Cloud Computing: Just Pie in the Sky or a Practical Tool for Publishers?
Cloud computing is among the latest "hot" new trends in the online space. In essence, cloud computing is viewing the Internet as one large, reliable and secure computer system, capable of provisioning virtually every online service that's available in the world today, and having the capacity to do it on behalf of millions of simultaneous users. But for many magazine publishers, the "cloud" is still a mystery.
In an exclusive interview with Publishing Executive Inbox, Dave Rice, co-founder and CEO of True Cloud, a Scottsdale, Ariz.-based provider of cloud computing solutions for emerging and mid-sized businesses, shed some light on how magazine publishers can benefit from cloud computing.
INBOX: What challenges are involved for magazine publishers that want to set up cloud computing systems?
DAVE RICE: The thing to remember about cloud solutions is that they demystify to a large extent traditional forms of IT. Magazine publishers, like any other form of business, will benefit first and foremost by redeploying their existing workloads into the cloud, relying on professionals to worry about the issues of underlying infrastructure, day-to-day management, reliability, uptime and so forth.
It's more encompassing than traditional IT hosting or outsourcing, however, because it includes a software component as well, which can be included in the service and doesn't have to be purchased or maintained by a business. All of these capabilities can be offered on a pay-as-you-go model, which eliminates the large capital up-front investment that business owners hate. Plus, a company can grow without limits simply by acquiring more licenses. It's much closer to a consumption model like phones or electricity, where you pay for what you use.
Moving forward, businesses and consumers alike will be far less concerned about where information, systems and processes actually reside since all of that can be offered up in a virtual fashion. All you'll need is an Internet-connected computer with a browser. The focus will be how to use the information, as opposed to a particular device or infrastructure.
INBOX: Do you know of any magazine publishers who are using cloud computing? Who are they and in what ways are they using it?
RICE: These are early days when it comes to specific applications, but the most noteworthy venture I'm aware of is the recent joint announcement -- only about two weeks old now -- from HP and the consumer publishing platform vendor Wikia for a cloud-based service product called "MagCloud," which purports to automate the entire magazine publishing supply chain.
INBOX: What cost savings, revenue gains, etc. can publishers realize from setting up cloud computing systems?
RICE: For businesses that have entirely adopted cloud-based solutions to run their company, we're seeing upwards of 40-percent savings over traditional, on-premises IT solutions, when considered from a total cost of ownership model. We think it'll be much more than that as companies begin to measure some of the intangible benefits like people resource consumption that was required in the old paradigm.
INBOX: Will publishers have personal relationships with the companies that manage the clouds, allowing them to frequently edit the documents they've stored on the cloud?
RICE: A publishing company would simply access the software and its associated artifacts much the same as they do today, except they'd do it by way of the big computer in the cloud. What they'd need is an Internet-connected computer and a browser. The service would also be ubiquitous, so decentralized workforces would also be prominent in this model. This is a very simplified illustration, but no, I don't think accessibility to data or security will be much of a concern for publishers.
INBOX: How does cloud computing address the security concerns of publishers?
RICE: Security is all-encompassing and takes lots of different forms. The perspective I'd offer is that there's safety in numbers. All of the prominent cloud-based solution providers have instituted advanced data security technologies throughout their operations, including authentication for password protection access, SSL 128-bit encryption, timed log-offs for session termination when no user activity is present, industrial grade firewall protection to deny unauthorized connections and, of course, data backup regimens stored in off-site facilities.
From a physical security perspective, providers house their operations in Fortune 100 class data centers with 24/7, 365-days-a-year staffing on-site, state-of-the-art server farms with redundant capability, access control, surveillance, multiple telecom lines and carriers, backup power generation and UPS, smoke detection and fire control, along with network redundancy.
Cloud-based providers will exist solely for the purpose of providing these utility services, much like the electric company. The Googles, Amazons, Salesforce.coms and NetSuites wouldn't be around very long if they couldn't provide these services reliably and affordably on behalf of thousands of customers.
Very few businesses, and I suspect this includes magazine publishers, can afford to continuously keep up with the investment and competence required to advance in the areas of world-class IT security and reliability when it comes to the care and feeding of their systems.