As mentioned in my previous blog “Introduction to technology” I am still asked to define cloud computing. Therefore in a series of blog post I will explain cloud computing in an easy to understand arrangement. My goal upon the completion of this series is to provide you with sufficient information to help you feel confident in making decisions regarding the cloud. So – let’s get started…
First – if you listen to all the experts, they say the cloud is the most innovative technology to date. Contrary to everything you thought or have heard the concept of the cloud is not new. In fact, the cloud is as old as the Internet. That my friends is because the cloud is the Internet. Let me explain. The term “cloud” or “the cloud” is a metaphor for the Internet. In essence, the term “cloud” is a marketing spin. Those so-called experts are really marketing personnel working to rebrand the Internet.
If you ask me, in my opinion the cloud should really be defined in how we use the Internet. In its simplest terms, cloud computing delivers hosted services over the Internet. Whether it is hardware, software, email, storage, applications or raw data.
Prime examples of cloud computing would be Facebook, YouTube, Google+, Myspace. I mention these because almost everyone accesses them and stores or views data within them.
The official definition from NIST, (the National Institute of Standards and Technology) reads: “Cloud computing is a model for enabling convenient, on-demand network access to a shared pool of configurable computing resources (e.g., networks, servers, storage, applications and services)that can be rapidly provisioned and released with minimal management effort or service provider interaction.”
The key words in the above sentence are “model” and “network access”. Therefore if a company has a database online for its employees to access, in its simplest form, you are using the cloud. But yet, the cloud is so much more than that today. For those who do not know who NIST is, it is a federal agency of the Department of Commerce. This is the agency that sets technology standards. Before 1988 it was formerly known as the National Bureau of Standards.
We use the Internet much differently today than we did ten years ago, even five years ago. Cloud companies are popping up everywhere, including Raven Cloud Computing that enhances the way we use the Internet and hence the cloud. Today – there are applications online that allow companies to use and share data through the Internet or once again, the cloud. They can provide hardware and software across the cloud and even manage it for their clientele, so their customers can focus on their core business functions and leave the IT functions to someone else. Basically – a virtual IT department with servers, software and applications ready to go.
Consumers don’t completely understand the cloud yet and there’s been a lot of talk, but it’s having your data or software stored somewhere besides your computer and being able to get it through the Internet, anytime, anywhere and from any device. All you need is access to the Internet.
It is fairly safe to say that if you chose the right cloud provider, your data is safely stored in the cloud and the user can access their data. This has added bonuses in the sense of disaster recovery, loss of a user’s computer, storage constraints, manageability and security.
In the cloud we manage the hardware, software and even the security and updates. If something goes wrong, it is on us to fix it, essentially giving the user free tech support. Instead of a customer paying up front cost of over $10,000 for a decent server, they can use a cloud server and pay $250 per month. Let’s run some numbers to see what this means:
Dell PowerEdge R510 (12GB RAM): $4,072
Microsoft Small Business Server (10 user license): $1,489
VMware ESX v5.0 Standard,2 CPU license: $4,530
2 – 1TB 15K RPM Hard Drive: $1,200
Dell UPS, Rack/Tower, 2700w: $1,249
This totals $12,540
NOTE: This configuration only comes with a ten user license. Each additional user license cost $80. Small Business Server only has a maximum of 75 users. So you would need to spend an additional $5200 in order to get the max use of Small Business Server. That now makes a total up front cost $17,740.
By contrast, using a cloud server only cost $250 per month. It would take seventy-one (71) months or almost six (6) years to spend that sum of money. Plus, I did not include the staffing cost or IT consulting fees to install and configure the server and then the cost to manage and maintain it.
As you can clearly see in the above example, cloud computing has its advantages, not only in cost – but in expertise in managing this solution. Only you can decide if cloud computing is the right solution for you.
In summary – I have tried to explain what the cloud is and what the cloud is not. There are some clear advantages when it comes to cost, staff, maintenance and manageability. However, if you are the type of person who likes to manage these things yourself, then you need to really do your homework and research cloud providers carefully. There is a wide array of providers and not all are created equal. Also – don’t fall into the trap that you’ll go with the biggest cloud provider and be safe. Without naming names, one of the biggest cloud providers has also had the most network outages and horrendous support. This means you will not have access to your cloud services during their outages and good luck at trying to figure out how their products work.
In closing I would also advise that you stick to cloud providers in the United States, Canada or the United Kingdom. Keep in mind the country where your provider keeps their data centers. Many third world countries have insufficient power grids, inadequate and/or untrained staff and most importantly – different legal systems. If you have to revert to our legal system you may be in for a rude awaking when their country does not honor our laws. If government compliance is an issue for you, stick with a cloud provider within your own country borders.
If you would like, we provide a free technical assessment. This can be beneficial to new and startup companies that are not sure where to start. Raven Cloud computing provides all of the above mentioned services; you can find these at our website here. For the above mentioned sample of cloud servers or online storage, you can find them here.