How Does “The Cloud” Work?
By: Thomas R. Reich PhD
According to Forbes “Top Ten Strategic Technology Trends,” the Cloud is the next “new thing” to help make life easier for individuals. However the way industry experts carelessly toss around the word Cloud, it’s a wonder that most business owners or individuals alike know exactly what “The Cloud” is and how it can work for business? The goal of this article is to state in simple language what the cloud is, what it does, and how it can help business.
Very simply put, “cloud computing” is a virtual server available over the internet outside of your computer and adhering to extreme security protocols. The Cloud is not in the sky, it is not in a satellite and it is not totally new, it was once called utility computing in its earlier form. When referred to as “computing in the cloud” it may be referring to anything outside of the computer itself including conventional outsourcing.
In its simplest form, Cloud Computing is a way for the IT department to increase capacity or add capabilities on the fly without investing in new infrastructure, training new personnel, or licensing new software. Cloud Computing is any pay-per-use service, usually subscription based or pay-per-use service that is delivered over the internet requires no physical equipment or space on site and extends or IT systems existing capabilities on site.
“The Cloud” is a term used by many companies marketing various services over the internet with varying degrees of success and security. The most common is secure backup, but investigate fully the firm providing the “cloud” backup before storing data. Some use facilities in one location others use up to 3 backup locations. Multiple locations are important during times of natural and man-made disaster. When Hurricane Sandy hit in the fall of 2012, data centers in the area were closed for up to 2 weeks. Cloud services based only in one location in the northeast had problems; those based in say West Coast, Alaska, and New York did not flinch.
Another popular use of “the Cloud” is for cloud based programs. Adobe now has its popular “Creative Suite” available as the “Creative Cloud”. The advantage of this is that you can store your files in the “cloud” as well and access your creative cloud set of programs from where ever you are in on the road, an Ipad or even in a customer’s office with your password, this is called SaaS or (Software as a Service). Now not only can you access your creative cloud but your personal files are there too.
The most common platforms and programs offered over the internet and referred to as “Cloud Computing” are:
1) MSP (Managed Service Provider); this is one of the oldest forms of the cloud and is usually part of managed services used by a remote IT provider. It permits a company’s systems to be backed up remotely, virus scanned remotely, or comb email for spam and dangerous viruses and malware, remotely, before such things even come in contact with a company’s systems to name just a few MSP services.
2) Utility Computing; this is the most common form of service that advertisers are referring to when advertising “The Cloud”. It is simply remote storage and backup with varying degrees of security.
3) SaaS (Software as a Service); with SaaS “the Cloud” allows thousands of users to sign in to one program and use it simultaneously. For the user this allows use of an expensive program for a low cost each month with little or no upfront cost. For the software provider it means only one copy of the program to service in one central location, rather than multiple customer sites.
4) Platform as a Service; this is a variation of SaaS, but it is something that really brings out the capabilities of “The Cloud” to the programmer. With Platform as a Service, the user rents only the capabilities of the program and computing abilities they need for the project they are working on. One use for this is for saleforce.com which lets you run virtually over the cloud in a safe secured environment and charges increase only as your sales staff and activity increases. Another use are utility heavy, hardware intensive protocols like animation programs with heavy rendering needs, users can now simply rent computing power for a few hours rather than upgrade in house equipment.
5) Service Commerce Platforms; This is a relatively new use for “The Cloud” and allows for things like secretary services, copy writing and copy editing services virtually over the internet, as if the worker was in your office on another computer station.
Cloud Computing is a term used in many different ways for a variety of products and services with never-ending list of definitions and nicknames. Remember when “The Cloud” is referenced it is referring to a service or program accessed through the internet outside of your geographical IT equipment.
With the internet rife with viruses and malware, Managed services are becoming a must. Good managed services will monitor and interact with your systems remotely. When you have managed services you are almost doubtlessly “Cloud Computing”