Cloud Computing: Risks vs Benefits – Part 1
“There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics.”
- Mark Twain (1835-1910), noted American author and humorist.
By quoting the most famous American author on how statistics are often used to bolster unreasonable arguments, I may have showed my hand prematurely, but here are a few figures that do give one cause for thought: on the average, over the last decade more than 40,000 people have been killed annually in automobile accidents in the United States. Now, this may give the impression that road travel is dangerous, and, if compared walking, it is. However, when comparing these two, one should consider both the risks and benefits. Ever tried walking the ten miles to your office you commute in your car? The obvious case of benefits of automobiles outweighing the risks becomes clearly evident.
The same is true for airplane travel. Accidents do occur; however, compare to the thousands of flights taking off and landing daily, these accidents are in a minority, and a very miniscule minority at that. Cloud computing is just like that – enormous advantages accompanied by some risks. If this analogy brings a sense of déjà vu to our readers, it’s not without reason; this topic had been explored in an earlier article four months ago (See: The Similarities between Airplane Travel and Cloud Computing). And the similarities don’t end there.
When air travel started, it was obviously a dangerous way to travel. However, over the years, as technologies advanced and knowledge was gained, air travel became progressively safer to emerge as the most popular way to travel. The reasons are obvious – maximum distance covered in minimum time. The enormous savings in time, coupled with the comfort, has prompted many to pay a premium over travel by car or train. Even the safety concerns have been addressed – statistically (for those who have an affinity for these things), air travel is the safest mode of travel. In fact, researchers believe, Al Qaeda may have contributed to more American deaths by discouraging air travel post-911 than they inflicted in the Twin Towers attack.
Cloud computing stands where the airplane stood several decades ago – a technology with infinite potential but some obvious drawbacks. Cloud computing, in spite of the buzz around it, is relatively young and obviously, prone to teething problems. There’s no denying problems exist, especially on the issue of security (See: What Effect Will the Epsilon Data Theft have on Cloud Computing?); the vagueness of cloud computing contracts (See: The Small Print in Cloud Computing Contracts ) and lack of standards do not help (See: Cloud Computing Standards: How Important Are They? ), neither do actions of some service providers (See: Are Cloud Computing Service Providers Shirking Responsibility On Security?).
However, when compared to the immense potential of the technology in terms of benefits (See: Which Cloud Computing Quality Works For You? ), these problems seem minor. Especially, since as time progresses, the benefits are expected to grow and the problems, reduce. Just to put it in perspective: if you found a stock that had a 90% probability of 50% returns annually and only a 5% probability of losing its value, wouldn’t you buy it? Ok, now suppose that for every year you hold the stock, the probabilities of success and failure increase and decrease by a percentage respectively, what will be your answer then?
The answer is obvious. In the second and concluding part of this article, I will explore this issue in light of some recent events.
By Sourya Biswas