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What is Cloud Computing?

The term ‘cloud computing’ has been around since the 2000s. It is a rapidly emerging technology that will continue to grow and evolve. At Push Solutions we find that irrespective of the fact people hear about ‘the cloud’ daily, a lot of confusion exists. This isn’t helped by conflicting reports about benefits and disadvantages.

More worryingly, in a recent survey of computing students, a staggering 75% thought ‘private cloud’ referred to their own iCloud, Dropbox or Google storage.

In the simplest sense, cloud computing is a way of providing a set of computing resources. Basically, at the end of an internet connection is a secure place for storing data and accessing applications and services. In essence, this includes computing, network, storage, applications, development, and deployment platforms and it is important to remember this can also include business processes. A key benefit of cloud computing is the provision of shared resources based on the underlying Internet foundation. This removes many of the constraints experienced using traditional computing assets. With cloud computing using a network of remote servers hosted on the internet to store, manage and process data instead of being dependent on a local server or personal computers the immediate benefit is obvious. Not only is the ability to collaborate and share data made easy but rather than firms having to continually update hardware as computing needs increase, the cloud provides a way to exploit processing power without major investment. Concerns about running out of capacity become a thing of the past. Additionally, companies do not need to worry about maintaining or managing IT.

There are three main variants of the cloud that you have probably heard about, private, public and hybrid. Other types also exist such as community clouds and intercloud. You will also come across some other terminology that is fundamental to cloud services: Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS), Platform as a Service (PaaS), and Software as a Service (SaaS). These concepts are explained in another article. For now, we will concentrate on the three major cloud types:

Private Cloud

A private cloud is a pool of common resources optimised for the use of the IT organisation. This type of cloud might be managed internally or by a third party and likewise can be hosted internally or externally. Companies choosing a private cloud usually do so for reasons of compliance and security.  Should a company need to adhere to standards, governance, compliance, and specific Service Level Agreement (SLA) obligations to operate their core business, then they apply the same requirements to their private cloud. While this type of cloud infrastructure can reduce many costs, it can still be capital intensive. So, any company using a private cloud will need to keep abreast of change and invest in updating the assets as and when required.

Public Cloud

Commercial public clouds are usually those that are open for use by anyone at any time, normally these clouds are based on a pay-per-use model. With Commercial Public Cloud services, you are entering into a contractual agreement that can last anything from a month to typically a year. Other public clouds are free, although this might come at a cost such as risk to data and a lack of security. Commercial public clouds, on the other hand, apply security standards. Microsoft’s Cloud in particular boasts world-class privacy and security features. It is compliant with ISO27001 – a standard for Information Security Management that has very strict privacy laws and a financially backed SLA uptime guarantee of 99.99%. Furthermore, Microsoft tends towards transparency in a way many cloud vendors do not. In a recent report by the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), an organisation that rates the practices of leading online services providers in connection with government access to user data, Microsoft received the highest possible six-star rating. When choosing a commercial cloud provider these are the types of supporting services that potential users need to question and be confident are in place.

Hybrid Cloud

The Hybrid Cloud Model is exactly what it sounds like. It is simply the integration of private and public clouds. Companies choose this model to enable efficiencies and functions within the same organisation. For instance, a retailer may have the scenario where they use a private cloud to develop secure applications but to meet the demands of customer servicing will utilise a public cloud. In this type of situation, any stringent compliance needs can be fully protected within the private cloud while the public cloud can take the strain of scaling up capacity during peak ordering times. Capacity planning without the opportunity to use cloud computing is fraught with difficulties. Ensuring enough on-premises physical resources to cope with high volumes of customer service traffic for a few weeks of the year is difficult to justify when it sits under-utilised at all other times. No strategic thinker is ever happy with that situation.

Hybrid cloud models are either fully deployed by one vendor who will supply both the private and public cloud, or one vendor supplies the private and another the public cloud and then integrate, or it might suit a company to control their private cloud themselves and sign up to a public cloud service.

There are different benefits to users depending on the type of cloud selected. Below we have listed the main benefits of each.

Type of Cloud and Benefits

Private

Public

Hybrid

High Security and Privacy

Security and Privacy

High Security and Privacy

Control

Scalability and Elasticity

Scalability and Elasticity

Efficiencies

Efficiencies

Efficiencies

Reliability

Reliability

Reliability

Mobility

Mobility

Mobility

Productivity

Flexibility

Flexibility

Business Continuity

Business Continuity

Business Agility

Business Agility

Productivity

Productivity


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