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February 01, 2012

posted by: Carissa Drohan-Jennings

Cloud Computing 101

Recently, Microsoft held a promotional campaign to announce its cloud computing services.  The television commercial that aired depicted a couple sitting at the airport waiting for a delayed flight. They both looked at a laptop wondering what to do to pass the time when the gentleman exclaimed, “To the cloud!”  The couple proceeds to watch their favorite television show on their laptop, which is being streamed from the cloud.  “Yay cloud!” they exclaim.  

Cloud computing is a popular concept these days for both large and small businesses as it provides many benefits over traditional internal server based computing.  What exactly is a cloud and what does cloud computing mean? This article will answer those two questions and also explore the benefits to be gained by hosting applications and computing processes on a cloud.

 

What is a cloud and what is cloud computing?

Cloud computing is the next stage in the Internet's evolution, providing the means through which everything — from computing power to computing infrastructure and business processes to personal collaboration — can be delivered as a service wherever and whenever it is needed.

The “cloud” in cloud computing can be defined as the set of hardware, networks, storage, services, and interfaces that combine to deliver aspects of computing as a service. Cloud services include the delivery of software, infrastructure, and storage over the Internet (either as separate components or a complete platform) based on user demand.

It sounds complicated but it really isn’t.  In fact, many individuals reading this article have already used cloud computing without even knowing that it existed.

Google products use cloud computing to deliver services or applications to customers.  Services such as Gmail, Google Docs, Google Calendar and Google Photos are examples of applications that reside in a cloud.  Users access these applications online and the applications are hosted in a cloud, which is to say that they don’t need to be downloaded to a computer to be used.  All of the server space that is needed to run these applications is located in cyberspace and any updates to these programs are done through Google, not through an internal IT team.

 

What are the benefits of cloud computing?

Cost savings is one of the main benefits of cloud computing.  Rather than purchasing servers, software, data center space or network equipment to run and maintain a program, landlords can instead outsource those resources and purchase the required infrastructure on an as needed basis. This is a great benefit for small landlords in particular that do not have the financial resources to invest in complicated in-house computing technology, or the means to employ a network administrator to maintain them. 

Increased Accessibility

Since the applications and stored data reside on the Internet they can be accessible anywhere that there is an Internet connection.  What’s more, they can be accessible by any device that has an Internet connection, meaning that tablets and mobile phones can also access the data stored within a cloud.  This may be a benefit for larger firms who run multiple offices in different locations, as all applications and files can be pulled from a single source, rather than separate servers.

More Scalable

The cloud is scalable and can grow with a business.  The cloud is elastic, meaning that resource allocation, such as the amount of server space or the amount of bandwidth needed to power an application or website can get bigger or smaller depending on the demand. Elasticity enables scalability, which means that the cloud can scale upward for peak demand and downward for lighter demand. An added bonus is that most service plans only require payment for services used, which means more cost savings in the long term.

More Reliable 

Cloud computing is more reliable, more scalable and allows information stored within the cloud to be accessed anywhere and at anytime.

Full-time professionals maintain the infrastructure of the cloud, which means there is less chance of downtime.  Security updates and performance enhancements are done on a regular basis and do not require downtime, as usage demand can be diverted to another server while updates are taking place.

 

To learn more about cloud computing, watch this upbeat, online video produced by Salesforce.com, which provides further insight into cloud computing, and describes how it can positively impact businesses.