What is “The Cloud”?
Technology with Integrity
“Cloud computing” is getting headlines. I am often asked by business owners what they need to know about “The Cloud”.
“The Cloud” is a term for various types of computing services which involve an internet connection. The name cloud computing was inspired by the cloud symbol that's often used to represent the Internet in flowcharts and diagrams.
Cloud services are divided into three categories: Infrastructure-as-a-Service: Rented preconfigured servers, such as Amazon Web Services or Rackspace; Platform-as-a-Service: Rented computing systems and software to develop and host your own programs; and Software-as-a-Service (SAAS): Rented applications or programs, such as Salesforce.com and Google Apps.
A distinguishing feature of “Cloud” services is that you select and pay for the service as needed. You don’t have to maintain your own hardware or software. They are dynamically expanding, so you don’t have to worry about capacity. A Cloud service can be offered to the public, or privately owned.
The benefits are obvious: No more hardware or maintenance costs, buy only what you need, no upgrades to install, and access from anywhere. Costs can be lower, and are spread over time.
There are some cautions: No internet connection means no service. You are entrusting your data to someone you will probably never meet. If they go out of business, or sell out, your data can vanish overnight. Data can be isolated – your Salesforce customer list won’t connect to your QuickBooks online (yet). Upgrades or changes to the service can disrupt your business. Prices can change. Uptime guarantees don’t always work out – not all vendors are reputable. The costs never end.
You are already using “Cloud” services every time you use your email or browser. Smart phone apps are “Cloud” apps. There are so many offerings that it can be difficult to keep up. The trend is toward modular, a-la-carte services which connect together to meet your specific needs. Many vendors are pushing their customers toward a “hosted” model, where you connect to their server. It provides consistent revenue, and is easier for the vendor to support.
As internet connections become faster and more reliable, it matters less where your data or computing power is located. “Cloud” services have a lot to offer. Evaluate the offering carefully, paying attention to who owns your data, how it is backed up, and what happens if something breaks.
Tim Torian has his degree in Computer Science, and has been consulting on computer networking for the past 30 Years. He is a Microsoft Small Business Specialist, and a Cisco CCNA and CCNI. He has taught computer networking at the College of Sequoias and Cal Poly Extension. He was awarded “Entrepreneur of the year” by the Tulare County EDC in 2008. Torian Group was awarded “Technology Business of the Year” by the SBDC in 2011. He is president of Torian Group, Inc. which provides a full range of Technology Consulting services to local business, including computer services, networking, web design and Internet marketing. www.toriangroup.com