Tag Archives: conferencing services

What is “the Cloud”? And what is it not?

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Clouds on summer sky (Photo: fastjel)

The Cloud – One of the hottest buzzwords and most abused in describing products or services recently. In this article I would like to mix facts with personal experiences I made, in order to assist everyone, who would like to find out what the cloud is and does and the things that is does not do (hence the title). Cloud has been buzzing around for a while now but when I witnessed both my parents talking about “the cloud” and how they use it in private I understood that this technology has arrived in mainstream and it is here for good.

Cloud??

So what is the cloud in few words? The cloud, or cloud computing is a technology design to enable users working with solutions independent from device, location and network. Of course there are specialisations with a larger or smaller focus on one or two subjects but in general this is it.

Origin of the Term

There are many theories on the origin of the term, yet there is no proven story. Feel free to check some good options on the Wikipedia article for cloud computing. My theory is that it developed from the use of cloud clip-arts and stencils in technical drawings or presentations, created to visualise a network setup. I am sure that even before the term became a buzzword, most of you have seen presentations with little black boxes, switches and routers in and around a large cloud to set a virtual border between realms.

Is the Cloud something new?

I am afraid it is not. The ideas and designs for such concepts have already been around since the 1950s but like with many breakthroughs in the user world, it required certain cultural and technological thresholds to be reached before the adoption could take place on wide-scale.

What is the Cloud?

  • Agility – The cloud is agile and therefore allows users to upscale or downscale their service based on business demand. Further the actual hardware, used to host a virtual machine, can be re-purposed if necessary. This is however not a cloud-only benefit, please read further down on infrastructure virtualisation.
  • Availability – Services have the technological possibility of being available independent from devices, network and location. This is of course relative to the design of each service along with its purpose but technically this is no limitation. For instance you can use cloud video conferencing services to join any enterprise-grade video conference call from your smartphone, notebook, office workstation, tablet or even from a private computer at your home or maybe somewhere else. Of course your conference partner needs to have their own environment set up to accept connections from outside in general. Cloud technology is not a wall-breaker and cannot bypass security of an organisation, if they don’t allow such connections by policy.
  • Business Continuity – Cloud services are set up with redundancy and failover automation in place. So that even if single devices would fail, users would not notice and can proceed using the service. Such reliability would traditionally cost a lot of money when investing in owned or dedicated infrastructure black-boxes.
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Asus product presentation event of cloud-enabled tablet device with Windows 8 (Photo: Tecdencias)

What is the Cloud NOT?

  • Cloud = VirtualisationVirtualisation of infrastructure is a great way of deploying new solutions and upgrading your environment. But if you do this within your WAN this does not automatically mean you are using the “cloud”. You are just virtualising your infrastructure. Fair and square.
  • “No more hardware” – Well that’s a lie. Using software solutions or virtual infrastructure there will still always be servers and databases that require a physical body. Only the deployment and usage is changed but there will always be hardware. You might not own the hardware and you will most likely never see or touch it but it’s there, somewhere in a physical data centre.
  • Grid computing – No, grid computing is not the same as cloud computing in my opinion. Even though, it might be its scientific opposite. Where grid computing allows many computing units to work on a common target (e.g. movie rendering in render farms or Bitcoin mining), cloud computing allows a single user to utilise just any infrastructure in the pool offered by the cloud service provider to achieve their objective.
  • “Private Cloud” needs to be on-premises – No that’s not correct even though it seems to be a common assumption. A cloud service can be deployed dedicated for your organisation without anyone else having access to it, but the location of the physical hardware is irrelevant in order to provide that. In most cases the service provider will utilise hardware that is physically near to the user base in order to avoid performance issues that could occur on long “open internet” routes.

