What exactly is “The Cloud”?
By Pete Sperling, IT Professional Services,/Cloud Manger
Technology has always been filled with acronyms and jargon. One of the most overly used terms today to describe any technology concept is cloud computing, or simply Cloud. What exactly is the ‘Cloud’ and what advantages does it really provide?
To start, we need to define what ‘Cloud’ is. Cloud computing has actually been around for well over a decade, much longer than the term ‘Cloud’ has been around! Fifteen years ago cloud providers were called Application Service Providers or ASP. But as technology has changed and requirements have grown, a broader term was needed. In network diagrams, the Internet was shown as a cloud and the term ‘Cloud’ was born!
The cloud, at the most basic level, is any service that is provided over the internet. Pricing for cloud services is generally ‘pay as you go’. For consumers the most recognizable is likely Netflix, cloud entertainment for a fixed monthly fee. For businesses the most recognizable is likely Office 365, cloud email and Microsoft Office for a fixed monthly fee. The Cloud can be defined as the following broad services:
- Application Services—going to the cloud for a specific application. Microsoft Office 365, SalesForce, Concur, GoToMeeting and thousands of others. These services are typically paid per user, per month.
- Infrastructure Services—moving all or part of your computing needs to the cloud. Amazon Web Services (AWS), Microsoft Azure, RackSpace and hundreds of others. These services typically have separate charges for the software licensing, compute, storage space and the bandwidth required. Many IT organizations also offer ‘private’ infrastructure services in a local data center allowing you to gain the advantages of the cloud while working with a proven local IT provider.
Cloud Application Services have been around a long time, with the value better understood, the ROI easier to determine, and therefore adoption is faster. Cloud Infrastructure Services are newer and the value provided is just beginning to be understood. There are many options and variables to consider and the ROI is sometimes a bit murky. However, data backup and disaster recovery using the cloud can be a great first step for the small and mid-size business. Whether it is moving a copy of your data offsite for protection or the ability to run your applications in the cloud in the event of a disaster, cloud can be more comprehensive and less expensive than building it yourself.
This technology shift should have every business re-evaluating how they are approaching disaster recovery.