Ensuring the safety and security of your business
Cloud-computing infrastructure mostly consists of reliable services delivered through next-generation data centers that are built on computational and storage-virtualization technologies. The services are accessible anywhere in the world, with The Cloud appearing as a single point of access for all the computing needs of consumers. On the surface this sounds like it could be a security nightmare. Logically, commercial offerings need to meet the quality of service requirements customers demand and typically offer service-level agreements and specific security guarantees. The use of Open Standards and Open Source software (like Linux, PHP, MySQL, Joomla, and so forth) helps and also is critical to the growth of cloud computing.
Customers in cloud computing generally do not own the infrastructure; they merely access or rent. They don’t need to make capital expenditures that consume resources. Instead, they pay as they use the service. Many cloud-computing offerings have adopted the utility model, which is analogous to how a traditional electrical utility charges for electrical usage. In this case, there may be a basic monthly charge with additional use or utilization fees based on consumption. Other SaaS companies bill strictly on a subscription basis. By sharing computing power between multiple tenants, utilization rates can be improved (as idle servers are utilized), which is one of the main ways of reducing power, capitalization, and utilization costs.
Another advantage of the SaaS model is the speed of application development. Tremendous savings come from not having to deal with packaging, distribution, channel costs, advertising, commissions, and the associated technical support of a major version release. A side effect of this approach is that computer capacity rises as customers no longer have to manage the engineering side of the IT equation or deal with the extensive training and implementation of a new release.
The increasing availability of high-speed bandwidth also has increased the adoption of cloud computing. Users can experience the same response times from the centralized infrastructures at remote locations as they now have over their own networks. Development of new data-transfer protocols will only increase this bandwidth capacity.
Remote soft proofing, which is gaining in popularity in our industry, is a perfect example of SaaS, as it relates to a specific problem we face: getting creators, content providers, and production all on the same page visually. Not only does this kind of collaborative capability speed the production process up, but it also lowers overall costs for all parties involved. Remote soft proofing via SaaS will grow in importance for us as we continue to see digital and variable-data imaging drive the average order size down.
The biggest single objection to SaaS and cloud computing is also one of its strengths—that is, having to go outside your controlled environment to get your service or data. In today’s hacker/virus-plagued world, safeguards provided by your vendor are critical to the ongoing viability of your important content, intellectual property, customer data, and business information.
A close look at the overall state of the software and Web communities reveals that we’ll see more and more of these Web-deployed services. As transportation and energy costs continue to burden us, services like Webinars, video teleconferencing, and teleseminars will increase. Likewise, the rise of mobile computing with smart devices like Apple’s iPhone, the RIM Blackerry, and similar Web-enabled smart devices will further the convergence in this area. As long as we can connect to the Web, we’ll be able to conduct business from anywhere at anytime.
Mark A. Coudray is president of Coudray Graphic Technologies, San Luis Obispo, CA. He has served as a director of the Specialty Graphic Imaging Association Int'l (SGIA) and as chairman of the Academy of Screenprinting Technology. Coudray has authored more than 250 papers and articles over the last 20 years, and he received the SGIA's Swormstedt Award in 1992 and 1994. He can be reached via e-mail at email@example.com.
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