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What is the Cloud? And What is Cloud Computing?

You can Google ‘cloud computing’ and read the various explanations you’ll find, and still not really understand what Cloud Computing is all about. The term is over used and misused so much that most people are confused about its meaning, and more importantly, how it can benefit them.

The word ‘cloud’ can mean several things all by itself. Some refer to the Internet as the ‘cloud’ and although it is a necessary part of cloud computing, just using the Internet to access resources does not necessarily mean a business is using cloud computing. For instance the internet can be used to access a company fileserver in a central office. That is not true cloud computing. It’s remote access, but not cloud computing in the real sense.

Cloud computing has a lot to do with the way the resources themselves are stored, managed and accessed. With the advent of virtualization and the ability to create virtualized servers, fileservers have become pieces of software that can be moved around between various hardware servers. And with the increase of available Internet bandwidth and remote access technology, fileservers are no longer location dependent as they once were. As an example, suppose your company has a remotely accessed fileserver that hosts your client database. Let’s say it’s virtualized in a Datacenter and you access it through a web-browser. Because the fileserver is virtualized, the datacenter can move your fileserver around to other locations in their facilities, or across the country, and you can still access its resources normally. You would not know that it’s moving around between various hardware servers. Why would they move it around? To alleviate bottlenecks in their infrastructure, to do maintenance or upgrades on hardware, or to better facilitate their internal administrative needs. The point of the example is that ‘resources move around’. One could say that your resources are somewhere in the ‘cloud’.

Within large organizations like Microsoft, Google, Amazon, and others, resources are moving around constantly as their internal IT needs dictate. Your information or data stored in such organizations is readily available, but you’ll never know where it is physically. So virtualization and the dynamic movement of virtualized servers and resources is a key part of what makes up ‘cloud computing’.

Additionally, modern online business solutions have reduced or eliminated the need for many localized computer resources.  For instance, Microsoft’s BPOS offers online business applications that include office document creation & storage, email, and document management solutions. These services can eliminate the need for businesses to have localized fileservers. This then becomes true cloud computing.

As businesses evaluate their internal IT costs and compare those with the costs of cloud computing they will see that moving to cloud computing solutions makes more economic sense as time passes.  The benefits of cloud computing are many, some of which are listed below:

  • Resources can be accessed from anywhere the Internet is available
  • Resources are secure and reliable
  • IT expenditures become a fixed monthly expense, like a utility bill
  • Advanced IT solutions expenses are vastly reduced if not completely eliminated
  • The most current software versions are included in the service

Information Technology is constantly changing and accelerating in its rate of change.   Businesses that keep aware of how it can be used to benefit them will be closely watching the value of computing in the cloud.