What is Cloud Computing?

Posted & filed under Networking Solutions.

Sometimes the words the marketing professionals come up with to describe things do a great job of creating a picture but not a wonderful job telling you what a product really is. The image of a cloud in your mind may be an idealized puffy shape in a clear blue sky.  The word cloud may bring to mind other things grouped together such as a tag cloud, or in math a large set of data . Regardless of what picture the word ‘cloud’ brings to mind, cloud data storage and computing is a solid and secure product that is helping business go lean and mobile.

The term “cloud computing” most often refers to hosted services. The expensive hardware used to support the client software is housed and maintained by professionals. Client data is ‘hosted’ on these servers and a client access it via a web browser, thin client, and most recently, mobile apps. Cloud data storage has many benefits for both the client and host company. The client saves money by avoiding the acquisition of capital equipment, and, the salary of someone knowledgeable enough to operate and maintain them. Cloud systems allows the client to pay a hosting company for what they need and/or use. The hosting company uses the data usage patterns of many clients to fill servers and balance the peaks and dips in usage. Using (and improving) usage and storage algorithms developed by the pioneers of cloud computing, companies offering hosted cloud services have the ability to maximize the capacity of the servers and create value for their clients. Cloud computing tends to be more secure and reliable because Hosting is the business of the business, not just someone wearing an extra hat while doing their real job. Security and maintenance such as automatic backups and virus updates can be centrally installed and monitored making it more secure then a system that relies on each user to install and keep up security solutions on their personal computer.

Back in the early days of computer networking the same general concept was called mainframe computing; massive central computers housed the data and processing power and ‘dummy’ terminal computers would draw from that central point. Many moved away from the mainframe model when personal computers became more and more powerful. However, businesses still needed a way to share information between employees so various solutions from VPM to data centers dominated the 1990-2000’s. Pre Cloud, these early systems had flaws, the two biggest; expense and capacity – both created as many problems as they solved. Server setup and maintenance is very expensive and business had trouble funding the capital. Servers have finite capacity constraints and business usage is seldom constant. To avoid an embarrassing and costly outage servers must have capacity for spikes, but, that is as efficient as driving a bus every day because once every six months you need room for 30. Business asked for a better solution and technology created The Cloud. 


It may not feel contorting thinking of your data up in a cloud, out of your reach, but think of it more in terms of freedom and security. When data is in the cloud, it is accessible 24 hours a day, 7 days a week from any device that can operate the portal. This is far more freedom then data locked on a particular computer in one room of one building. When Amazon and IBM started down the path of data management using what would come to be called Cloud Technology, the business community did not know what to think. Fast forward to 2013 and there are countless multibillion dollar companies using the cloud. Today cloud computing is part of our daily language and lives as it migrates to personal use as well as business.


By Kate Luthner exclusively for PGP Computers

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