An event sponsored by the Information Technology Association of Canada (ITAC) about cloud computing and Microsoft’s release of the Azure Services Platform has got me thinking about how the cloud could potentially affect our industry. The value proposition (promise) of the cloud sounds appealing – pay only for what you use, unlimited capacity for peak loads, reduced capital and maintenance costs of running your own server farms, etc. These would be valuable for server-based CPU-intensive applications such as high volume conversion of documents to PDF and using OCR to convert images to PDF.

What are the potential drawbacks? Fear? Many of our customers are in industries such as Life Sciences, Legal, and Financial Services that are justifiably sensitive about the security of information in their documents. I suspect that any business person would feel anxious about transmitting documents outside the “safe” confines of their network into what appears to be a publicly accessible cloud.

Should we be scared? A few years ago, wireless networks seemed to be a risky venture and we (especially the IT group) were worried that malicious hackers and industrial spies would park near the office and tap into our systems. Now, wireless networks are the norm at work and we happily sip a cup of java while getting work done over the wireless network in the local coffee shop. Most of us at Adlib Software only use the wireless network at the office. Can the cloud be less risky than the current day to day exposure of our business information? A recent study about laptop security from the Ponemon Institute sponsored by Dell reported that over 12,000 laptops per week go missing in airports in the U.S., many of these containing customer, business confidential, intellectual property, and personal information. It will probably be just a matter of time before we build up enough trust in the cloud to start taking advantage of it.

I’m sure that cloud computing will have its place in our business, sooner rather than later.