Have you managed to wrap your brain around the concept of cloud computing? Basically, cloud computing involves being able to deliver computer services wherever and whenever you want them from computing power to computing infrastructure, applications, business processes to personal collaboration.

The term cloud computing can be defined as hardware, networks, storage, services, and interfaces that combine to deliver software, infrastructure, and storage over the Internet as separate components or a complete platform based on user demand.

There are public clouds, private clouds, and hybrid clouds, which combine both the public and private components. Public clouds are virtual data centers outside of your company’s firewall. Generally, a service provider makes resources available to companies, on demand, over the public Internet. Private clouds are virtual data centers inside your company’s firewall. Hybrid clouds have aspects of both public and private clouds.

Basically cloud computing is a data center on-demand. It is an unstructured infrastructure owned and operated by someone outside of its customers’ company that accepts and runs workloads created by its customers. Previously, if a company needed more computing power, it added more servers, but for a small company, this is not cost effective. Using cloud computing, a company can plug into the Internet to access more computing power, which is scalable; meaning that as the demand changes, the cloud system will scale up or down. This would save enormous costs, as a company would not have to invest in excess computing power just to handle high demand times.

A company’s processing capacity would be increased by simply plugging into the Internet or using the cloud service for software applications that might not be available internally. If storage is a problem, a cloud system can handle a company’s excess storage. Keeping all IT work in-house is no longer cost effective.

There will be some applications that a company would never want out of its control, such as those needed in order to pass an audit. A cloud translates into the physical at some point in space but, today, you cannot audit its security, file systems and access controls with absolute certainty.

Cloud computing would allow more people to work at home or while traveling. A person could start a project at work on their PC and finish on a mobile device, such as a smart phone, tablet or laptop.

There are hundreds of cloud computing companies available. If you’re planning to move from conventional computing to cloud computing, you need to consider several things. First, you will need to involve your IT personnel, as some applications might be too complex to run in a cloud. In this case, several local servers may be needed in your office. At the same time, you will need to evaluate availability, support and importantly, cost.

The next thing to consider is exactly what do you want from cloud computing. Is it storage for a large volume of data? Or do you need multiple applications to run in concert? Whatever it is, you need to discuss your needs with a cloud vendor to be certain that they can handle your requirements, as some cloud computing companies do not offer all types of computing.

Here are the computing models available.

  • Platform as a Service, which offers outsourcing of operating systems, database, applications and programs.
  • Software as a Service, which allows a company to access programs and applications in the cloud. This application is not installed in your company’s server, and your company will not need a license to use the application from a software vendor.
  • Infrastructure as a Service, which allows consumers to use servers and storage provided by a cloud vendor.

Cloud computing is one of the fastest emerging technologies being employed by all size businesses today. Cloud computing can be compared to outsourcing, where a company uses the expertise or employees of another company to handle work that either cannot be handled in-house or is cheaper to perform off site.

Cloud computing is a form of accessing different data such as documents, applications, music files, pictures, video files from anyplace around the world. Previously, people used memory cards or portable hard disks to store data, and they carried these to retrieve the data at a later date or in another location. Now, you can store any kind of data by cloud computing and you can access this data anytime, anywhere.

There are several excellent cloud computing companies that provide excellent facilities. Akamai, GoGrid, Google, Microsoft, NetSuite, Rackspace, RightScale and VMware.
The Internet was never designed to do all that we ask of it. A network of thousands of networks with no common standards or oversight, the Internet is complicated, expensive and labor intensive for companies to work with. Akamai has nearly one hundred thousand servers throughout the world, and handles tens of billions of daily Web interactions. The GoGrid customer portal is an easy-to-use graphical user interface that allows you to provision or order cloud (virtual) and dedicated (physical) servers, F5 hardware load balancing, cloud storage, CDN, and custom server images in real time.

Google has been pushing the technological bounds of cloud computing for more than ten years. Web-based applications powered by Google's global infrastructure give workers full access to their information across devices, so they can be productive in more places. Their data is stored in the cloud – not on one particular computer – so employees can connect with all of their information and get work done from any Internet connection. The Microsoft System Center 2012 is a cloud and datacenter management solution that provides a common toolset to manage private and public cloud applications and services, which span physical, virtual and cloud computing models with common management experiences throughout.

NetSuite's cloud computing platform allows companies to run their entire business in the cloud. It lets you run computer applications over the Internet, without having to buy, install or manage your own servers. You can run your company's IT operations with nothing more than a browser and an Internet connection.

The Rackspace Cloud is a web application hosting provider that bills on a utility computing basis. Utility computing is the packaging of computing resources, such as computation, storage and services, as a metered service. This model has the advantage of a low or no initial cost to acquire computer resources. Computational resources are essentially rented. Rackspace was one of the first cloud computing companies.

RightScale Cloud Management is the bridge between your applications and your cloud infrastructure. The Multicloud Platform provides a universal remote to conveniently access your public, private, and hybrid cloud resource pools from one Dashboard and API. RightScale offers tools that help IT teams work with multiple cloud infrastructures from multiple providers, deployed across multiple services or locations. The RightScale Cloud Management Platform is delivered as “Software as a Service.” VMware offers a complete solution stack for building and managing your project, which could mean a cloud that’s internal and private, one that leverages external services, or a hybrid cloud that combines both. Their approach is comprehensive, but unlike other cloud offerings, it’s not one-cloud-fits-all. To deliver competitive advantage, cloud computing must be flexibly tailored and aligned to your individual needs.

So, how does cloud computing impact your business? Start with cost. Cloud computing reduces your need for multiple computers, software, networking management and overall IT expenses; plus you pay only for what you use. If you need more or less storage, you can scale your needs seamlessly and not to go out and purchase expensive programs or hardware. Forget tracking updates, as your cloud vendor does that for you. The feature that I like is the ability to access data no matter where you are. Many things in business are difficult but implementing a cloud system is unbelievably easy. Because of capacity, cloud services are much faster than your company servers. If you are a small company, you can act like a big company and pay for just the services you use. Cloud apps allow your business to select what your company needs, when you need it and how you want to use it.

With the reliance on cloud services to support mobile applications, mobile devices will have more capabilities. Apple’s iCloud has all of your devices sync automatically over the air, using the cloud as the intermediary. One account covers as many as 10 devices and it handles contacts, calendars, email, music, e-books, e-magazines, documents, photos, and even apps. Make a change or purchase on one device and all of your devices have it. You can back up all of your data as well.

As we shift from a client-server model to cloud computing in the next few years, technology experts believe we will live mostly in the cloud. During this time, we will see a huge increase of data being created and replicated, requiring a way to store it securely and allow users to access it efficiently. Only the cloud, floating in virtual space, will give us that silver lining.


About Len

Len started in the audio visual industry in 1975 and has contributed articles to several publications. He also writes opinion editorials for a local newspaper. He is now retired.

This article contains statements of personal opinion and comments made in good faith in the interest of the public. You should confirm all statements with the manufacturer to verify the correctness of the statements.