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Adventure into the Cloud

17 February 2016

By Ashley Newton

Moving to the cloud

Among other tech buzz phrases, “Moving to the cloud” is now a widespread practice both in the workplace and at home. As Yotta’s in-house Technical Author, I recently had the chance to shop around for new help authoring tools, and decided to transition to a cloud-based software.

When I first discovered a cloud-based help authoring software, my mind raced with questions: is the data secure? What happens if I get locked out of my account? And is moving to the cloud green?

Since at Yotta we host our Horizons software in the cloud, I realised that our customers may have the same questions about cloud computing. I decided to talk to our developers and look for answers to the question: why should we move to the cloud?

What is cloud computing?

In brief, cloud computing means using applications and services remotely (through network access), rather than locally (on your device). According to the United States National Institute of Standards and Technology, cloud computing has five essential characteristics[1]:

  • On-demand self-service: automated for access anytime
  • Broad network access: accessible on multiple devices
  • Resource pooling: built to handle multiple users and demands
  • Rapid elasticity: expands and contracts to match consumer demand
  • Measured service: automatically tracks activity and enforces user access permissions

Why do so many teams shift to the cloud?

Cloud applications let you sync between multiple devices and users. You can instantly share documents with your team using storage applications like Google Drive or Dropbox, and manage projects remotely with tools like Trello.

Moving to the cloud can save you storage space and offer peace of mind. Most cloud software runs its own updates, so you don’t need to install them to your local disk. Cloud storage also offers protection from data loss.

With so many incentives to move to the cloud, I still had a few concerns. I talked to our developers at Yotta to learn about best practices when it comes to cloud-based software.

Is data secure in the cloud?

To protect data, the cloud-based service should have a Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) certificate to encrypt data[2], so look for “HTTPS” in the provider’s URL. The service provider should conduct security audits and penetration tests regularly to detect and repair any vulnerabilities. In many cases, the cloud-based software provider may practice stricter security measures than the consumer.

Can I risk losing access to my data?

Whether you get locked out of your cloud software account, or your desktop’s hard drive gets damaged, you can’t completely eliminate the risk of data loss. Basically, if you want best results, you’re responsible for backing up your own data regularly (in multiple locations), regardless of where your software is hosted.

Is moving to the cloud green?

It depends on the data centre where the software is hosted. Amazon web services (AWS) states that “a typical on-premises data centre is 29% less efficient in their use of power compared to a typical large-scale cloud provider that uses world-class facility designs, cooling systems, and workload-optimized equipment”[3].

Since large data centres have the funds to invest in energy-efficient hardware, opting for off-site hosting could actually reduce your environmental impact. And let’s not forget that with cloud-based software, employees have more flexibility to work remotely and commute less often, further reducing carbon emissions.

After weighing the options, I decided to move to the cloud for my help authoring software. With so many convenient and innovative, cloud-based services on the rise, you very well may move to the cloud soon too.

[1] http://faculty.winthrop.edu/domanm/csci411/Handouts/NIST.pdf

[2] https://www.sslshopper.com/what-is-ssl.html

[3] https://aws.amazon.com/about-aws/sustainability/

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