Cloud computing: what you need to know, Part. I


It would be foolish not to admit that cloud computing is radically changing the business landscape. Alternatives to the traditional in-house server have been sprouting for years, and now that cloud computing has taken off, one must face the fact that it will soon become necessary to be well-read in IT in order to do one’s job efficiently. General IT education is most likely going to become a staple. That is why, in order to tend to those for whom the subject is nebulous and ill-defined at best, there will be a Part II to this article about how to make such a decision for your business.

So what is cloud computing? What does it mean for my business? Cloud computing is a new form of internet-based computing that provides shared computer processing resources and data to computers, along with other services on demand. In other words, it is the delivery of computing services such as servers, software, databases and a selection of others, over the internet. As such, it has been coined « an economic model for a different way to acquire and manage IT resources » (Carnegie Mellon – Software Engineering Institute – Basics About Cloud Computing).

As interest grew from both consumers and providers, small companies were the first ones to choose cloud-based solutions. However, large corporations have also been exploring the option for a while now and cloud service spending worldwide saw a dramatic rise in its’ early days alone. Such companies were after the reduction in IT hardware costs that cloud computing can bring them. It seems the pay-as-you-go model is in the process of conquering IT departments of all sizes…

Cloud computing promises to save money. Businesses today need to examine the option and decide whether the switch makes sense for them, but they first need to have a better idea of the basics about this technology.

There are multiple types of cloud computing technology, and these can be categorized. Usually, it is easier to distinguish between the types based on the capabilities provided and the types based on who can access the resources. Software-as-a-Service (SaaS), Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) and Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) are all based on the capabilities provided by the technology. These services focus on providing users with capabilities that are business-specific, with infrastructure and/or with the possibility to create and host applications. Google Apps, for instance, are a SaaS provider because they provide web-based office tools such as e-mail, calendar and document management. IBM offers computing on demand (CoD), an IaaS which provides users with access to highly configurable servers as well as other services such as data storage. Yahoo! Open Strategy (Y!OS) provides users with the possibility of developing web applications on top of the existing Yahoo! Platform, whereby leveraging a portion of the Yahoo! resources.

The next thing you need to know is that it is also possible to distinguish between who can access the resources: on the one hand, public clouds offer resources as a service with, similarly, a pay-per-use fee. This allows you to scale your use, and keeps you from purchasing hardware. The infrastructure is managed by public cloud providers which also pool resources into the capacity you require. As for private clouds, the resources within are deployed and managed behind a firewall. The user organization owns all relevant software, hardware, manages the cloud and controls access to its resources.

Other cloud models exist such as the hybrid cloud, which is a combination of public and private clouds, and the community cloud which is shared by multiple organizations and supports specific needs. Those clouds will be the subject of another article altogether, the point here being to explain cloud computing to regular people.

Decisions are made easier with information, even when the subject seems daunting. So many different types of providers are out there, offering an overwhelming selection of different and sometimes expensive services, that it is best to educate oneself before one decides to window shop. Also, the sensitive nature of the data is a real deterrent and is susceptible of spreading distrust in web-based computer systems. Typically, lawyers and other legal professionals fall into this category. Many of them are still using Excel spreadsheets for case management because they want to maintain total and complete control of their data and its’ whereabouts. What they do not seem to realize, though, is that the risk of data loss is still ever-present and the risk of human error within the core of their activity is extremely high. Cloud computing is the safer option today. SaaS providers such as IPzen provide case management solutions in private clouds equipped with firewalls and backups every 15 minutes. IPzen has a Virtual Machine per client and charges per number of users, and not according to storage space. The platform is user-friendly and can help your business in many ways.

It is time to look to the future and learn how to handle technology. Fantastic tools exist to help you, let them!

Julia Cytrynbaum

IPzen – Business Development

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