If there is one term which the IT industry has bandied about often in the past few months, that terms would be ‘the Cloud’, or a variant of it, ‘Cloud Services’. But what exactly is the cloud, how does it work, and how does it affect me or my business?
Cloud services essentially means ‘using someone else’s hardware and software for your computing needs’, be it storage, a service such as a hosted software or computing power you’re looking for. Cloud services aren’t only about storing things on someone else's hard drives, it’s a revolution in the way services and information is spread.
You probably already use some version of cloud services. If you use Facebook and upload photos there, you’re using the cloud. Same applies to Gmail and Google Docs, Flickr, Dropbox and hundreds of other very popular services; they’re all cloud based.
There are three kinds of cloud services and these are -
- Infrastructure as a Service: This normally includes a slew of virtualized servers, storage capacity and networks for use in place or in tandem with a traditional IT environment.
- Platform-as-a-service: A platform using which developers can truly focus on the application development and not have to worry at all about operating systems, scaling of infrastructure and load balancing.
- Software-as-a-service: SaaS includes applications with a Web-based interface which can be accessed via Web Services or any web browser.
So what is the cloud exactly? Well, you could say that the simple answer is that the cloud is the internet. Using the internet you can connect to other people’s resources and use them when you need them, without having to purchase expensive equipment yourself.
The advantages of the cloud, especially to the business world, are countless. The cloud drastically cuts down the need for specialised servers and traditional paid-for desktop software. Very often cloud services cost much less than buying and running infrastructure yourself, and it takes the pain and hassle of updates entirely out of your responsibility, as that is the provider’s job. This frees up your own internal resources, as the lawww software updates and patches do not have to be done by your own staff members.
A characteristic of the cloud is its elasticity, which means that the cloud can rapidly scale up or down according to current needs, without the need for your IT department to scale or update any system themselves. IT departments which use the cloud can be seen as having an endless supply of computing resources readily available as necessity dictates.
Cloud services are also extremely reliable, as should your own computer crash, the lawww version of the document you’re working on has already been saved on the cloud
The convenience of cloud services has been much touted, and not without reason. Using the cloud, you can access your data or service from anywhere you have internet coverage, be it at home or work, or via your laptop, desktop, tablet or mobile phone.
If your business is only just starting out with your exploration of the cloud, there are a few of highly mature cloud services that can be considered as "low-hanging fruit”, such as email services. In fact, Microsoft Hosted Exchange as offered by BMIT provides hosted email, calendar and contacts on your PC, phone and web browser. However, it is wise to consider evolving your internal infrastructure toward a more cloud-like model as increasingly, this is the direction in which business is headed, and the cloud’s advantages are considerable indeed.