What is the cloud? Where is the cloud? Are we in the cloud now? These are all questions you’ve probably heard or even asked yourself. The term “cloud computing” is everywhere.
In the simplest terms, cloud computing means storing and accessing data and programs over the Internet instead of your computer’s hard drive. The cloud is just a metaphor for the Internet. It goes back to the days of flowcharts and presentations that would represent the gigantic server-farm infrastructure of the Internet as nothing but a puffy, white cumulonimbus cloud, accepting connections and doling out information as it floats.
What cloud computing is not about is your hard drive. When you store data on or run programs from the hard drive, that’s called local storage and computing. Everything you need is physically close to you, which means accessing your data is fast and easy, for that one computer, or others on the local network. Working off your hard drive is how the computer industry functioned for decades; some would argue it’s still superior to cloud computing, for reasons I’ll explain shortly.
For it to be considered “cloud computing,” you need to access your data or your programs over the Internet, or at the very least, have that data synchronized with other information over the Web. In a big business, you may know all there is to know about what’s on the other side of the connection; as an individual user, you may never have any idea what kind of massive data-processing is happening on the other end. The end result is the same: with an online connection, cloud computing can be done anywhere, anytime.
Why Cloud Computing? Because…
- Fresh Software
With SaaS, the latest versions of the applications needed to run the business are made available to all customers as soon as they’re released.
- Do more with less
With cloud computing, companies can reduce the size of their own data centers — or eliminate their data center footprint altogether.
- Flexible costs
The costs of cloud computing are much more flexible than traditional methods. Companies only need to commission – and thus only pay for – server and infrastructure capacity as and when it is needed.
- Always-on availability
Most cloud providers are extremely reliable in providing their services, with many maintaining 99.99% uptime.
- Improved mobility
Data and applications are available to employees no matter where they are in the world.
- Improved collaboration
Cloud applications improve collaboration by allowing dispersed groups of people to meet virtually and easily share information in real time and via shared storage.
- Cloud computing is more cost effective
Because companies don’t have to purchase equipment and build out and operate a data center, they don’t have to spend significant money on hardware, facilities, utilities and other aspects of operations.
- Expenses can be quickly reduced
During times of recession or business cut-backs (like the energy industry is currently experiencing), cloud computing offers a flexible cost structure, thereby limiting exposure.
- Flexible capacity
Cloud is the flexible facility that can be turned up, down or off depending upon circumstances.
- Facilitate M&A activity
Cloud computing accommodates faster changes so that two companies can become one much faster and more efficiently.
- Less environmental impact
With fewer data centers worldwide and more efficient operations, we are collectively having less of an impact on the environment.