Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Library in the Clouds: How Can Cloud Computing Transform Your Library?

Presented by: Keiko Okuhara, University of Hawaii Law Library and Sunyeen Pai, Kapiolani Community College Library

Okuhara and Pai began the session by describing an overview of cloud computing or using Web-based processing. Some of the features of cloud computing include: scalability, multi-tasking, virtualization and lower cost from removing the infrastructure challenges away from your local institution and allowing the networked expertise "in the cloud" to handle the complex services. Some basic concerns include legal or organizational issues, such as privacy concerns, lack of flexibility in terms of customized services, and Service Level Agreements as contracts.

Applications of cloud computing in libraries include OpenURL-linking software and instructional materials such as LibGuides. OCLC is creating a web-scale management service to provide a unified library system "in the cloud," complete with circulation, acquisitions, delivery and license management services in addition to its catalog interface.

Based on their World Cafe style discussion at the Hawaii Voyager User Group Meeting in May, Pai continued to investigate two important issues: what are the advantages and disadvantages of cloud computing and what's missing from your understanding of cloud computing so far? Advantages include: ease of collaboration and sharing, lower maintenance costs and process, scalable, leveraging differences between large organization and small organizations in terms of technology costs and use. Disadvantages include: Confidentiality, privacy, security and data storage concerns. In general, who controls the data and where is it housed is a big concern; Pai gave the example of Orwell books downloaded from Amazon.com which were deleted without a trace from people's Kindles when Amazon discovered potential licensing or copyright issues.

The University of Hawaii System will be using Google as our e-mail provider in the future, which prompted Pai to consider the benefits and disadvantages to this decision. What's missing in our understanding?

How the library is using or will use the various kinds of cloud computing options available including: Software as a Service (SaaS) such as Google docs and LibGuides, Platform as a Service (PaaS), which enables the library to have control as a host environment, and Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS), where much of the infrastructure is contracted out of the library. In general, cloud computing offers agility and operational benefits to a library by using accumulated technology and expertise "in the cloud."

-- Amy Carlson

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