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We pioneer the use of fiber optic vibration sensing to deliver railway insights across multiple disciplines. We monitor track condition, detect trespass and cable security events, and alert operators to natural hazards such as landslides or rock falls.

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General

Cloud Processing vs. On-Site Data Hubs: Weighing the Pros and Cons

2024-01-29 · Daniel Pyke · 10min

The world of data storage and processing has been undergoing a paradigm shift, with cloud computing emerging as a dominant force in the general market. While on-site data hubs have long been the traditional approach, cloud processing offers advantages that are making it an increasingly attractive option for businesses of all sizes. However, there are also some concerns to consider before deciding.

 

The Pros ✅

 

Cloud Processing: A Gateway to Enhanced Efficiency

Cloud processing, as the name suggests, involves storing and processing data off-site using centralised servers, maintained by cloud service providers. This eliminates the need for companies to invest in and manage their own hardware and infrastructure, freeing up valuable resources and reducing capital expenditures. You can think of it as renting storage or computing power instead of owning it.

Scalability on Demand

One of the key advantages of cloud processing is scalability. Businesses can instantly scale up or down their data processing needs as they grow or shrink, without the hassle and expense of purchasing and provisioning additional hardware. This flexibility is crucial for organizations that face fluctuating workloads or unpredictable growth patterns. Want to double your processing power overnight? Usually with cloud computing you can.

Reduced IT (Information Technology) Costs and Improved Resource Allocation

By outsourcing data management to cloud providers, businesses can significantly reduce their IT infrastructure costs, including hardware, software, maintenance, and staffing. This frees up resources that can be redirected towards more strategic initiatives and value-added activities. Cloud providers typically have the benefits of scale allowing a cost-effective alternative to traditional owned infrastructure, accruing further advantages in maintenance overheads as well as equipment redundancy.

Enhanced Data Security and Reliability

Cloud providers business depends on both volume and availability. Therefore, they invest heavily in data security and disaster recovery measures, ensuring that businesses' critical data is available and protected from cyberattacks and physical hazards. This peace of mind is valued by organisations that rely on their data for day-to-day operations and growth opportunities.

Global Accessibility

Cloud processing enables businesses to access their data from anywhere in the world, provided they have an internet connection. This global accessibility fosters seamless collaboration among team members, regardless of their location.

 

The Cons ❌

 

The globalisation of cloud data hosting has some challenges too. It is not all glossy data centres with access to almost infinite computing power. At its most basic, the cloud is just using someone else’s hardware to process and store your data, which raises some issues.

Dependency on Internet Access

Clearly, cloud processing relies heavily on stable and consistent internet access. Any interruption in internet connectivity can disrupt data access and processing, potentially leading to downtime and productivity losses.

Whilst reliable internet access is taken for granted by many, not all regions have the same levels of reliable connection. In times of conflict, internet access is often an early target for disruption. The counter argument is it is usually easier for a targeted attack to disrupt a local data hub than to remove cloud connectivity due to many more connections that would need to be cut.

Increased Complexity and Management

Cloud computing introduces a new layer of complexity into data management, particularly for those business directly interfacing with the cloud computing supplier. Businesses need to carefully negotiate appropriate service level agreements (SLAs) with cloud providers to achieve the required levels of response and reliability needed for their business.

As the data is being transferred to another party for processing or storage, appropriate compliance and data usage policies need to be agreed upon along with management of security and access controls.

Data Privacy and Sovereignty Concerns

Storing data on cloud servers may raise concerns about data privacy and sovereignty particularly where those servers are in a different country or indeed multiple countries. Businesses need to carefully evaluate the data residency policies and security measures of their chosen cloud provider to ensure that their data is protected to the correct level. The type of data may also have a bearing on what is deemed appropriate, e.g., technical specifications of security installations are likely to need more stringent requirements than galleries of internet memes.

 

Conclusion: A Balancing Act

The choice between cloud processing and on-site data hubs depends on the specific needs and priorities of the organisation. Businesses with fluctuating workloads, global operations, and a preference for reduced IT management responsibilities are likely to find cloud processing a more suitable fit. On the other hand, organisations that prioritise local control, data privacy, and adherence to strict data regulations may feel more comfortable using on-site data hubs.

 

Author's view: Railway applications

The most appropriate choice for data processing and retention requires carefully evaluating each option, the railways unique requirements, their security needs, and the desired cost structure. However, when dealing with large and often government-controlled entities such as railways, national policies may also come into play that may dictate which route must be taken. Whilst it is possible for these policies to be challenged, and over time, they may soften, (as acceptance of cloud-based processing grows) the customer can stipulate where their data is processed and stored.

Railways value key system availability extremely highly - often as an essential part of safe signalling operations which is the heartbeat of railway operations. It is therefore no surprise that the local data centre hub can be seen as the default solution by some networks, as every aspect can come under internal railway control and management.

However, the authors counterargument is; Should innovative, non-mission critical, systems suffer the same shackles of scaling inertia?

The solutions Sensonic offers are information provision, not railway control. Why apply a signalling led approach where the system requirements are so significantly different? If railways want to roll out the solution to a whole route, a whole railway or even a whole country, then cloud-based systems are faster to implement and are easier to manage both through introduction, operation and avoids many of the challenges of equipment obsolescence.

To enable rapid roll out and facilitate continuous improvement of systems, we at Sensonic naturally prefer the scalability and remote accessibility of cloud infrastructure. We believe it gives the best service and best value to our customers together with enabling them to roll out solutions to real railway challenges quickly.

However, we appreciate not all clients will take the same view and many have restraints to work within so we can, and do, cater for all data policies as required.

We have made major advancements in our regional cloud capabilities, with a new Asia Pacific (APAC) cloud region being launched at the end of 2023 marking a significant step in expanding our global footprint. This new region for cloud processing will enhance our service capabilities and provide better performance for our customers in the Asia-Pacific region.

We have also recently upgraded our data hubs in both Europe and India as part of our ongoing efforts to provide a great user experience, state-of-the-art services and customer satisfaction. We have deployed local Infrastructure hubs in both Germany and India, in line with their local requirements, to both strengthen our presence in these regions and ensure more efficient data management and accessibility together with maintaining data and network security standards such as ISO27001.

Finally, we have automated the processes for introducing new cloud regions and customer data hubs. This automation signifies a leap in our operational efficiency and agility, allowing us to scale up deployment rapidly whilst maintaining exacting standards of service.

Whatever the local or national requirements, we will find a data solution that works for you.

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