It seems that in 2011 you cannot avoid mention of the Cloud. It is the latest fashionable development in IT and all the large manufacturers have been quick to jump onto this bandwagon. Most of the major IT companies now offer a Cloud services solution, but how many of us know and understand what is behind the hype?
What is the Cloud
At its most basic level, the Cloud is a collection of computer systems which appear as one entity to you, irrespective of locations. Most of the big Cloud computing services offer seamless access to a computing platform that uses multiple datacentres. These datacentres are often miles apart and can even be in different countries and even different continents.
The customer usually pays for the service that it uses, often in terms of processor or memory usage. Applications run on virtual machines that are independent of a physical host server, so can move quickly to other hardware or even another datacentre in the event of a problem.
The benefits it provides
Cloud services aim to allow customers to rapidly increase or decrease their computer usage, and hence costs, with demand. Many businesses, particularly in the retail sector, have significantly more computing demands at certain times of the year. To meet these demands, a company would need to have lots of computer power sat idle for most of the year or bring in computers for a short time.
Cloud services allow companies to leverage the vast computing power available from the suppliers but only pay for what they use. At times when demand increases, the Cloud services supplier allows customers to meet that demand but use less for the rest of the year.
Private and Public Clouds sip trunks
Not only can you get Cloud services from a public supplier that is available over the internet, but it is also possible to build a private cloud that is only for your company. You could even sell any spare capacity to bring in an extra revenue stream for the business.
Accessing the Cloud
Most companies that use a Cloud services supplier access it over the internet or a leased-line connection to the datacentre. This allows employees and customers to access the Cloud applications from anywhere in the world. However, unlike applications that you install onto your pc or local server, any disruption to your network can prevent access to the applications and stop productivity. This can be avoided by having more than one internet connections to provide resilience – perhaps a landline and a wireless connection for an office. The Cloud services will normally come from more than one datacentre, so if one goes down completely your application and data will still be available.
Many companies are queuing up to host your Cloud-based applications, but you might require technical assistance to migrate your existing infrastructure to the Cloud. The best approach might be to migrate one application or service at a time rather than do everything at the same time.
Backups and other standard datacentre services will be part of the package from the Cloud supplier. Ensure that you check over any contracts to get the level of service you require.
Migrating applications and services to the Cloud will give your resilience and protect your important data and applications without spending vast amounts of money to upgrade your existing infrastructure. The size of these suppliers can bring you additional cost savings and reduce your IT support staff overheads by doing all of the technical work for you.