So what is this cloud anyway?

There’s a lot of talk these days about cloud computing, and much confusion about what that means.  So how do you know if you should be in the cloud?

Use of computers usually involves two things – the application software that does your work and the data the software manages.  Traditionally the data and software are stored and run on your own computers.  You are responsible for purchasing, installing, maintaining, repairing, and managing this infrastructure.

Cloud computing refers to accessing your data and software programs as a service over the Internet.  Your software and data are hosted elsewhere and the results are delivered to you on your monitor.  The host provider is responsible for equipment and more.  You just purchase the capability that you need, usually paying per time period, per user.  Everything still runs on computers, just not at your facility, and each user still needs a workstation.  If the Internet is unavailable, you can’t work.

There are several levels of cloud computing.  With Software-as-a-Service (SaaS), your vendor/host provides the application and your data is stored on their servers.  Common for years and usually accessed with a web browser, familiar examples are Salesforce CRM, Gmail, and Google Apps.

Another level is Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS), where the vendor/host provides the computer, storage, and network hardware infrastructure, and you upload and manage your own software.  This model requires more technical expertise but gives a lot more flexibility to choose your applications.

Gordon-WaltonGordon Walton, President