Cloud computing is a common phrase thrown around by IT and Businesses when talking about the latest IT infrastructure developments. If you don’t have cloud you are “behind the times”. These days everything is “in the cloud” – from payday loans to music to accounting software. Almost anything can be cloud based. But what is cloud computing? Why should you care?
The cloud has been around for a long time. It is not a new concept, although its mainstream adoption is most probably due to recent advances in internet speeds. The cloud as a concept can go back to the early 1990’s with the use of Grid Computing – effectively highly powerful machines linked together through a high speed network to perform complex calculations. While not exactly the same as cloud computing, it suggests that utilising multiple computer resources across a network is not an idea isolated to the year 2015 and beyond.
Cloud computing also relates back to business in that like businesses, managers of IT infrastructure must maximise the utilisation of scare resources. While we may find it hard to believe, with advancing technologies, maximum utility is still important for good hardware management. This is a fancy way of saying we are getting the most out of our machines around the clock.
What is cloud computing good for?
Cloud computing is all about meeting customer demand in real time. It is about growth with demand. It is about giving the customer the right amount of computing power as and when needed. For example, a business may not need 500 GB of space to store files. The business may only need 100 GB. But as the business grows the businesses storage needs may expand. A cloud solution could offer this business 100 GB of space and then scale this up as needed. This would prevent the business from over-spending on IT infrastructure, but allowing it to grow without any major growing pains. A local solution (local means the storage is on premises) would mean that the IT team would have to guess how much data is needed in the future and then hope they are right in selecting the right sized Hard Drive or Server. This guessing and hoping is archaic and not conducive to good business decision making.
Cloud computing is about efficiency. An academic article from 2011 found that data centres were only utilising 10-30% of their infrastructure capacity. When applied to a desktop scenario, IT was only working up to 5% of the time! Surely there are very few businesses that have utilisation of equipment or staff at 5%? Cloud computing solves this problem by deploying IT resources as required, on demand. This improves efficiency. Think about it – half the world wakes up while the other half go to bed. With web based connectivity IT resources that are generally dormant can be utilised by those who are awake.
Cloud Computing is about Saving $$$ through reduced maintenance costs and centralised management. Simply put, an IT company who provides Cloud solutions should be more effective managing and maintaining IT, compared to any other type of company with an IT department. This is not an attack on internal IT departments, rather a simple economic principle. Cloud computing allows for IT infrastructure to be managed internally by an IT company, through a centralised process. What this means in effect is that your IT provider should be able to deliver all of your IT needs from a geographically dissimilar location. Tasks such as software maintenance and support can all be provided in the background, without the IT provider being physically in a businesses office. This in turn reduces costs for the IT business which in turn reduces costs for the end user.
Considerations before using cloud computing
Now, there has to be a balance right? Cloud computing cannot simply be the greatest thing since sliced bread. Cloud computing is great for all the reasons above, but there are a few things to consider.
Where in the world is your data? Is the cloud service provider based in Australia or Vietnam? If your data is on a server overseas which local laws protect your (and your customers) data? This is a huge consideration for Cloud computing in business. You cannot sign-up to a provider without asking and understanding where your data will be physically held.
What happens when the internet is down? This is another criticism of cloud based IT infrastructure. A reliance on the internet means a reliance on telecommunication providers. Major thought leaders such as Steve Wozniak have criticised the cloud system for this power telcos and hosting providers can have – potentially holding your data ransom as it were.
What happens if I want to change my cloud service provider? The devil is in the detail. A cloud provider should help you migrate to another provider f you are unhappy with their service – but beware of any additional ad-hoc costs or particular clauses in your IT agreement – the important thing is to be on top of these potential issues before signing a contract.
Final thoughts on Cloud Computing (for Now)
Cloud computing is definitely here and here to stay. It is a really useful IT infrastructure strategy and you should look at our cloud blog here for more specific cloud computing considerations. If you have any questions feel free to get in touch and we can chat.
For those people who are not in IT, cloud technology can be a bit of an abstract concept. As we do day to day at UnderCtrl we wanted to try and explain cloud technology in an easy to understand manner.
Firstly though, it might help to understand what cloud technology is.
Cloud Technology Explained
You are probably using cloud technology without realising.
Anything like Google Docs, Dropbox, and Microsoft OneDrive are all examples of cloud technology in practice. These are all cloud based storage solutions. You can upload, download and access documents anywhere you have an internet connection.
Google Sheets is an example of a cloud based software solution. Users can access the software on a computer, an iPad or smartphone. Multiple users can share a single Sheet at the same time and changes are saved in real time.
These storage areas and programs are accessed via a web browser and generally do not require any software to be installed onto the device that is accessing the information. However, more often than not, you need an internet connection to access these services.
Where is data held?
Firstly, all of this data is held on a server (mass storage device) somewhere. Your data may be accessible anywhere, but it is still held physically somewhere. If you want a geographic location, you may be looking for a long time. Providers may source data centres overseas, where expenses are lower.
However some providers will ensure data centres are maintained in the same country as their customers. This can be really important if the customer is seeking to protect their data, such as Intellectual Property or confidential customer information. Basically, it can’t hurt to ask where your data is.
Cloud technology is expanding and is not slowing down. Its application is broadening across software programs and is getting faster with faster internet speeds becoming more commonplace.
Businesses can take advantage of cloud technologies, especially in instances where employees are based across a wide geographical region or a on the road often.
Importantly though, users need to consider the importance and security of their data. We have written extensively on cloud technology so if you want more information check out these links.
If you want to find out more about how we can help make your IT efficient have a look at our Cloud Computing Services or Cashflow Benefits of Cloud Computing.
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