A Balanced Assessment: Cloud Computing Pros and Cons

Cloud computing is a process whereby an individual uses the Internet by way of a cloud computing device (desktop, laptop, smartphones, tablets) for everyday use.

There are some significant cloud computing pros and cons, and you should know them before relying solely on cloud technology and storage (to the dismay of local internal memory storage and paper files).

The following list comprises the benefits of cloud computing:

  • universal access to documents and files
  •  no standing in long lines (long waiting period)
  •  Privilege to shop around for the most affordable price
  • Increased rental privileges
  •  Saves money
  • online video storage prevents additional home storage

Universal access to documents and files is one of the first benefits of cloud computing. If you are headed to the beach for a summer vacation getaway, and leave your book ideas behind in an executive journal on your desk at the office, you no longer have access to it while on vacation. When you rely on physical paper, books, and written documents, you are forced to pack them and take them with you when you plan to be out of the office or home.

When you rely on cloud computing, however, the documents and files that are most important to you can be accessed from anywhere. Even if you forget the physical journal, you can still go online and access your email, cloud storage accounts, and other local documents stored on your device.

Cloud computing takes the stress out of your life and allows you to relax when headed on a trip or small vacation.

Another cloud computing pro involves avoiding long waiting periods and no standing in long lines.

How many times have you gone to a local retail store to purchase a product and wished that you had just “ordered it online”?

Fortunately, there are some stores (like the local Apple Store in my local mall) that allow you to purchase and pay for a product standing at the store’s door (without crossing over to the register to pay) because there is a card swipe reader attached to the employee’s phone?

Apple has this neat event in its stores, but many stores still involve the traditional “walk, shop, and stand” mode whereby it takes thirty minutes to get through the line and even longer to shop for an item.

When you order an item online through Amazon’s or Apple’s checkout pages, for instance, you do not have to wait behind other individuals. Rather, you can order an item within seconds and purchase the item within minutes.

The same can be said with regard to representative chats. Let’s say that you find yourself in a store where there is only one representative (say, an employee at a phone carrier) and you have questions about purchasing a smartphone or tablet. If you visit the local store, you may have to wait for thirty minutes or so before the representative is free to talk.

In the local store, ringing up customers and getting purchases (i.e., money) is more important than answering customer’s questions.

Thus, your questions may not be answered in the short time you have. Thus, carriers and other stores have created online chat rooms where you can visit the site, select  “chat room” or “talk to representative,” and then type your question.

I have discussed prepaid phone plans with both T-Mobile and AT&T recently, and I got to talk to representatives for an entire hour (each) — asking all the questions I could muster. For the individual that is not familiar with phone plans (for instance), chat rooms grant you the freedom to take the time you need without being given a “rush and hush” kind of answer.

Another of the cloud computing pros consists of the privilege to shop around for the most affordable price. If you shop locally most of the time, you will know that the stores you trust often sell products for exorbitant prices.

Perhaps you think that the Microsoft Xbox you want to buy for your family is too expensive at the local GameStop; if you don’t like the price at the GameStop store, you can always go online to Amazon, EBay, Target, or some used game store where you can possibly find better prices. EBay is a great place to go to bid on items; my cousin uses EBay to purchase iPhone accessories and he usually finds that he can get 20 iPhone 5 cases for $8 (this is a true story).

With local stores, you may have a few in the area that raise their prices to make a profit. With online pricing, you have less to worry about because online prices tend to be cheaper than in-store items.

As a result of more competitive pricing, you can save money on a number of items. Kindle Books, for instance, are cheaper than paperbacks (often half the original price).

Increased rental privileges are a cloud computing pro worth cherishing. Before cloud computing became integrated into every aspect of daily living, rentals were based on a three-day period (some have now extended rental periods to seven days); if you wanted to rent a movie or video game, you had to return it within three days. You would pay for the rental (these were days before RedBox or Netflix) and would be forced to return it without possibly getting to see the movie — unless you decided to pay for additional days.

With cloud computing, you can now rent a movie on Amazon Instant Video (for example) and may have an entire month to watch the movie before Amazon removes it from your video library.

If you fall asleep on the movie or want to see it with friends a second or third time, you can plan a more flexible schedule to watch and rewatch the movie without fear of paying for days you do not experience.

Rental privileges also come with a financial aspect as well. For example, an in-store movie rental may cost anywhere from $5-$10 per movie; online, you can purchase 2 or 3 movies for the price of one movie at a local rental store.

With a rental store, you are forced to either call in a rental extension or drive to the rental store and fill out some paperwork to extend your movie rental deadline; with cloud computing, you can log in to your account and send in an electronic rental extension request.

Once you do, the rental service will deduct the additional amount from your checking card immediately. If you are a preferred customer, you may even get to save on rentals and receive automatic deadline extensions for simply being loyal.

