There are a number of advantages and drawbacks to both local computing (the traditional computing model you are familiar with, which is using your local office computers) and to cloud computing. Depending on your needs and concerns, you may take the pros and cons into account when deciding whether to move your applications and data to the cloud.

Pros and Cons of local computing

Pros:

  • Access to the computer is fast and easy.

  • Users feel more comfortable having their data and processing on-premises — it removes safety and data ownership concerns. But: is this justified? Security measures for example are not necessarily better on-premises than at the cloud provider’s data center.

Cons:

  • Cost: Need to invest in facilities and maintenance.

  • Limited Access: Access to existing facilities may be limited and on high demand.

Pros and Cons of cloud computing

Pros:

  • Cost: Cloud computing can be viewed as pay-as-you-go computing: You pay only when you need the service (NeCTAR services are even free to you). This is usually much cheaper than building and maintaining an on-premises physical server farm.
    Shifting large infrastructure spendings to an operational expense has many advantages, including
    • almost unlimited storage

    • instant availability and

    • the ability to scale up (and down) rapidly.

    While NeCTAR services are free to you, but you must request an allocation of a certain amount of maximum resources you will be using.

  • Individual setup: Users can configure their own server (e.g. choose the operating system and install software) and run it in a cloud whenever they need the computational resources.

  • Access independence: via the Internet, cloud computing can be done from anywhere (office, home, on conference travel, business trips etc) and with a variety of devices (laptop, smart phone, tablet..). There is no need to install (and maintain) the research applications on each device.

  • Large computing capacity can be accessed quickly, and only for the time you need it.

  • “Elasticity” (Flexibility and scalability): Typically, a cloud consists of a dynamically assigned group of virtual machines that can scale up quickly at your request. This gives the users the ability to scale up or scale down technological infrastructure resources as required at the time.

  • Resource sharing is possible across many users. Multiple users can work on the same data simultaneously, which avoids having to wait for it to be emailed.

  • Security is often as good as or better than other traditional systems (more about this later). This is often mistakenly perceived as believed to be a risk of cloud computing.

  • Saving electricity through shared infrastructure. This does not only save costs, it is good for the environment!

Cons:

  • Requires the Internet to access. If the Internet drops out, you lose access. However your services (e.g. your data analysis) will still be running—you just cannot access it.

  • Indirect access control: The ISPs, telecommunication and media companies control your access. Putting your faith in the cloud means you’re also putting all your faith in continued, uninterrupted access. ISPs may even charge more for higher bandwidth demands.

  • Service outage: When there are problems at the cloud service provider, it can take out all your services. However usually such outages are for just hours.

  • Concerns about ownership: Who owns the data you store online: you, or the company storing it? There is also a difference between data which is uploaded, and the data created in the cloud itself (providers could have stronger claims on the latter). Policies of cloud providers vary. NeCTAR never lays any claim on any of your data!

  • Service charge is based upon usage, which may come at a significant cost with some cloud providers. However NeCTAR services are free to you as an Australian Researcher.