What is the Cloud?

The “Cloud” means the same as “network(s)”.

Did someone just create a new word for something that we already had? Well yes they did. The latest trend in marketing for computer networks is to call any group of devices a “cloud“. Please note that when speaking about the “cloud“, it is implied that the “cloud” is on the internet, unless you use the term “private cloud“.

You can refer to the network connection between your one computer at home and your internet firewall a “private cloud“. Connect your iPhone or latest smartphone to your wireless network at home and it too has become part of your in-home “private cloud“. You open a web page and data is sent through your private cloud to your firewall, over your internet provider’s cloud to the private cloud of the web server hosting the site you are browsing to.

The internet itself a big cloud comprised of multiple clouds.  For example Facebook has a private cloud of servers that all connect to each other to perform backups and communicate to each other. They allow you, to connect to the website that is on these servers in their cloud.

What does this mean for business looking to move to the cloud?

Typically what business are looking for is to move their infrastructure out of their “private cloud” (their office’s local network) to a cloud provider’s network. The benefits to this can be higher up-time, better round the clock monitoring, reduced capital costs, faster access from remote locations, higher end (therefore more reliable) hardware, etc.

What are the common types of cloud services?

There are two main types of cloud hosting options for businesses. (Other less used services can be read about on Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cloud_computing.)

The first cloud hosting option we will mention is SaaS or “Software As A Service”.
This refers to “software” which can be any program, running as a service in the cloud. This has been around a long time in the form of email hosting, on-line games, on-line news sites and almost any other web-site you login to. Take Hotmail for example, it shows that the software (being your email client) is accessible via a web interface hosted somewhere else. Nothing needs to be installed on your computer other than a web browser. The service part of the name comes from the billing method, where you are billed like a utility service typically monthly based on usage (Hotmail is subsidized by advertising).

The next option we will talk about is IaaS or “Infrastructure As A Service”.
This refers to moving some of your companies existing servers (or “Infrastructure”) into the cloud. This option is usually chosen after eliminating SaaS as a possibility. You can migrate just pieces of you infrastructure (just a single or few servers) to the cloud, which is know as a “Hybrid Cloud” as the network still relies on your private cloud in addition to the infrastructure moved to the “hosted cloud“. Some business we have worked with have chosen to have their entire infrastructure moved to the cloud. With fully hosted infrastructures, existing computers become thin-clients that connect to a hosted terminal server in the cloud. If an existing computer stops working it can be replaced with an in-expensive thin-client based hardware rather than a full PC.

Let me know if you have any further questions about the cloud via the comments below.

You can review our “Services” section above for assistance we can provide planning or migrating your business to the cloud.

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