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OPINION: Send in the clouds

Those who have tended to dismiss the cloud as another fad are waking up to its reliability, says Chris Bailey, CEO and co-founder of Unlimi-Tech/FileCatalyst

Cloud computing enables organisations to scale up their IT infrastructure without shovelling cash into a big iron IT oven. The cloud enables you to store and access programmes and files over the internet rather than real estate-hogging racks that hold row upon row of local storage devices. The cloud approach has numerous benefits, but some in our industry are still resisting the idea of using the cloud for file transfer.

However, that’s changing, rapidly. There are real, quantifiable advantages over more traditional approaches using proprietary hardware, and FileCatalyst has been at the forefront of implementing those advantages.

One advantage is accessibility. Data and computing resources can be accessed from anywhere through the internet or a private network. And not only is the cloud upwardly scalable, it’s equally elastic, which means it can be used to the specific degree necessary to meet each user’s needs, which relieves substantial pressure on existing internal IT infrastructures.

Computing power can also be shared without compromising security, which leads into one of the most common questions regarding the use of the cloud: ‘Is my data safe?’

Consider this. Banks, online retailers, government agencies and many others have used the cloud for years, safely and securely. The broadcasting industry is only now catching up. The cloud is at least as secure — in practicality far more secure — than locally stored data, provided the proper security measures are taken. You just need to be diligent about security when making choices about the types of cloud services you use to store and transfer data.

Many businesses use Amazon’s Simple Storage Service (S3), currently considered the market leader. S3 provides everything I’ve mentioned in terms of high bandwidth data access, scalability, durability, and redundancy. Additionally, many vendors support S3 with their SaaS offerings, so moving data to S3 allows users to leverage these services, and since they are pay per use, users can do so without any capital expense.

However, file transfers into S3 can be slow because of inherent latency issues. By using highly specialised software such as FileCatalyst, which was specifically designed to move bulk data as quickly as possible, users can transfer data into S3 many times faster than the tools provided by Amazon or other third-parties. Not only does this enable FileCatalyst users to get data into the cloud in a fraction of the time, it also provides tools to automate the process.

So, assuming you’re in this business to serve your customers and make a profit, you need cloud computing to reach modern consumers who demand the freedom and flexibility to view content on whatever device they choose, from anywhere. It’s not a question of what device they prefer, it’s a question of what device is in front of them right now. If you want to ensure your content is on that device, get it in the cloud, fast.