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‘The Cloud’ Can Be a Dark and Scary Place for HVAC Controls Engineers

Nov. 6, 2013
There has been a great movement to cloud computing and software as a service. But the cloud can be a risky place to store data. 

In the spirit of Halloween, I was asked to provide a “scary” editorial view for HVAC controls systems engineers. So I picked the scary subject of cloud computing. There has been a great movement to cloud computing and software as a service. These services and applications have their place and are trending to encompass more applications and provide better opportunities for owners. But beware . . . they have a scary side.

Cloud computing applications have their place but they are not the panacea they are made out to be. They are not the one-stop shop and the perfect solution for all services. For the most part they provide a less expensive solution. They offer a canned application that may or may not meet your needs.

Think about the data that is shared. The companies that provide cloud computing services may say it is secure and safe, but this data will be in their system for years. Many of these companies may be bought or go out of business. I don’t think if a business goes bankrupt, the most pressing issue they will have is protecting your data. It will be recovering as much money as they can before the roof caves in.

So if you choose the cloud option, keep in mind that it can be scary (remember, it is Halloween!). The solution is not bad for some applications. If the data you share in the cloud is data that someone could get by other means, or if this data has low vulnerability and the risks are low that releasing it would cause damage, then the cloud may indeed be the best and most cost-effective solution. In fact, in some cases, collecting and storing this data locally and providing similar analytics may not be cost-effective at all, so the cloud creates the only opportunity. Just don’t go down that dark road without knowing the neighborhood. 

J. Christopher Larry PE, CXA, CEM, CEP, CIPE, LEED AP, is the Director of Energy Engineering for exp, in Richmond, VA. He has spent more than 25 years working to minimize the building industry’s energy and environmental footprint through refining building design, building modeling, performance optimization, and intelligent controls. He won “Energy Engineer of the Year in 2000 from the Association of Energy Engineers (AEE). He has held numerous positions within ASHRAE, including chairman of the Chapter Technology Transfer Committee and chairman for Technical, Energy and Governmental Activities. He is a past president of AEE and has instructed the certified energy manager training course for AEE. He is the current chairman for the Building Intelligent Quotient (BIQ) within the Continental Automated Buildings Association (CABA) and also is a member of the Zero Energy Commercial Building Consortium.