STRIDES Initiative: Is Cloud Right for My Research?

Is Cloud Right for My Research?

When set up, used, and managed to complement your research goals, cloud services can often improve efficiency and facilitate reproducible science. Using cloud resources can be useful whether you are:

  • Establishing a research program/project
  • Receiving award funding
  • Creating a funding opportunity announcement
  • Creating a request for proposals
  • Using on-premise resources for computation, analysis, and storage currently

Program management staff, awardees, and an academic administrator receiving funding should carefully consider whether cloud services would benefit their program/project needs. Determining if cloud is right for your research typically requires involvement from multiple people within your organization, including but not limited to your project management staff, research collaborators, and your institutional leaders.

There are some additional items about cloud resources to keep in mind as you evaluate the cloud for your research, including:

  • Resources (data, tools, etc.) in the cloud are not guaranteed to be available indefinitely and require continued funding and support. Therefore, the cloud should not be seen as a replacement for contributing data to a proper data repository or archive.
  • Data download costs (“egress fees”) from the cloud can become very expensive for large data volumes and should be considered if you want to allow unrestricted access to the data. When choosing a commercial provider, be sure to compare providers’ egress fees in the event that you want to move data out of the cloud.
  • Cost and capacity of commercial provider services and tools are very different from local, on-premise services and tools. Cloud services scale with your needs and you pay for what you use; this can be more costly than local resources, depending on your usage and associated cost models. For example, local resources often have a larger upfront cost than cloud but lower marginal cost; and have a maximum capacity, whereas cloud resources can scale based on demand.
  • Data uploaded into the cloud are not automatically findable, accessible, interoperable, and reusable (FAIR). Effort is required to make them FAIR prior to upload, and doing so will allow other researchers to more easily use the data.

Are you a NIH intramural researcher looking for on-premise NIH high-performance computing resources?

If the cloud is not the best fit for your research data, NIH’s supercomputing resources might meet the needs of your intramural research program/project. NIH provides researchers in its Intramural Research Program with access to high-performance computational resources.

To learn more, visit hpc.nih.gov or contact staff@hpc.nih.gov.

This page last reviewed on August 7, 2019