Business Intelligence Blog from arcplan
14Jul/110

Is Cloud BI Worth It?

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In my last post on this subject, I talked about the benefits of cloud computing, especially when it comes to deploying BI in the cloud. The advantages are numerous, but there are also drawbacks that need to be considered before responsibly moving forward. Here are some of the arguments we hear about from our customers and how business intelligence providers have already thought of ways to curb them:

Data security. Security is a concern for IT and business professionals alike. Since your business performance data is stored externally in a cloud model, data management and protection is in the hands of the provider – not your IT department. For regulated environments such as the pharmaceutical, healthcare and financial services industries however, data security is paramount and their information may never be stored off-site. However, it's still possible to deploy your BI in the cloud even if your data needs to be stored on the premises. It simply involves storing your data on-site behind firewalls and running your queries and reports over the web in a browser. Your data never leaves the premises so you maintain your own data security, but you still benefit from less hardware costs and time saved from not having to install the BI software on every machine or mobile device. It's a win-win. You can learn more about this particular style of deploying cloud BI in our webinar, A Roadmap for BI Cloud Computing, which is available as a recording here.

Data backup. Though it's a cost-saving measure to dump your backup servers, having your backup and storage off-site can keep you up at night. If your company is dependent on the cloud provider's backup and redundancy services to preserve data if any issues arise, you better hope you chose your vendor wisely :-). No seriously, the method we just touched on where data is actually stored on the premises is a compromise that can alleviate this issue.

Troubleshooting is out of your control. Again, since you are at the mercy of your service provider, issues are resolved by the provider and not your IT department. Google's 2009 Gmail outage comes to mind, an incident that resulted in the inability for individuals and businesses to access their email for nearly 2 hours. While the issue was being resolved, Google admins scoured through their data centers to find the most recent functioning data set. Users worldwide were completely reliant on the service provider to make the fix and just had to wait it out. What this tells us is that disruptions in cloud service can potentially be disastrous and widespread. And for the business user who has his or her IT guru on speed dial, the sad news is that he/she won't be able to get any answers faster than you can. The cloud isn't foolproof, but because outages like this one are so uncommon, they shouldn't stop you from what otherwise seems like a good idea.

Thankfully in this era of early adoption, the cloud is not an all-or-nothing deal. Your company may choose to implement one or a carefully selected combination of cloud services, according to your needs and level of comfort. Though the concerns of cloud computing services are valid, business users may find web-hosted applications useful and convenient, especially for business intelligence applications. Traditionally massive deployments can be scaled down to just weeks, million-dollar quotes can be brought down to thousands, and data can get into the hands of people who really need it no matter where they are or what device they're using.

Are you thinking of deploying your BI in the cloud or have you done it already? What services have you chosen to keep in-house and which ones have you moved off-site?

Michael Dieterle

About Michael Dieterle

I'm the VP of Knowledge Management at arcplan. I've been at the company almost 10 years and though I'm from Germany (where arcplan's headquarters are located), I work out of our Pennsylvania office. You can follow me on Twitter: @arccommunity.
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