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“Cloud computing will revolutionise the delivery of IT, with the cost of certain services being drastically reduced”

managed desktops – where they promise to run everything virtually, and charge the princely sum of £100 a month. To Loane, this is a perfect example of the ‘smoke and mirrors’ being practiced by some providers – not least in the Channel Islands. “Who do you think is putting the requisite effort into building the cloud?” he asks. “Microsoft has a $9.5bn budget for R&D, whereas the £100 desktop is a localised system created by outfits without the resources to invest in things like security, back-up and proper service level agreements. It’s a very, very bad idea.”

The cloud is going the way of the electricity grid in 1920s America.

One-man bands sprang up everywhere to supply power to small areas. When supplies were eventually standardised under a few big providers, users got the same power for less, and those small vendors disappeared. That’s not so bad when data’s not involved. But it’s likely that many cloud providers will go bust, and the lack of set standards could have dire consequences for companies trying to retrieve their invaluable data.

Staying safe Even before that, there’s the sticky issue of security. “There are understandable concerns about putting your company’s crown jewels onto an infrastructure that is accessed by the public and potentially your

competitors,” says Tim Bullock, Chairman of BCS Jersey. “Very strong security and policies can segregate different client environments, but it is a concern that will be a difficult one to overcome.” While opportunistic vendors could crop up anywhere, the sensitive nature of some Channel Islands’ business makes the area a captive market. Thanks to the legal and reputational risks of unintended disclosure, if a Channel Islands company wants to use the cloud, they’ll have to use a local host. Luckily there are reputable firms here too. Foreshore and Jersey Telecom have, says Loane, got the right approach, offering a monthly pay system for IaaS, a natural extension of their existing commitment to hosting clients’ hardware. Other users can’t get at your data, it’s stored locally, and they’ve invested millions in the correct systems. “Security is a prime concern of ours,” says James Hampson, Head of Business Solutions at Jersey Telecom Group. “Our patented process is stringent and robust. Companies can’t just turn up with their credit card and get access to our cloud. We take three months analysing and auditing everything that’s happening on their network first.” The Group has wisely chosen to partner a company with strong cloud credentials – Virtustream is an American cloud start-up that’s attracted investment from heavy-hitters like Intel.

What is the cloud?

IF YOU find the cloud concept somewhat fluffy, you’re not alone. Even Microsoft’s CEO Steve Ballmer isn’t above asking: “What the heck is the cloud?” The National Institute of Standards and Technology lists several ‘Essential Characteristics’ in its definition of the cloud – it’s an on-demand self-service, involving broad network access and the pooling of resources. You can scale it up and down as you want, and you pay for what you need when you need it. There are, however, different ‘service models’. With Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) and Platform as a Service (PaaS), a service provider rents out space on their infrastructure, so you don’t need a cupboard full of computer kit in your office. With IaaS, the host stores your hardware on their racks; with PaaS, the provider handles more – including database management and security. Software as a Service (SaaS) has emerged more recently. Here the provider hosts virtual software applications and licenses them out to users. Much like Facebook, you don’t need to install anything – you just access the application ‘in the cloud’. Finally there are four ‘deployment models’ – private cloud, which is more costly but more secure as the data is accessible by only one organisation; community cloud, used by a group with similar requirements; public cloud, accessible to many, with some risk that data could be accessed by undesirables; or hybrid, a combination of all the above. Most experts favour the hybrid model – putting harmless data up in a public cloud, while keeping sensitive data safe in-house or with well-regarded local IaaS providers. Thus making your cloud concrete.

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