Understanding Cloud Computing

Venture_Computers_article_261114_imageSo much has been written, printed, blogged, and discussed regarding cloud computing. Supporters of “software as a solution” (SaaS) swear by its benefits, while detractors are unsure whether it will be secure enough ever to be trusted. However, many people, including many users of cloud solutions, still cannot precisely define or don’t fully understand exactly how it works.

Education has certainly been one of cloud computing’s biggest obstacles, despite its rapidly growing popularity. That’s why this article serves to provide a clear explanation of what the cloud actually is, along with its main functions.

What is the Cloud?

It’s usually difficult to sum up anything with one sentence, particularly something as layered as cloud computing, but Craig Sharp, director of Abusi Ltd., gives a solid one-liner: “The cloud is a range of IT services that aren’t on the premises.”

So what is the cloud, you ask? Well, think of applications, servers, storage and backup, security, and all other similar IT services. All of these services are now available within the cloud.

Essentially, off-site Internet-based servers are used to perform these tasks, as opposed to having a physical location. To further determine whether an IT service can be considered as cloud computing, three standard characteristics must be met:

1. Broad Ranging Network Access: The service must be accessible by multiple devices, including smartphones and other portable computing devices.
2. Expeditious Elasticity/Measured Control: Being responsive to the scale of the user’s needs by increasing or decreasing, depending on the size of the user’s resources. The user’s computing resources can also be measured, controlled, and accessed by both the user and provider.
3. Pooling of Resources: Multiple computing resources can be used independently and simultaneously utilized by multiple organizations.

How Does the Cloud Help?

Now that a more straightforward definition of cloud computing has been provided, your next question might be “so what? How does the cloud benefit both everyday people and the businesses across the world?” Well, chances are that you are already using a cloud service: Netflix, Google Drive, Dropbox, and Spotify are, by definition, all cloud software applications. Each of these has changed the way in which we watch TV, create and edit documents, store files and images, and consume music.

Similarly, for small businesses, applications such as FreshBooks and Microsoft Office have transformed the workplace. Both allow for workers to do their job remotely, without having to be in a physical office location, and are scalable to any business, with the costs being determined by the size of the company.

No Stopping the Cloud Movement

Cloud solutions, including hosting, virtualization, cloud servers, and all other applications of SaaS, have come too far for both the business and consumer societies to turn back. The cloud has become an entrenched part of culture that has significantly changed the way we operate in our day-to-day lives.

As with any new technology that has markedly infused itself into mainstream culture across multiple platforms, concerns have been raised. The loudest questions have come surrounding the security of the software and whether it can be trusted to safely store information from hackers, the media, and, in extreme cases, the government. While each cloud software individually battles to provide its own line of security, this is one question that can only be determined in time. This means that for now, companies and persons need to decide which cloud service is best suited to their needs and come to a decision based on those requirements.

The train is already moving and the benefits far outweigh the concerns, at least in the relative infancy of the cloud. Venture Computers of Canada, Inc. continues to offer IT consulting in Toronto to small- and medium-sized businesses looking to take advantage of this new era of cloud computing.

Chai, N., “Demystifying cloud jargon: a guide to understanding the future of IT infrastructure,” ITProPortal.com, October 30, 2014; http://www.itproportal.com/2014/10/30/demystifying-cloud-computing-jargon-a-guide-to-understanding-the-future-of-it-infrastructure/.