Tag Archives: E-Commerce

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!

Can Your Business Benefit From Cloud Computing?

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Simply put, cloud computing is computing based on the Internet. So, instead of running programs or applications on a physical server, cloud computing allows you to access the same apps and software online, without needing to download or install them. Web applications, including but not limited to email, document sharing, instant messaging and more, are all designed to make it easier to collaborate and get work done no matter where you’re located.

From reducing costs to improving communication and collaboration to enhancing productivity, the benefits of cloud computing are countless.  Because of this, it’s important to understand the benefits of cloud computing and just why so many businesses are moving to the cloud.

 1. Reduced costs

Moving to the cloud will not only help you reduce costs on infrastructure and software but you’ll also be able to invest more money back into your business in research, marketing strategies, product innovation and anything else you need. Using the cost savings from cloud computing to free up resources will give your business a strong competitive advantage in the market.

With cloud, you only need to pay a small amount of money in return for a huge amount of storage space. Plus, cloud resources are easily scalable which means they can be altered to suit your exact needs as your business grows.

2. Disaster recovery

Did you know that 800,000 laptops are lost each year in airports alone? Although replacing the laptop may be costly, what do you do about everything you have saved on it? When you have everything stored in the cloud, you no longer have to worry about losing or not being able to access your data because it’s all in the cloud, safe and sound.

If you’re a business owner, cloud-based services will also help you solve issues faster in the event of a disaster. In fact, a recent survey conducted by the Aberdeen Group revealed mid-size businesses took almost half the time it took larger companies to recover after a disaster because of their commitment to the cloud. Furthermore, cloud-based disaster recovery services were able to get companies up and running again in 2.1 hours, compared to eight hours for those not using the cloud.

3. Automatic software updates

Using the cloud means you’ll no longer have to worry about purchasing, installing, downloading and updating software. Cloud computing suppliers take care of this for you – security updates included – thus freeing up your time so you can focus on other important aspects of your business.

Not only does this save you hassle, but it also means you don’t have to worry about hackers exploiting out of date software.

4. Increased collaboration

Cloud computing makes collaboration easy as all employees – no matter where they’re located – can access and work on shared documents at the same time and don’t need to keep sending them back and forth over email. This is a huge benefit of cloud computing as all files are stored in a central location which means employees can talk to each other while making changes to the central copy at the same time. The collaboration is simplified and it translates to business efficiency as no time is wasted on uploading and emailing files and waiting for updates.

5. Work from anywhere using the cloud

You can have employees working from anywhere in the world, so long as they have an Internet connection. In addition, the cloud has also become more accessible via smartphones and tablets, which means that you really can have access to your documents anytime and anywhere.

As you can see, the reduced costs, the flexibility and security provided by cloud computing can truly give a business leeway to focus in its core priorities.

Can you think of any other fantastic benefits of using cloud computing? Go ahead and share them with us in a comment below.