Why so many Clouds?

By now you’ve probably been made aware or at least heard some marketing genius talk of the Cloud! The message can be confusing and the technology behind it complicated. So let us provide some insight into this buzzword and take a quick look at the risks and benefits of employing the Cloud in your business. You might find you’re already using a cloud service and didn’t even realise it!

 

  Why does everyone refer to it as the cloud? Are there different types of cloud computing?

 

“Cloud” has been a term used to describe the Internet for some time. The internet continues to be drawn as a cloud in process flows the world over and has now been picked up by the marketing buffs as a “sexy” term to describe software and services delivered over the Internet. It’s not new! The truth is the Cloud has been around in various forms and delivery mechanisms for decades, but the term has only hit the mainstream in the past 24 months!

 

Everyone seems to have a cloud, right! (Where’s the sun you ask?). Let’s break down the hype a little more. Clouds can be distinguished as either “Public” or “Private” and are defined around the services that they offer.

 

There are commonly three acronyms employed for the type of services offered in the Cloud:

  • SAAS – Software as a service;
  • PAAS – Platform as a service;
  • IAAS – Infrastructure as a service;

Software as a service” (or SaaS) is a way of delivering applications over the Internet—as a service. Instead of installing and maintaining software, you simply access it via the Internet, freeing yourself from complex software and hardware management. SaaS applications are sometimes called Web-based software, on-demand software, or hosted software.

 

Infrastructure as a Service” (IaaS), delivers computer infrastructure – typically the resources like servers and networking which are required to run an operating system like Windows or Linux – as a service.

 

  What are some of the main advantages to Cloud Computing?

 

Cloud Computing provides a number of advantages, the most prominent and easily identifiable include the use of the latest technology, the ability to access applications from any device, and a reduction in costs whilst growing your business (think reduced downtime, better support mechanisms and improved security).

 

Public Clouds

 

You may already be using one of these services and be part of the cloud revolution! Are you using Gmail, Hotmail or Yahoo! These are all Public cloud services in one form or another. These services are available on demand, with services (storage and server infrastructure) distributed through-out the world (US, Singapore etc.). These Public clouds offer a one-size fits all approach to their offerings, can be inexpensive and are often supported by local (external) consultants as opposed to the cloud providers.

 

Example Offerings

 

Product Cloud Type Service Type
Amazon Web Services/ S3 Public IaaS/ PaaS
Salesforce (CRM) Public SaaS
Google Apps and email offering (GMAIL) Public SaaS
Microsoft Office 365 Public SaaS
Xero Public SaaS
SaaSu Public SaaS
Windows Azure Public IaaS/ PaaS

 

Off Premise – Private Clouds

 

You can receive all the benefits of cloud computing, but keep a level of control and security over your data, applications and services by implementing an offsite Private Cloud. In such a situation you receive a solution which can include Hosted/ Managed Desktops (think Windows/ Mac Desktop anywhere/ anytime). These services are often provided by local/ national service providers, and enable a more personalised level of service and customised platform delivery.

 

  What’s the difference between an Off Premise – Private Cloud and an On-Premise installation?

 

With a Managed Private cloud solution business benefits include no further hardware maintenance, a reduction in IT consultancy fees (support, upgrades etc), greater access to systems expertise (through the Service Provider and their partner network), local (and available) support staff, reduced costs (through such items as subscription licensing), and obviously availability of the platform from anywhere (better internet connections etc as opposed to your average business ADSL connection).

 

Example Offerings

 

Product Cloud Type Service Type
MYOB/ Quicken Hosting Private SaaS
Hosted Exchange 2010 Private SaaS
VPS – Windows Platform Private SaaS/ IaaS/ PaaS

 

Is it the death of the PC? Probably not, but it’s no longer all about the PC. The device you access your platform from becomes a commodity.

 

  What’s the catch? Who owns the data? What about Data Sovereignty? What about Data portability?

 

As with any rapidly growing industry or product there are a few risks those adopters of Public and/ or Private Clouds’ need to be aware of.

 

With Public Cloud solutions, there is very little flexibility in how the solution can be customised to your business (which may change over time), there is little option nor choice as to where your data is stored. In addition to this an adopter should be prudent as to who owns the data that is deployed/ saved to the cloud or SaaS platform. Some grey areas exist when it comes to data ownership, some providers’ state that all data on the cloud or SaaS platform belongs to the provider, others state that it belongs to the customer. Another issue that is yet to be completely addressed by most vendors is around data portability. You have to ask yourself how easy it would be to move or migrate data or services from one provider to another.

 

In a Private Cloud situation, a number of these risks still apply, however most can be mitigated when evaluating a Private Cloud provider. You have a choice of provider and they will often be able to tell you exactly where your data is stored and answer any issues you may have around data ownership.

 

So in summary (as with most things in life!) there are significant benefits and some risks associated with the adoption of cloud computing. It is without a doubt gaining momentum and providing significant benefits to those business adopting cloud technologies.

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