processing and storage as it needs. Companies that have large demand peaks followed by much lower normal usage periods particularly benefit from the on-demand aspect of cloud computing. The company pays more for peak usage, of course, but bills rapidly decline when the peak ends and normal usage patterns resume.

Clients of on-demand computing services essentially use these services as offsite virtual servers. Instead of investing in physical infrastructure, a company operates on a "pay as you go" plan with a cloud services provider. Instead of purchasing a new server, the IT staff just redirects the computing request out to the cloud. The servers that comprise the cloud have plenty of capacity to handle the organization's increased needs, without the IT staff having to spend a single dime on new hardware.

On-demand computing isn't a new concept, but it has acquired new life thanks to cloud computing. In previous years, on-demand computing was provided from a single server via some sort of time-sharing arrangement. Today, the service is based on large grids of computers operating as a single cloud.

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