Cloud Computing

Is a Remote Data Center the answer to your information technology needs?

The era of Cloud Computing is upon us. But the question lingers: Is this a new technology or a rebranding of existing technology?

What is Cloud?
Depending on who you speak with, you will probably get different answers. Gartner Inc., an information technology research and advisory firm, describes Cloud Computing as “a style of computing where scalable and elastic IT-related capabilities are provided ‘as a service’ to external customers using Internet technologies.” Sound confusing? It isn’t really, especially if you’ve ordered a book from or participated in a WebEx Web conference, in which case you’ve already used Cloud Computing services.

Available Internet technologies, faster networks and more powerful and scalable computers have enabled the genesis of Cloud Computing.

To further wrap a definition around Cloud Computing, think of it this way: Instead of purchasing, installing and supporting computer hardware and software in your own data center, you access these computer resources in a remote data center. What makes it special is the following:

• You don’t need to be concerned about the back office system that runs the services. If there’s a problem, you call the provider.
• It is easy to scale on demand to add or remove computing resources so you will not run out of things like storage space.
• It leverages a shared pool of resources (shared computer processor, shared storage, etc.).
• Cloud services can be metered, so it is a “pay by the drink” model.
• The Cloud uses the Internet, so services are delivered through the use of Internet technology, formats and protocols.

Cloud Computing

One of the key differentiators of Cloud Computing is that it is focused on service delivery. As a consumer of the Cloud, you needn’t worry about how you get the service, but how you use the service. Like an electric utility, you don’t care about what power grid is servicing your home; you simply focus on the outcomes (Is it working and can I use it?).

Why Use Cloud?
Cloud computing is among the hottest technology topics today and is gaining traction across industries. Consequently, businesses and universities are starting to investigate using the Cloud to run some of their IT applications. For example, putting e-mail in the Cloud is becoming popular for universities; Cloud provider Google now provides Google Gmail (e-mail) for the enterprise.

If you’ve ordered a book from or participated in a WebEx Web conference, you’ve already used Cloud Computing services.

What makes the Cloud so attractive? The answer is that it allows you to build an IT environment quickly, add to it easily and minimize operational costs. It leverages economies of scale and shared pools of computer resources for CPU storage, memory and network. It also shifts spending from capital to an expense—since you don’t have to buy hardware—which could be important for your company’s cash position.

Of course, Cloud Computing is not without its challenges. The biggest inhibitor is data security and regulatory compliance. It is vital when entering a Cloud Computing arrangement that you know where your data resides and its isolation from other companies’ data. Regulatory issues can come into play, as some agencies can’t allow information to be stored on equipment that stores other information. Finally, using the Cloud requires more network bandwidth; if you are using a low-end DSL connection or dialup modem to the Internet, this could be a problem.

Worth a Look
Cloud Computing is not a new, Bill Gates style breakthrough computer innovation, but rather several technologies that have evolved over time and, when combined, provide an innovative way to deliver software and services. Even though it is still in its infancy, Cloud Computing is certainly worth looking into. Businesses should be aware of the trends and pilot the technology as they become more comfortable with it. For small- and medium-sized businesses, Cloud Computing represents a quick, effective, low capital approach to providing IT capabilities. For large organizations, it is unlikely that we will see major conversions of business and e-mail systems to the Cloud, but rather “cherry picking” of certain applications that best fit the model.

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George Slogik Meet the Author
George Slogik is senior manager, technical services at The Lincoln Electric Company, headquartered in Cleveland, Ohio, and on the Web at