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Saturday, December 17, 2011

Its All About Cloud Computing

Before we explain what it is, let’s first look at traditional way of computing from end user perspective.  In normal computing environment, we buy application software and install on our computers.  We store our documents, pictures, audio and other media on local hard drive, external USB hard drive, CD, DVD, etc. Over time, when new software comes out and when your computer no longer meets minimum system requirements, you need to buy a new one.  When our hard drives are full, we have to buy a new one. And it is tedious to remember/note which files exist on which drive.

Now let’s talk about cloud computing.  The term cloud in cloud computing refers to the internet.  You may notice that when people draw computers and network diagrams, they usually draw a cloud to represent internet.  In cloud computing environment, you can store your files on the internet.  You don’t need to buy and install application software on your computer.  Instead, they are provided through the internet.  You can use it through your web browsers like Firefox, Chrome, Safari or Internet Explorer.  For example a popular cloud computing alternative to Microsoft Office suite is Google App.  With Google documents, you don’t need to install software on your computer.  You can just log into your Google account with a web browser from any computer and can create a documents or spreadsheet. Your application software isn’t tied to a particular computer.  In old computing, we stores our music, photos, and other files on local hard drive and are prone to viruses and data loss due to hard drive failure.  Now you can get a fair amount of cloud storage free (10GB at CX.com) and unlimited storage for a very reasonable fee ($5.95/month at JustCloud).  It is even more cost effective than buying a USB hard drive.

But cloud computing isn’t limited to end user environments.  It is also applicable to small and medium business to large enterprise as well.  More and more small to mid-sized business executives are asking “what is cloud computing?”  Building in-house IT team, buying computing equipments & software, and maintaining these infrastructures are usually big overheads for many startups.  Moreover businesses need to scale up and down quickly as needed.  When economy is in boom, they want more computing resources.  And when recession comes in, they need to scale down fast to survive.  In traditional computing environments, if companies want to scale down its computing resources, they have to go through complicated process with a huge loss.  But in our new era of cloud computing, companies now have an option of outsourcing its IT needs to cloud computing companies instead of running own servers in traditional data centers with own IT teams,.  Small business can rent virtual servers on the cloud from tech giant like Amazon.com, or they may rent cloud based software from a service provider.  In cloud computing, business can upsize or downsize computing resources on demand, and resources wastage can be significantly reduced.  For example, you may rent cloud storage space of 500GB this month, and you can change your subscription to 300GB or 800GB easily at a moment’s notice.  Some cloud storage like Amazon’S3 is even more flexible than that.  They charge on per GB basis, and you can check their pricing model at http://aws.amazon.com/s3/pricing/ .  In cloud computing, businesses can purchase the right amount of computing resources on demand.  Deployments are usually faster than in-house ones.  Upgrades are also easier.
Here is a list of cloud computing companies offering different services to end users and businesses.  Some companies offer infrastructure, some platform and some offer software.  IaaS (Infrastructure as a Service), PaaS (Platform as a Service), SaaS (Software as a Service) are common classifications of cloud computing services and companies.  Examples of companies which offer infrastructures are Amazon, Microsoft, Rackspace and Terremark.  You can just purchase/rent the right amount of infrastructure resources from them.  Simply convenient!  In cloud computing, companies don’t need to invest millions to provide development platform for their developers.  Like IaaS, PaaS providers can deliver development platforms over the cloud.  All your developers need is a simple computer and internet connection.  Examples of PaaS are Microsoft Windows Azure, Google App Engine, OrangeScape, Wolf PaaS etc.,  Another and top most layer of cloud computing is SaaS.  Total costs of ownership for on-premise applications are usually high.  SaaS providers like Saleforce.com, GoogleApp and ZOHO delivered software as a service on demand.  SaaS is usually recurring subscription based, but no upfront investments and scalability are huge pluses.

The evolution of cloud computing is still underway, but it is now changing the way people and businesses use technology.
So where should you go from here?  Cloud computing isn’t limited to cloud storage, but it is a good start to taste the conveniences.  So if you still don’t have a cloud storage, get a free account from one of the following providers and enjoy.
JustCloud (100MB after sign up, refer 2 friends to get unlimited storage)
cx.com (10GB free)
sugarsync.com (5GB free)
dropbox.com (2GB free)

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