“The cloud” is a friendly way of describing web-based computing services that are hosted outside of your organization. When you use cloud-based services, your IT infrastructure resides off your property (off-premises), and is maintained by a third party (hosted), instead of residing on a server at your home or business (on-premises) that you maintain.
With Office 365, for example, information storage, computation, and software are located and managed remotely on servers owned by Microsoft. Many services you use every day are a part of the cloud—everything from web-based email to mobile banking and online photo storage. Because this infrastructure is located online or “in the cloud,” you can access it virtually anywhere, from a PC, tablet, smartphone, or other device with an Internet connection.
Are you “In the cloud?”
The cloud is a term that people use but can’t clearly define. What is the cloud? Where is the cloud? What is in it for you and your business?
If you use any kind of social media or online data backup/storage service, you’re already using the cloud and you just may not realize it.
It is fair to say that with the ubiquity of the cloud, the answer to the question “Am I in the cloud?” is almost certainly – yes.
What is the cloud exactly?
First up, understand that the cloud is neither a place or a physical thing. The cloud is a network of servers, and each server has a different function. Some servers run applications, some store data and some act as controllers for the other servers.
The folks over at SalesForce came up with a great way to think about the cloud in real terms; “Where in the past, people would run applications or programs from software downloaded on a physical computer or server in their building, cloud computing allows people access the same kinds of applications through the Internet.”
What are the benefits to working in the cloud?
Microsoft do a pretty good of outlining the headline benefits to being in their cloud. We like the list so much, we’ve included it here.
Cloud computing eliminates the capital expense of buying hardware and software, and setting up and running on-site datacentres – the racks of servers, the round-the-clock electricity for power and cooling, the IT experts for managing the infrastructure. It adds up quickly.
The benefits of cloud computing services include the ability to scale elastically. In cloud speak, that means delivering the right amount of IT resources – for example, more or less computing power, storage, bandwidth – exactly when it’s needed, and from the right geographic location.
The biggest cloud computing services run on a worldwide network of secure data centres, which are regularly upgraded to the latest generation of fast and efficient computing hardware. This offers several benefits over a single corporate datacentre, including reduced network latency for applications and greater economies of scale.
On-site datacentres typically require a lot of “racking and stacking” – hardware setup, software patching and other time-consuming IT management chores. Cloud computing removes the need for many of these tasks, so IT teams can spend time on achieving more important business goals.
Most cloud computing services are provided as self service and on demand, so even vast amounts of computing resources can be provisioned in minutes, typically with just a few mouse clicks, giving businesses a lot of flexibility and taking the pressure off capacity planning.
Cloud computing makes data backup, disaster recovery and business continuity easier and less expensive, because data can be mirrored at multiple redundant sites on the cloud provider’s network. Having IT problems in the office? Cloud ubiquity means sending your users home to work.
Keen to learn more? Want to ask us something? Questions about Cloud?