Disadvantages of Cloud Computing: the pros and cons.

If you want to deliver digital services of any kind, you’ll need compute resources: CPU, memory, storage, and network connectivity. Which resources you choose for your delivery, cloud-based or local, is up to you. But you’ll definitely want to do your homework first.

Cloud computing has certainly benefited many enterprises by reducing costs and allowing them to concentrate on their core business competence rather than IT and infrastructure issues. But, for all the generally well-earned hype, there are still distinct disadvantages of Cloud Computing – especially relating to smaller operations – that you should consider before taking the leap. In this post, I’ll try to offer some key concerns along with strategies for addressing them.

The six main disadvantages of Cloud Computing:

1) Downtime

This may be one of the worst disadvantages of cloud computing. No cloud provider, even the very best, would claim immunity to service outages. Cloud computing systems are internet based, which means your access is fully dependent on your Internet connection. And, like any hardware, cloud platforms themselves can fail for any one of a thousand reasons.

Can your business absorb a prolonged bout of frequent outages or slowdowns? And don’t think it doesn’t happen. 2014 saw more than a few incidents where service providers like DropBox faced an outage for as long as two days. Consider these two key points:

      • Which of your business processes can be delayed or halted if the service provider goes down?
      • When your internet connection is down, all your applications drop offline.

Best Practices for minimizing planned downtime in an SAP environment:

      Demand a service level agreement (SLA) from your provider guaranteeing uptimes in excess of 99.55% (which equals 1.83 days of downtime a year, or 3.60 hours of downtime a month).

2) Cloud Computing disadvantages: security and privacy

Any discussion involving data must address security and privacy, especially when it comes to managing sensitive data. We mustn’t forget Code Space and what happened to it after its AWS EC2 console was hacked and its data eventually deleted, forcing the company to close doors forever. By leveraging a remote cloud based infrastructure, a company basically outsources everything it has.

Of course, your cloud service provider is expected to manage and safeguard the underlying hardware infrastructure of a deployment, however remote access is your responsibility and, in any case, no system is perfectly secure. You’ll have to carefully weigh all the risk scenarios.

After the recent leaks of celebrity pictures and countless millions of user login credentials, the privacy of your cloud-based data is another consideration. How much can you trust your provider? Can you face this, which is one of the riskiest disadvantages of cloud computing?

Best practices for minimizing security and privacy risks:

      • Know who is supposed to have access to each resource and service
      • Limit data access based on user context
      • Take a risk-based approach to securing assets used in the cloud
      • Extend security to the device
      • Add intelligence to network protection
      • Build in the ability to see through the cloud

3) Cloud Computing disadvantages: vulnerability to attack

In cloud computing, every component is potentially accessible from the Internet. Of course, nothing connected to the Internet is perfectly secure and even the best teams suffer severe attacks and security breeches. But since cloud computing is built as a public service and it’s easy to run before you learn to walk. No one at AWS checks your administration skills before granting you an account: all it takes to get started is a valid credit card.

Best practices to help you reduce cloud attacks:

      • Identify threats by correlating real-time alerts with global security intelligence
      • Proactively protect information
      • Automate security through IT compliance controls
      • Prevent data exfiltration
      • Integrate prevention and response strategies into security operations
      • Discover rogue projects with audits
      • Authenticate identities

These practices will help your organization to monitor for the exposure and movement of critical data, defend crucial systems from attack and compromise, and authenticate access to infrastructure and data. And they keep away you from further risks and disadvantages of cloud computing.

4) Limited control and flexibility

To varying degrees (depending on the particular service) cloud users have limited control over the function and execution of their hosting infrastructure. Cloud provider EULAs and management policies might impose limits on what customers can do with their deployments. Customers are also limited to the control and management of their applications, data, and services, but not the backend infrastructure. Of course, none of this will normally be a problem, but it should be taken into account.

5) Cloud Computing platform dependencies

Implicit dependency, also known as “vendor lock-in” is another of the disadvantages of cloud computing. Deep-rooted differences between vendor systems can sometimes make it impossible to migrate from one cloud platform to another. Not only can it be complex and expensive to reconfigure your applications to meet the requirements of a new host, but migration could also expose your data to additional security and privacy vulnerabilities.

Best Practices to decrease dependency:

Properly understanding what your vendors are selling can help avoid lock-in problems in the cloud. In fact, under the hood, many vendors use the same open source components, building proprietary solutions from their own unique recipes. Knowing what’s really going on and planning ahead can make a big difference.

6) Cloud Computing costs

disadvantages of cloud computing image

Cloud computing – especially on a small scale and for short term projects – can be pricey. Though it can allow you to reduce staff and hardware costs, the overall price tag could end up higher than you expected. Until you’re sure of what will work best for you, it’s a good idea to experiment with a variety of offerings. You might also make use of the cost calculators made available by providers like Amazon’s AWS and Google’s GCP.

Best practices to reduce costs:

  • Scale DOWN as well as UP
  • Pre-pay if you have a known minimum usage
  • Stop your Instances when unused!
  • Watch out for waste – Cloud Sprawl
  • Set Smart Alerts
  • Cost is a proxy for Usage

Disadvantages of cloud computing: conclusion

Even with all of the above disadvantages of Cloud Computing , the environment has immense potential for many business models. As platforms mature and the economies of scale continue to grow, costs will continue to fall and reliability and security standards will improve. Expect more of the same, but never fail to do your research and planning.

