There has been much ado about cloud computing.
Do I store my data in the cloud?
Do I not store my data in the cloud?
But for many of us, the question is even more basic than that:
What the fuck is the cloud?
Well, if you consult Wikipedia, it says:
Cloud computing is a phrase used to describe a variety of computing concepts that involve a large number of computers connected through a real-time communication network such as the Internet. In science, cloud computing is a synonym for distributed computing over a network, and means the ability to run a program or application on many connected computers at the same time. The phrase also more commonly refers to network-based services, which appear to be provided by real server hardware, and are in fact served up by virtual hardware, simulated by software running on one or more real machines. Such virtual servers do not physically exist and can therefore be moved around and scaled up (or down) on the fly without affecting the end user – arguably, rather like a cloud.
The popularity of the term can be attributed to its use in marketing to sell hosted services in the sense of application service provisioning that run client server software on a remote location.
I’m sorry. I don’t speak Mandarin.
Did that help?
Most likely not.
So here is a lay definition of the cloud:
The cloud is a term which describes an array of hardware and software that you don’t have to manage, see or touch, which lets you store, access and run files and programs remotely.
It’s proponents compare it to having an IT department without the IT infrastructure and costs.
Detractors think it’s an trendy method of managing data, fraught with data and security risks.
So what are the benefits of the cloud?
There are many benefits, not the least of which is the ability to house large quantities of data without having the footprint or costs typically associated with maintaining a networked server array. The space and costs savings are usually substantial and allow companies to run leaner and more efficiently.
For non-enterprise users, the cloud allows you to access your content and run programs from multiple devices without the typical per-user or per device licensing restrictions typically associated with many software programs.
Cloud services are always on so you can always access your data. One of the selling points of most cloud-based services are the uptime guarantees. Because of the abstraction taking place behind the scenes, when one server goes down or has to be taken offline, the load is automatically transferred to another with virtually no interruption to service.
With the cloud businesses are no longer required to add hardware to increase storage capacity.
What are the costs of the cloud?
Security and privacy issues are probably the biggest issue when it comes to storage in the cloud. Once you give up your data, it’s up to your service provider to ensure the integrity of that data.
Service interruptions are another issue that gives most IT experts sleepless nights. When you control and monitor your own servers, if there is an issue, you’re right on top of it and can essentially manage fall-over and backup. When you move to the cloud, it’s up to your service provider to protect against downtime and service interruptions.
Lack of control is one more cost of the cloud. Once you’re locked into a cloud-based solution, you’re essentially at the mercy of your service provider. If you want to move to another solution, change configurations, add or subtract features, you’ve got to go through that provider, which may or may not offer the type of flexibility you require versus locally managing your applications.
No I could go on and on about the costs and benefits of the cloud, but suffice it to say, its a trend that IT professionals are moving to in increasing numbers.
In fact, a friend of mine created this handy-dandy infographic highlighting the trends in cloud computing.