Along the lines of movie rentals comes the increased possibilities that cloud computing provides. While RedBox and Netflix have become personal favorites for many, Hulu Plus and other such download services like it have taken the movie rental world by storm.

For consumers who would rather pay one low fee and have access to any show or movie, Hulu Plus is an ideal service.

Rather than log in to your account and be forced to pay for a movie rental each time you want to rent, Hulu Plus grants you automatic access to movies and shows (unlimited streaming and downloads) for just $7.99 each month. Want to avoid browsing through multiple web pages when you want to watch a movie with friends? Simply purchase an unlimited service and watch as much as you want.

Document, file, and video storage online is an additional benefit of cloud computing.

When you purchase a video from Amazon’s Instant Video service, you do not have to worry about storing additional videos in your home. If you are a movie buff who likes to watch the latest movies as they arrive at the movie theaters or online, you can purchase the videos and access them from your account whenever you want. Purchasing videos online prevents you from having to store them in your home and add to the home cleanup project you already have.

While these cloud computing pros are benefits to appreciate, there are some cloud computing cons of which you should be aware:

  • online movies and shows are limited
  • shipping and handling costs
  • Pickup option may save you time
  • deposits are the exceptions to banking privileges
  • Refunds usually come in the forms of gift and debit cards rather than real cash

One cloud computing con consists of the limited availability of online movies and shows. Even with unlimited streaming services such as Hulu, there are still shows that you cannot access.

Hulu does not offer these shows, but does offer the old “I Love Lucy” shows for your leisure. While Hulu beats Amazon in terms of its unlimited streaming and affordable monthly price, it still has limited resources as far as shows and movies are concerned. Some shows that you can watch on Amazon cannot be found on Hulu, and vice versa.

Shipping and handling costs are another cloud computing con that you must consider when performing online activities. Prices online can often be cheaper than those found in retail stores, but shipping and handling costs often make up for regular prices.

While you can purchase e-books for half the price of normal hardback and paperback books, purchasing items online consists of actual items (clothing) instead of virtual items such as documents, files, and e-books. When you purchase a real-time item such as shoes, glasses, or jackets, you have incurred shipping and handling costs that may double the price of the item you purchased.

Shipping and handling costs also provide options: same-day, express shipping (1-3 days), and normal shipping (possibly anywhere from 5-9 days). Online purchases come with shipping options that also delay the time you get the item. You must purchase the one-day shipping to receive it within twenty-four hours or the express shipping to get it within the same week.

Companies such as Amazon and Google are experimenting with what is known as “same-day delivery,” but this option has been unheard of with respect to online orders until now.

Those who receive their items within the same day pay an additional $50-$100 minimum just to get it when they want it. Most companies that run online services do so with the expectation that you do not need your item or purchase right away. For those that do, they can place their order and request pick up; if they do, however, they will still experience the factors of heavy traffic population, plus long lines and a long wait at the local store — particularly if the store is small and only has one or two workers in the entire vicinity.

As for shipping and handling, the pricing is not alone in the difficulty; the pickup option complicates the desire to make online purchases. After all, if you can pick the item up at your local Best Buy, for example, and save some money on shipping and handling costs, you may not mind driving ten or fifteen minutes down the road.

The pickup option allows you the privilege of missing the long lines that come with placing orders while still giving you the freedom to receive your package in the same day that you deliver it.

Deposits are an exception to online banking privileges. You can transfer funds between accounts online, view your bank statements online, and even have your funds deposited electronically by way of virtual payment. If you have a check, for example, from your job that you need to deposit, you still have to visit a local bank.

Many jobs today provide electronic deposit as a way to get your funds to the bank without providing a physical check, but there are some jobs that still provide traditional checking services where you receive a physical check each week or every two weeks.

Refunds have fewer options than deposits. While you can transfer funds electronically and deposit funds through your place of employment, you do not have the option of receiving most refunds online. Some stores will send your money back to your account after three days, but many stores will take your money and put it towards a store credit that can be used within the store (no genuine cash involved).

The Apple Corporation has what is known as its buyback program every year, where Apple customers turn in their current iPhones so as to receive a cash benefit that they can then use towards other electronic items. Apple provides American Express debit cards and gift cards, but does not place the money in your hands (real cash) when you return your iPhone.

Gift certificates and cards do not provide the freedom that real cash does: whereas cash allows you to go into another store and spend the money, gift cards force you to shop within the same store. You may not want to shop at the same store, however, so what are you to do with the money? This is the reason why many individuals make card purchases with stores they like or shop in regularly.

Cloud computing’s pros and cons provide convenience that is worthwhile but also provide various inconveniences. It is no different in life: everything worth having comes with both good and bad consequences. The question each consumer must ask himself concerns whether or not he or she can face both sides of the same coin.