Cloud 101: What Is “The Cloud”?

The Cloud is here to stay as more companies look to cut costs by leasing part, or all, of their computing infrastructure. If you’re not familiar with the technology, now is the time to do so.

By now, I think we’ve all seen the Microsoft commercials that feature the tagline “…To The Cloud”. What exactly is Microsoft talking about when they speak of The Cloud?

I’ll get back to that in a moment.  First, I want you to realize that you may already be using Cloud Technology. Do you use a free e-mail service like Yahoo, Hotmail, or Gmail?   You are using The Cloud.  Do you have a Facebook or MySpace page? You are using The Cloud for that as well.

The Cloud is simply a collection of computing resources that you can use to accomplish a task without having to worry about the costs of maintaining those resources.

For example, when you use Gmail, you do not need to worry about the costs associated with owning an e-mail server (i.e.: the computer, Windows license, e-mail server software license, electricity, cooling, etc.).  Who exactly pays those costs?  Usually, you don’t really care.  Your main concern is that you can successfully type an e-mail, click “Send”, and your friend receives it almost instantaneously.

So, if we have been using The Cloud for such a long time, why is it such a big buzzword now?

Cloud Providers are building successful businesses by leasing computing resources to corporations.  These cloud providers build large server environments that utilize virtualization technology as well as improved data storage and network connectivity technologies.  By carefully hosting multiple customers in their computer labs, the cloud providers can rent computing resources to their customers for a fraction of the price that those customers would pay to run their own computer labs.

Business can obtain significant cost savings, and thus a competitive advantage over competitors.  So, you will see more companies look to move part, or all, of their computing resources to Cloud Providers such as Microsoft, Rackspace, Terremark, and even Amazon, to name just a few.  The various providers are becoming more aggressive with gaining public mindshare as being the best-of-the-best.  Hence, the recent Microsoft ad campaigns.

Now you may rightfully be concerned about security.  For example, if two competitors lease computing resources from the same cloud provider, how will the provider guarantee complete separation of data?

You might also be concerned about the “free” services you use on a regular basis.  Are these services REALLY free?   How can they be 100% free if the hosting companies such as Microsoft and Google have to pay money to run them?

I’ll be addressing those concerns and more in future Cloud 101 articles. Stay tuned, and thanks for reading.  Post your comments and thoughts below.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *