People keep asking “what is cloud computing” and with all the FUD (fear, uncertainty and doubt) along with every marketing department having a field day converting their services to include some element of cloud, the resulting confusion is hardly surprising.
So what is it?
It is a metaphor for consuming IT services as a utility, similar to how you’d use electricity. Like in the early days of electricity where you would need to know the method that it was generated with and how it was transmitted, everyone had a different plug socket and to use it you would have to generate it, maintain it and expand it at your own cost. It changed through standardisation and consumerisation bringing electricity eventually to everyone.
Similarly the Internet and computing services are going through an evolution where by vendors are offering services that have been abstracted from their underlying technologies, servicing and upkeep for a recurring periodic charge. This provides you with the ability to consume what you need when you need it rather than having to purchase everything up front.
What does that mean for me?
If you are a small business it opens up a number of technologies with a level of services that can only be achieved economically by scaling them. This has been an advantage that enterprise organisations have had for years. Whether you are looking for email and calendaring, file storage, customer relationship management, the chances are that a service is available.
So is cloud computing only for small businesses?
Certainly not but as the number of IT users you have in the business increases so does the magnitude on administration. No matter what current service providers say this does not diminish in a cloud environment and in many cases can itself magnify the problem due to the creation of data islands, mismatched service level agreements, regulatory compliance, fragmented authentication and authorisation methods along with service monitoring and management which still need to be upheld by you.
Where do I go from here?
As with any business change you need to start with a good understanding of what you are trying to address or what problem/issue you wish to remediate. We would recommend you take a structured approach so that you can clearly define your functional and non-functional requirements of the service then use this as the measure against using a public cloud service, building your own cloud service or taking a more traditional approach.