Cloud computing has become quite the buzzword in the IT world. Whether you prefer to use the term cloud services, cloud hosting, cloud computing, or whatever … you need to be aware of the challenges and what you're getting into before you jump right into it.
Security always appears top of the list, coupled with what I interpret as confusion over how and what is needed to make best use of the cloud. So in short, for me, a lack of understanding remains the challenge. Whilst security is critical, I feel the need to provide some counter points.
Any computer connected to the Internet is at risk from hackers, whether it is in the cloud or in a private data center. Would it be true to say that an SME, with necessarily limited resources, is able to better secure its data than say Amazon? In addition, who says everything needs to be in the cloud? Adopting a cloud computing strategy is not an 'all or nothing' decision. Data can remain within a data center or on promise, while applications that need to access such data can be based in the cloud. That's the whole principle behind the different cloud types – private, public or hybrid.
I think that anyone considering a move to the cloud needs to carefully consider their motivations and objectives for doing so, and to question what data and workflows they and their customers will feel happy placing in the cloud. Most importantly, select a vendor that can accommodate your cloud migration strategy, now and in the future. The challenge in 2012 is not that of cloud computing, the challenge for cloud vendors or providers of Cloud 'services' is that they need to not only promote the benefits of their particular offering, but also educate the market on the benefits of cloud, full stop.
Another major challenge will be Bandwidth. It's probably the case that the majority of SME / Bs have 'plenty' of local network bandwidth with which to conduct their in-house operations / business, however, it's also probably the case that in their pipe (s) into the 'Cloud' and that could be an awkward bottleneck if you swallowed the cloud philosophy without adequate preparation – which, of course, you'd never do.
For the pessimists amongst you, please see Moore's Law and Nielson's Law, there's always Parkinson's Law, which reads: "Usage expends so as to fill all available bandwidth."