  • 1) Downtime => Disagree completely. What are you comparing this to? On-premise or private environments? these suffer from extended downtime too! I believe that if architected it correctly,cloud “solves” the problem with extended downtime, e.g. multi-az and multi-region deployments.

    2) Cloud security and privacy => Again disagree. In 2015 we see a trend of customers moving to public cloud to “enhance” their security posture. With the available controls around auditing (Cloudtrail), AAA (IAM and AD Premium), encryption (AWS KMS) and network isolation (VPC) services; and indeed the right architecture there is strong argument to suggest cloud deployment has the advantage over on-prem deployment when it comes to security.

    3) Vulnerability to attack => unfortunately I also disagree. This is related to the point above, but just being in the cloud doesn’t mean you are fundamentally more vulnerable.

    4) Limited control and flexibility => Really!!! There might be some edge cases where having a service hosted in cloud might not be very flexible. However for the most part and especially in the case of the big players, AWS and Azure and IaaS in particular, you get more control and flexibility than on-prem. In fact flexibility is one of the cloud benefits.

    5) Platform dependencies => This is true, to get the most of any of the cloud providers you have to accept the small risk of some vendor lock-in e.g. AWS cloudformation is wonderful but locks you in. Having said that over the last few years there is a trend of some cross vendor compatibility becoming available, e.g. GCE cloud storage is compatible with AWS S3.

    6) Cost => I disagree with the blanket statement that cost of cloud is a disadvantage, it depends on many things such as the workload, its architecture and indeed as you mentioned the size. Yes, there might be some cases where hosting an application in the cloud might be more expensive, but from my experience this is the exception rather than the norm.

    Hatim Abdalla
    Cloud Architect

    • David Clinton

      I would agree with a lot of what Hatim wrote: the big cloud platforms do
      provide the infrastructure to deploy secure and reliable applications
      and locally hosted apps obviously do sometimes experience melt downs.
      However I believe that the original post was focusing more on
      *potential* risks, which include mistakes made by inexperienced admins
      and connectivity issues (comparing, for instance, locally hosted vs
      cloud-hosted *internal* services).
      And cost is very often a factor:
      there are many use scenarios where a long-term cost/benefit analysis
      will skew away from choosing the cloud.

    • leonardo federico

      Hi Hatim,

      Thank you for your comment.

      Interesting discussion on Reddit about this post. Would you join?


    • David Kelertas

      i’d also like to agree and add a further comment on security, and that is physical security. AWS Cloud does this better than on premise as they have far greater physical seperation. Our CFO can’t just demand that our sysadmin lets him into the server room – or worse, have the code to get in the door.

    • xavy

      Hi Hatim,

      Few questions i have in my mind, if possible can you please answer it.

      1. While copying an AMI from one Region to another Region, how Cloud provide the Security ?
      2. Why Banking Sector are not preferring to move in Cloud ?
      3. If two VPC will have same IP then what will happen while peering connection ?
      4. Why there is no any facility to recover the data in Cloud once it lost ?

  • Mike

    This is a very interesting article and definitely open for a LOT of discussions, sometimes too long to even finish… But I like some comments in the article, because they are valid ones.
    Wish you wouldn’t have opened up this can of worms asking for my comments (lol) ;-)
    But since you did, I’ll give you my SOLE personal opinion based on what I’ve experienced…

    * Downtime

    Not saying that downtime for Cloud will never happen, but On-Premise can sometimes take longer to re-establish SLA than Cloud. I’ve been on the receiving end helping customers get servers On-Premise back online and depending on the complexity have taken anywhere from days, weeks and up to months. So overall, downtime of Cloud to me compared to On-Premise is not a disadvantage.

    * Cloud Security and Privacy

    This to me is also is not a disadvantage or concern IMHO, because to quote Mark Jeffrey who posted the following in a different group:

    “Public cloud providers (at least the good ones) have standing armies of security experts working around the clock to keep their systems secure, something that most enterprises have zero chance of having.”

    Of course there are always going to be hackers trying to penetrate Cloud providers, but good providers should have plenty of resources (people) to handle it better than your average Enterprise customers or small & medium businesses.

    * Vulnerability to attack

    Goes hand in hand with #2 above.

    * Limited control and flexibility

    Agree with you on this point. But if customers want control and flexibility, then they’re going to need enough resources ($$$$$) so they can stand-up either a Hybrid or Private Cloud and a LOT more resources ($$$$$) to maintain it.

    * Platform dependencies

    IMHO, I can only see this as a slight disadvantage. Because most Public cloud providers (at least the good ones) have all flavors of platform operating systems. So I can see if there are no migration paths, that this could be a disadvantage. Because you would have to reconfigure everything from scratch manually, to replicate what you have with the old Cloud provider to be identical (or close) on the new Cloud provider.

    Even though I’ve seen very few ways to migrate from one Cloud provider to another, this is why I can this as a slight disadvantage. Because of all the manual steps if there’s no migration paths, steps or training which could be costly.


    * Cost

    I can see the Cost factor being pricey as you say for small scale and short term projects. But from seeing how Enterprise customers are cutting/slashing budgets, you might find that C level management will have a very hard time justifying close to $1M or more on long term ROI for hardware, implementation and maintenance of Private Clouds.

    WHEW!!! I think I’ve said enough expressing MY opinion on this topic…. ;-)

  • Luke Lonergan

    Cloud computing systems are internet based, which means your access is fully dependent on your Internet connection. Luke Lonergan

    • Paul Johny

      You seriously think the encryption cant be broken..??