SHEDDING LIGHT ON THE CLOUD

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1 SHEDDING LIGHT ON THE CLOUD Heard the term Cloud Computing? Not sure what it is? Cloud computing is one of the most talked about technologies of the moment. But never be deceived in to thinking it is just another one of those techie terms that you will never really need to know; cloud computing is changing the way businesses operate. So we are going to shed some light on the cloud to help you see what it is all about. IN ESSENCE THEN, CLOUD COMPUTING IS JUST A STEP FURTHER IN THE DEVELOPMENT OF WORLDWIDE COMPUTER NETWORKING. New IT platforms do not come along very often, but when a successful one does appear, it can have an enormous impact - just think of the way PCs and servers changed the 1980s world of mainframes and minicomputers. Cloud computing is set to change the IT world in much the same way. One commentator has described it as the next industrial revolution, whilst the big technology companies like IBM, Microsoft, Dell Intel, HP and Oracle are all backing it. In October 2010, The Tech Trends Survey, conducted by IBM, reported that more than 90 percent of IT professionals expected cloud computing to overtake on-premise computing as the main way for businesses to acquire IT over the next five years. So then, what is cloud computing? Where has it come from, and why is it going to make such a big impact? We all know what computing is, so first things first; what is the cloud? Page 1 of 5

2 The Cloud Well, we are not talking about the weather. The cloud is a metaphor used for the internet. It comes from the depiction of the internet as a cloud, in traditional computer network diagrams. So at the simplest level, the cloud is the internet or, rather, the vast array of servers around the world that it is composed of. It is like an electricity grid of data centres, providing pure computer power and data storage capacity over the internet. The cloud is a huge pool of shared resources, like a centralised server, made available to users who are connected by means of a hardware or software solution. There are two types of cloud: public and private. A public cloud sells services to anyone on the internet, whereas a private cloud is a proprietary network or data centre that supplies hosted services to a select number of people. What is cloud computing? In essence then, cloud computing is just a step further in the development of worldwide computer networking. It is the process by which your data, and even your applications (your software and services), are moved online (i.e. away from your desktop) into the cloud, providing you and your organisation a mass of resources via the internet, in a virtual world. It is similar in some ways to the centralised era, before PCs, when computing power was hosted within large central mainframes and accessed via dumb terminals. All of the processing work and file saving is done in the cloud of the Internet, and users plug into that cloud every day, to access their computer work. With cloud computing, applications and infrastructure are independent of each other; software is in effect rented and used online instead of purchased or licensed and installed on to your own computer. This allows servers to be easily shared by many applications and for applications to run virtual from anywhere. At the same time, by using cloud computing, entire businesses and thousands of employees can access computer applications from any location - not just within the office. Cloud services are usually co-located at mirrored data centres in two different locations, so if your hosting company suffers a major disaster, like a flood or fire, they simply switch you from one server to another; you don t have to do anything - in fact you won t even notice. Another way of describing cloud computing is the outsourcing of software and hardware requirements to another company. It allows on-demand use of networked resources so you can pick and choose the resources you need and then use and pay for these resources only when you need them. With cloud computing you purchase a service - rather than hardware or software - which is why it is often referred to as Software as a Service (SaaS). This is part of a wider shift within the industry from product based IT to service based IT. ONE OF THE REASONS FOR THE POPULARITY OF THE CLOUD IS THE SCALABILITY IT PROVIDES. Page 2 of 5

3 What is the point of cloud computing? Cloud computing removes the burden of heavy processing and memory consumption from the client or end user systems and all the hassle that goes with it. It is a practical way for companies or individuals to access IT resources as it provides all the benefits of on-premise application, combined with the economics of shared computer infrastructure. It can improve the performance of your IT, while substantially reducing the associated costs and risks. It gives you much greater flexibility and agility than on-premise computing and generally makes life a lot easier: Reduce IT costs No CapEx required Pay only for what you use Simplified IT budgeting No unexpected IT costs Improved IT performance No IT depreciation No IT maintenance costs No IT hassle Access to the latest technology Rapid implementation Improved IT security Reduced IT risk Guaranteed service levels Access from any location Scalability - up and down Business continuity Reduced environment impact 24/7/365 availability No need for IT personnel One of the reasons for the popularity of cloud computing is the scalability it provides. Adding or removing functionality, sites or individual users, is extremely quick and easy, and requires the customer to only purchase the number of units necessary. In short, cloud computing services can be tailor-made to your needs - you can pick the particular services you need and only pay for those you use. It allows smaller businesses to remain competitive without having to pay the huge prices associated with implementing their own network. In fact, a 2010 technology report from Deloitte suggests that the small and medium enterprises market will be one of the fastest growing sectors for Cloud Computing. Where has cloud computing come from? The cloud has not just appeared out of thin air; it has developed from past computing experience and is much more than a passing phase. It is likely to evolve and mature in the future. It is a rapidly emerging technology, often referred to as the next-generation application platform, and is becoming increasingly popular with businesses. In the recent Gartner report, Significant Benefits Realised with Supply Chain Management in the Cloud, 95 percent of the 130 companies surveyed were using or considering cloud computing solutions. It has been nicknamed The Cloud Revolution, but in reality cloud computing has been developing for many years. As we already know, having a centralised server, which stores all the required information is a well-established concept, dating back to the early days of computer technology. The idea of hosting somebody else s software has also been around for some time, but it is only now, thanks to the improvements in internet technology, that Software as a Service (SaaS) is really starting to take off. Page 3 of 5

4 Where is cloud computing going? The introduction of broadband and high speed internet connections has made the offsite/centralised approach seen in cloud computing become practical and interesting again, especially since the client and server no longer need to be in close proximity to one another. Now the mainframe can be accessed by any PC, Netbook, Tablet or Smartphone with an internet connection. In addition to this, personal computers are changing in ways that make cloud services more desirable. Your little Netbook may lack the huge hard disk needed to hold all your music or photographs, but there are ways to keep this material in the cloud and access it at will. Your smartphone can not run all the sophisticated programs, or store all the files, that your PC can. But, if it is connected to cloud storage and cloud-based applications, it can do much more than its hardware spec suggests. The recent flood of cloud-based products and services, designed to store and share files and information among devices; and even perform tasks such as editing long documents, spreadsheets or photographs, are helping to support The Cloud Revolution. THE INTRODUCTION OF HIGH SPEED INTERNET CONNECTIONS HAS MADE THE OFFSITE, CENTRALISED APPROACH SEEN IN CLOUD COM- PUTING BECOME PRACTICAL AND INTERESTING AGAIN. NOW THE MAIN- FRAME CAN BE ACCESSED BY ANY PC, NETBOOK, TABLET OR SMART- PHONE WITH AN INTERNET CONNECTION Page 4 of 5

5 About Starcom Starcom is the result of the merger between an international hosting provider and an onsite infrastructure specialist with over 25 years collective experience delivering on-premise and cloud server design and support, providing us with a unique combination of skills, experience and ability to help your business. Starcom not only provide cloud solutions, we also have on-premise technicians and infrastructure, support, consultancy and systems integration services to provide you with the maximum flexibility enabling you to get the most value from your IT infrastructure. For further information, please contact: or call Page 5 of 5

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