What is Cloud Computing

Cloud Computing Definition

Cloud computing is a malleable concept which provides for convenient, on-demand network access to a shared pool of configurable computing resources (network components, servers, memory, storage, applications, and additional resources & services) all of which can be rapidly deployed. Cloud Computing may be seen in a variety of models such as a Private Cloud, Hybrid Cloud, Virtual Private Cloud, and Public Cloud to name a few.

Most Businesses will gravitate toward using a Hybrid Cloud, or a Virtual Private Cloud. Some companies due to internal policies or desire for greater control, will forego the economic benefits that the previous two Cloud Computing models offer, and will opt to use a Private Cloud instead, where the company would still purchase and maintain their own equipment but would could use virtualization and a variety of underlying computing resources for fault tolerance, operational efficiencies, resource consolidation, and so on -pending on the needs of the company.

What is Cloud Computing

(See also How does Cloud Computing Work - Diagram Cloud Computing for illustrations). Cloud Computing gives subscribing companies the ability to leverage other company's huge investment in computing resources (stored in places called datacenters). Cloud Computing Companies divide up this massive amount of computing resources through a method called virtualization. Virtualization gives the ability to dynamically create, expand or move virtual applications, virtual desktops, or virtual servers. Virtualization allows the pool of computing resources to be dynamically compartmentalized and to run independent of the collective underlying hardware. Virtual resources can then be added as needed (such as more "RAM" (memory), & hard drive space). This gives Cloud Computing users substantial benefits from cost savings on hardware and the ability to quickly and cost-effectively as expand (or reduce) based off your company's need. While at the same time Cloud Computing offers multiple levels of redundancies in its underlying hardware and Internet connections at the data centers.

This allows Cloud Computing Companies to carve out a single application, multiple servers, or desktops based off what a particular company needs today, and should the company need to add additional hard drive space, memory (RAM), or processors (CPU), it can be done in seconds. This means Cloud Computing companies don't have to physically go and shut down the servers, desktops, or applications to actually add more hard drive space, memory or processors. Instead Cloud Computing Companies essentially log into their interface, select the requested resource ,click a button to select how much extra resources desired, hit apply and then the virtual desktop (also known as a "hosted Desktop") or virtual server ("Hosted Server") has just been upgraded!

To help illustrate Cloud Computing, see How does Cloud Computing Work - Diagram cloud computing

To better understand how this can impact your businesses' bottom line see Pros and Cons of Cloud Computing.

Common Cloud Computing Questions:

Who owns the cloud? The servers that all the data resides on can be owned by one or more companies, depending on who provides the Cloud Services. The data that you put in the cloud, would belong to you, unless you agree that you are giving away ownership by putting your data in the Cloud. Due to this it is vitally important that you read any agreement prior to moving your data to the cloud.

What is a Private Cloud? The cloud infrastructure in a Private Cloud is run for one organization but may be managed by that organizations internal IT staff, or a third party. With a Private Cloud, the economic advantages of the cloud are lost as the company must still buy, manage and maintain the equipment. Those companies that use a private cloud to more easily control security, deployment time, and still get some of the benefits of virtualization such as hardware consolidation. See also Virtual Private Cloud.

What is a Virtual Private Cloud? A Virtual Private Cloud is a cloud for a business which resides on datacenters owned or provisioned by Cloud Computing Companies which design the Virtual Private Cloud to be "private" -for use solely by the requesting company and whomever that company deems should have access. A Virtual Private Cloud could include firewalls that separate the company's data from others, a virtual local area network (a private network restricting data traffic based off requested design), and it can include various auditing, reporting, and encryption on the data as well. To securely connect to the Virtual Private Cloud, the company could use various methods, one of which is by a Virtual Private Network (VPNs), another method (the same method many online banks use) is through a Secure Socket Layer connection (SSL), and some very security conscious companies will use multiple layers of security to connect.

Is Cloud computing & Grid computing the same thing? No. Cloud Computing typically uses Grid computing. To better understand Grid computing, see What is Grid Computing

Cloud Computing Granulation

Cloud Computing may be divided, sub-divided, into a mind-boggling variety of acronyms of different services that will go beyond the scope of what most business owners want to know. At FrustrationFreeIT we want you to understand the basic concept of what is going on in Cloud Computing so you can see how and where your company can use Cloud Computing.

Many businesses have been exposed to something similar to Cloud Computing in the past, but in the area where phone companies are involved. Have you ever heard of Centrex lines? This is a type of hosted service that phone companies offer. In this structure, the phone company's own and maintain all the expensive phone equipment, (basically a very large phone system), and because they own it, they deal with all the behind the scenes maintenance and labor, but you just pay them a flat monthly fee for this service, which is based off the number of phone lines or phones you use and what services you want such as voicemail, or caller ID.

Analogous to the phone company example, Cloud Computing allows companies to use Cloud Computing Companies instead of investing thousands of dollars to buy company servers and then spend thousands more to maintain them (and replace every four years or so), subscribers to Cloud Computing pay only for what they use on a monthly basis.

To better understand the impact, know that when we buy a server, we don't buy what we actually need today, instead we must anticipate what our company will need over the next three or four years. Because of this, a lot of what we buy sits idle for years without really being used. Further, if we took a loan out for the equipment we are actually paying for something we aren't even using. This is further exacerbated if the company grows slower than anticipated, but when the company buys or leases the equipment it is committed to that action.

When a company purchases the computing resources (traditional route) it is also more expensive when the company grows faster than anticipated. While greater than expected growth can be very good, the added cost is not.

Once the computing resources are in place in the traditional route and growth goes beyond what the equipment was planned for, its often very costly to expand using the initial equipment. These cost, include hardware purchases, labor to install, and a more time-consuming migration process, though the biggest losses can stem from the additional interruptions to business operations during the transition period, all of which negatively impact the profitability and company's ability to deliver on its promises and remain competitive in the market place . Contrast this with Cloud Computing, in which these hardware associated costs are eliminated.