Water cooler talk is all abuzz over this new technology called cloud computing, which is said to be an innovative technology that will change the way people run their businesses. But what exactly is cloud computing? And how exactly can this new technology change the way people communicate and do business?
Cloud computing is based on the idea of having online centralized server connected to the Internet and at the same time stores information that can be easily accessed securely by an authorized person anywhere as long as the user is connected online. The cloud system runs 24 hours a day, seven days a week; encrypted with tight security features including backup in order to prevent loss of vital data. It’s a way to access and store data online from one device after another in a safe and secure manner, making it ideal and easier for business transactions. In a more layman’s way to define it: Cloud computing refers to anything that involves delivering hosted services over the Internet.
Services from the sky
Cloud services are classified into three categories, namely infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS), platform-as-a-service (PaaS) and software-as-a-service (SaaS). The term cloud computing originated from the cloud symbol that’s often used to represent the complexity of the Internet on flowcharts and diagrams.
Furthermore, a cloud can be either private or public. A public cloud offers services to anyone on the Internet. Meanwhile, a private cloud provider is a proprietary network or a data center that supplies hosted services to a limited number of people.
Just to give you an idea of a cloud service: If you’ve been using Web-based email such as Gmail or Yahoo! Mail, then you’ve been using a cloud service. It’s as simple as that. In the enterprise or big business space, technology companies that offer cloud services at an enterprise level are Netsuite and Salesforce.com, just to mention two.
Everything’s way up there
Research firm Gartner Inc. predicted that 80 percent of Fortune 1000 companies will soon pay for cloud computing services by the year 2012 and even the local market is getting into the business of the cloud. Only recently, an Ayala-owned telecom company launched its suite of cloud services offering Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS), which also include Backup as a Service, Compute as a Service, and Storage as a Service.
Backup as a Service enables users to securely store important data in the telecom’s data centers. Compute as a Service on the other hand enables users to receive processing power without the burden of purchasing more servers. Lastly, Storage as a Service lets users store or archive their files at the data service facility.
Not to be outdone, the Philippine Long Distance Telephone Co., Inc. (PLDT) and another local tech company IP-Converge, also offer their own range of cloud computing services. PLDT recently teamed up with software-giant Microsoft in order to provide the necessary infrastructure in order to utilize their “One Cloud” network under the AppFarm Private Cloud Services portfolio. IP-Converge, which described itself as the only publicly-listed Internet data center and cloud provider, recently launched their campaign called “Think Out Cloud.” The campaign aims to spread awareness regarding cloud computing among local businesses, particularly small and medium enterprises.
Benefits and security
Cloud computing has several benefits and one of which is the fact that an individual or businesses could lessen or increase cloud capacity according only to their needs. What this means for personal as well as business users is the fact that they only pay based on the amount of cloud service being used. The whole process of configuring the capacity only takes a couple of minutes as many of these services could be done remotely and most of the time, without the need for a specialized IT personnel. So, not only is cloud computing cost effective but it is also quite efficient. The limited hardware being utilized means that one can cut down on expenses on the client’s end, which is often a big issue for many businesses.
On the other hand, there are certain concerns regarding cloud computing, as nothing in technology is foolproof. Robyn Leane Smith, a Website Content Manager at Serchen Interactive, explained in her article Disadvantages of Cloud Computing that there are certain drawbacks in adapting this kind of model. For one thing, there appears to be too much reliance on network connections so should the network experience unwanted disruptions the down-time may greatly affect work productivity. Smith added that although cloud computing can have financial benefits in the long run, it may not be ideal for small businesses since the expenses to actually set it up can be rather pricey.
A serious issue that Robyn Smith raised was regarding the legal ownership of the data being stored: Who owns the data? What happens to the user’s data when the provider vanishes? Smith stated that it is extremely crucial to read the terms and conditions very carefully. It is important to note that while cloud computing definitely has its share of advantages one must pick their cloud host very carefully.