Challenges of Cloud Technology

  • Security – Any cloud service can be set up in secure manner if the solution and the environment of the clients allow it.
  • Privacy – Yes, privacy is a hot topic nowadays. But actually, it always were even in pre-internet age. Privacy is nothing impossible even in the cloud, even in the internet if you choose the right service provider. And if you are looking for good providers but affordability is a concern, make sure that your selected partner has a few good reference clients to show-case to you.
  • Compliance – When you are in phase 2 of the provider selection, bring in the techies of your organisation to make sure all offered functions and features are compliant to any active IT security policies that you need to consider.
  • Vendor Strategy – Cloud providers equal single vendor lock-in? Yes, it can be the case but if you want to avoid that, talk about this particular subject with your provider candidates. A few providers out there have established alliances and offer support to avoid any lock-ins.
  • Online works, offline it doesn’t – Depending on what your solution looks like make sure that your workforce  can use the solution when they are online and when they are offline. For instance when changing a file being on a flight, the data should update and synchronise itself in the cloud again when they are online. However there are some services which this does not apply to such as real-time communication (e.g. WebRTC, video conferencing, VoIP telephony, instant messaging).

Examples of Public Cloud Solutions

Summary

I hope this cleared some confusion around cloud terminology and technology. Further I hope it helped you through your process of picking a good service provider for your organisation if that was your objective. Further I would like to thank Simon Dudley of LifeSize and Phil Karcher of Forrester Research for hosting the webinar, which sparked the inspiration to write this article. LifeSize is often arranging interesting webinars and announces them on their social media platforms. Maybe I will see you on their next event – until then.

Have anything to add or feel I got the wrong picture? You are welcome to comment below and join the discussion. We at Telepresence24.com love your feedback!

Enhance Your Virtual Conference With The Help Of Latest Technologies

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Web conferencing example (Photo credit: davidherrold)

Virtual conferencing is considered one of the most efficient and modern collaborative tool for businesses in the last decade. The technology behind virtual conferencing has been around since the early 2000s, but it has evolved a lot over the years. During the initial days, virtual conferencing was inefficient, lacking in quality, and required expensive items. Today, the quality of these conferencing services and programs has improved and the cost has also come down. It is not uncommon to see small and medium businesses also use web conferencing for their own benefit. If you use a virtual conferencing program, chances are that you are getting a pretty decent service. So now, what latest technological innovation can you use to enhance your virtual conferencing experience? Here is a look at some of them.

Mobile conferencing

Today’s mobile phones are no longer limited to talking and instant messaging- they have become powerful mini-computers and portable offices for those who travel a lot. Many web conferencing service providers offer apps for the iOS, Android, Windows Mobile, and Blackberry operating systems. These apps let you join a conference and take part in it through your mobile phone on the go. For employees who travel frequently, this kind of mobility can help them perform their jobs better and, in turn, improves the efficiency of your workforce.

Get good virtual conferencing equipment and check it appropriately

A great virtual conferencing program is only as good as the tools that are available, and fortunately you can find high quality equipment for conferencing at a very low price. If you are fixing the budget for your conferencing hardware, extend it a little because more than half of these meetings are started late because of technical issues. The vendor offering the conferencing service and the host can only do little when the tech hardware is limited. So, make sure that everyone uses decent headsets, webcams, systems, and other peripherals for the meeting before it begins.

Email integration

When you integrate the virtual conferencing solution with emails, you basically get a more organized meeting setup. Invites for online conferences have been traditionally difficult to send out because you have to track dial-in numbers, audio keys, and login information. Thankfully, some web conferencing programs can be set up so that email invitations are sent through email and participants can enter with a few clicks securely without worrying about changing passwords and numbers.

Video Conferencing

In addition to to the above you can add high quality video conferencing add-ins to your virtual conference or directly use services that provide both screen sharing and video conferencing in one solution. You can use a room, especially designed for video conferencing or just use a software solution with the aid of a webcam and headset.

Get file sharing and editing abilities

If you work with a team spread across various offices and locations, one of the best ways to enhance productivity is to get a virtual conferencing solution that has file sharing and group editing capabilities. With this kind of program, you can share presentations, documents, and other files with other participants for them to see. The group editing allows participants to not only view but also edit the shared files in real time. Other participants can review these changes and make their own revisions.
Basically, you get a virtual conference room where you can show files and work on them with your team, irrespective of where they are located at the moment.