Cloud Computing: The Basics

For those who are not in the cloud computing or information technology business, conversations regarding the Cloud may seem like a foreign language that leaves you with a lot of questions.  For instance:

What is the Cloud exactly? 

The Cloud is an intangible, wireless network of servers that provide a variety of functions.  They can be accessed from just about anywhere as long as you have an internet connection, and can serve almost any computing needs you have.

Why is it such a big deal?

This technology has revolutionized the way we go about our digital lives.  We are no longer limited to the capabilities of the physical devices we are using but instead have a whole world of computing abilities at our fingertips through something as simple as an internet connection.  It also allows for real-time sharing of information from anywhere, which promotes collaboration, informed decision making, and mobile computing.

We’re a small business; we function fine with our on-site servers.  I don’t need to worry about the Cloud, right?

Wrong!  Small businesses can arguably benefit the most from Cloud technology.  They often don’t have the resources necessary to obtain and maintain extensive computing equipment and should therefore be taking advantage of the time and money they could save by having someone else provide the service for them.  It will help them remain competitive, as research by Emergent Research and Intuit shows that by the year 2020, approximately 80% of small businesses will be operating in the Cloud.

What are the different options for Cloud computing?

Types of Cloud can be broken up based on both the location and the function it serves.

Cloud location can be public, private, hybrid, or community based.  Public Cloud is the most common type, and allows users to pay a hosting company for only what storage or capacity they use.  This level can fluctuate freely, making it a very cost-effective method; however, it also means several different users may be located on the same server, leaving information vulnerable to security concerns.  Private Cloud eliminates this threat, as it is located on a private network to which only designated users have access.  Users with diverse needs are opting for a hybrid Cloud experience, using both public and private locations to reap the benefits of both.  Microsoft Dynamics, for example, allows users the option of public, private, or hybrid Cloud. Finally, community Cloud allows several different organizations to collaborate on the same Cloud space.

The main services of the Cloud are infrastructure, platform, and software.  Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) companies, such as Rackspace, provide physical storage disks and virtual servers.  Alternatively, platform providers offer development platforms such as operating systems or environments for programming.  Finally, Software-as-a-Service companies provide users with software on a pay-per-use basis instead of having to purchase a license.  Examples of this include the Adobe Creative Cloud, which allows users to work in applications such as Photoshop online for a monthly subscription instead of providing them with the discs for download on their PC

What are the long-term benefits?

Cloud providers are dedicated to providing this support and will therefore be constantly upgrading their servers, programming, etc.  This brings users state-of-the-art processing capabilities and safety at a fraction of the cost of providing it for themselves.  It also helps businesses run more efficiently with constant, unlimited access to their information and resources.  IT personnel are freed from the tedious task of having to manage a server and instead able to focus on higher-level projects and endeavors.

Want to learn more about how to become a Cloud adopter? Join us on Feb 19 for our first Cloud webinar and look for the next post in our blog series, “Security in the Cloud.”

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