The term cloud computing is a buzzword in IT and business, but what does it mean? The “cloud” in cloud computing often refers to the networks that make up the internet. The definition of cloud computing often varies between individuals. Loosely, cloud computing refers to using data functions or services that are stored at separate location (cloud) whether the server room or a third party provider.
We can define three types of clouds: private, semi-private, and public. A private cloud exists in a private network. Terminals provide access to data and applications on a local server. In some ways, this sacrifices the cost saving benefits of cloud computing because the company still has to purchase and maintain the equipment and software. However, this model gives many of the functional benefits while maintaining the security and data control benefits of a private network.
Semi-private, or hybrid, clouds combine aspects of the private cloud with the public model. When internal servers become stressed or when additional applications or data services are needed, they can be obtained from third party providers.
The public cloud is composed of services and applications provided by third parties. Many would argue that this is where the benefits truly come into play. Some providers bill on a subscription based model, while others bill on a utility model similar to that of a telephone bill. Services and applications are accessed via a web browser, meaning that subscribers are able to use the services regardless of the device used for access. Mac, PC, even smart phones can utilize cloud based applications. Additionally, users can access them anywhere they have internet access.
Benefits and Limits of Cloud Computing
Cloud computing offers money saving opportunities to companies. Instead of purchasing and storing equipment and software, companies can rent what they need from a third party provider. This also frees them from the costs from management of equipment and software. Cloud computing also provides companies with immediate access to a wide range of services and applications.
While cloud computing offers the opportunity for savings, it is best to weigh the expense of hosting the services or applications within your company against the provider’s service cost. Clearly, cloud computing isn’t a solution to everything. Your company will still need terminals, printers, desktop support, internet access, and a firewall.
Other things that should be considered before using public cloud computing services include:
- Reliability – Is the vendor likely to provide reliable service?
- Compliance issues – Data security compliance can be difficult with a public service, particularly when your business has to comply with standards such as those for medical records.
- Lack of standards – There are no set data standards between vendors, sometimes hindering interoperability between services from different providers.
Terms and conditions of vendor agreements should be carefully reviewed. For example, Google Apps gives users limited rights to the applications they create. Additionally, Google “reserves the right to change or modify any of the terms and conditions” of the agreement “at any time.” The service and data can be removed any time, without notice. Google also retains rights to place ads. Deleted information may stay on their servers for several weeks.
Create Your Own Cloud
In the near future, Net Activity will be offering two services:
- Hosted Private Cloud: We will provide a complete solution of hosted servers and support for your network.
- Private On-site Cloud: We will provide servers, computers, and Microsoft licenses at your location.
Public Cloud computing services are likely to become more commonplace in the future. Ideally, they will provide low-cost services to a wide range of companies and consumers. For now, there are still issues that need to be considered before jumping in.