Demystifying the cloud
Cloud computing is a rapidly emerging technology that almost every kind of organisation can leverage; helping to reduce costs, improve workflow efficiencies and deliver robust back up and recovery strategies.
But what does cloud computing actually mean? Seen as today’s industry buzz word, there are several variations on its definition; meaning that businesses understanding of the cloud can be a little…well, cloudy.
The core principle of cloud computing is that it enables and supplements technological capabilities – generally taking them off-premise and delivering them via the internet. This means a cloud solution could simply be data storage or it could be the development of an end-user web application. Essentially, the cloud is an environment from which computing solutions can be deployed.
What makes this environment so different to traditional forms of ICT delivery is its elasticity. Instead of investing heavily into a static ICT infrastructure, cloud provides the ability to scale up or scale down quickly. So if you operate within an unpredictable environment (and let’s face it, most of us do) then the cloud allows you to react quickly without having to worry about huge capital expenditure or being bound to clumsy I.T assets.
Key characteristics of the cloud:
On-demand self-service. Automatically boosts capabilities such as server time or storage
Broad network access: Compatible with variety of common devices (laptops, mobile phones, tablets) and always available
Resource pooling: Computing resources are pooled to serve multiple consumers using a multi-tenant model allowing them to benefit from economies of scale
Rapid elasticity. Capabilities can be purchased in any quantity, at any time, to react to fluctuating service needs
Measured Service: Resource usage can be monitored, controlled, and reported, providing transparency for both the provider and consumer
With such characteristics cloud computing provides opportunities for organisations to become more cost effective and flexible – rapidly changing to the needs of their operating environment. And the real beauty of the clouds flexibility relates to the different types of deployment an organisation can chose from:
The public cloud is the most commonly referenced cloud computing option. In this scenario the infrastructure and applications are owned by the organisation selling the cloud services – for example Knowledge I.T.
The private cloud offers a solution for those traditional vendors who aren’t quite ready to make the change to the public cloud or have restrictions on doing this. The cloud services are replicated within a private environment, behind the firewall and are maintained within the parameters of the host organisation.
The notion of the community cloud is typically a private or public cloud deployment that is shared by several organisations and supports a specific community.
Hybrid cloud is a composition of two or more clouds (private, community, or public) that remain unique entities but are bound together, offering the benefits of multiple deployment models.
Despite cloud computing accessibility, ease of use and countless other benefits – its potential risks have been widely debated amongst industry experts. Security and privacy have been two of the main concerns and have been a hot topic of since cloud computing evolved.
Realistically these concerns are not that different from any concerns normally raised when bringing a third party on board to deliver a service. The most important thing to be aware of the regulations within your sector and ensure that you work with a cloud computing supplier that is compliant. Also, be sure to get Service Level Agreements (SLA’s)in place that help to guarantee best practice delivery.
There is a school of thought (and one I certainly agree with) that cloud data centers are more secure that on-site data storage facilities. That is because they are built specifically for resilience to attacks and failures with the latest security upgrades and mirrored systems for immediate recovery. They have to remain compliant with all industry regulations, up-to-date with the latest security innovations and be constantly upgraded to ensure best practice. And where the cloud offers different deployment options, an organisation can opt for a private cloud option if it really needs to allay any fears over security or privacy.
In my mind, cloud computing will continue to deliver reliability and positive experiences to our clients, and as people realise how few barriers to entry there are, I am sure cloud computing will become a much less mystical revolution.
George Sanger is Managing Director Knowledge I.T.