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Cloud computing services: considerations for financial institutions

Many financial institutions are considering using cloud computing and software as a service outsourcing for non-core banking functions as a means of enhancing the level of service while also reducing costs. Recent advances in cloud computing services have been dramatic, and while much of the news about the cloud involves consumer applications, it is increasingly important for businesses. To take advantage of all the cloud has to offer, data centers are usually located at a distance from many business headquarters in order to provide geographic disaster robustness. So rather than purchasing local hardware and software for each employee, businesses can rely on storehouses of computing power to serve most any need.

The majority of the cloud services in use now are software as a service (SaaS), where users 'rent' online software instead of actually purchasing and installing it on their own computers. All of the processing work and file saving is done remotely over the Internet, with users accessing tools and files through a web browser. Cloud service providers also offer entire network hardware infrastructure and datacenter functions. This is referred to as infrastructure as a service (IaaS).

Cloud services are deployed in four basic forms: public, community, private and hybrid. A public cloud is available to any paying customer. A community cloud is shared by several organizations. A private cloud is operated solely for one organization. A hybrid cloud is a grouping of two or more cloud types (e.g., private, community or public).

Currently, cloud services account for only about 5% of the information technology sector, but is posed to expand rapidly over the next decade. So, now is a good time to become familiar with the types of cloud services provided and how they might benefit the bottom line.  The most common types of cloud services being considered in the financial industry are file server storage, email, virtual desktops, off-site backups, virtual office tools, and financial fraud detection.

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