"Everyone is talking about Cloud Computing. We are doing Cloud Computing."
So What is Cloud Computing?
Cloud computing is simply the use of hugely powerful computers (or more accurately; servers) by individuals (or more accurately much smaller client systems) to perform everyday tasks. These powerful computers are normally big servers held in data centres all over the world that cost tens of thousands of pounds each, the client connects to a small part of one or many of these servers to perform everyday tasks - this is where the term "cloud" comes from because the end user is carrying out tasks on computers via the internet.
Cloud computing means people and companies can harness the power of super computers at a fraction of the cost and with very small setup time. For us it means we can centrally manage large organisations (in terms of their IT) without getting up from our chairs!
A real world example?
Artisan UK (Name changed for privacy reasons) are a small but multi-location business operating in the UK. When they approached us they had a single server at their main location and several other offices in separate locations as well as several home-workers.
There were obvious problems with the setup - mainly the fact that the various employees in the company were working on separate systems, with separate documents, workloads and so on; there was very little collaboration amongst the various offices and locations.
Normally the only feasible option for a small company would be a VPN (virtual private network) and perhaps Outlook Web Access for email - this would mean that everyone could use (almost) the same email system and every could access the same file system - the problem with this method is that VPN access is notoriously slow and realistically a lease line would be required at a central location where the main server would reside - this can be costly and even with this setup, the infrastructure is so spread out, managing it would create an on-going cost.
Another solution would be to have servers at every notable location making management from an IT point of view easy. However the costs for this would be massive; servers would need to be purchased and installed and lease lines would still be needed to connect each site.
The Cloud Solution
In this case we provided a cloud based server system allowing employees at every site to connect directly to the same server residing in "the Cloud". This provided the following benefits:
- Everyone can now work on exactly the same system and shares the same files.
- The system can be accessed from anywhere with an internet connection.
- The client system requirements are very minimal - only an internet enabled PC is needed, speed of PC or Internet has little importance.
- Setup costs were minimal - there was no need to purchase any hardware to make the system work.
- Security - the system resides in a world-class data centre with cooling facilities, backbone internet connection, on-site generators, 24/7 security systems and uptime guarantee.
- Management - We as the IT company have one central location that we need to manage - everything takes place at the server (software upgrades, security updates, user control).