What Is Cloud Computing? How Does ‘The Cloud’ Work?

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One of the major IT innovations in recent times has been the explosion in the use of Cloud Solutions.

The Cloud – A Definition

Traditionally, organisations hosted their computer systems in a data centre on their premises. Over time, it became more cost-effective to achieve economies of scale by outsourcing infrastructure to a managed service provider “MSP”, connected via a dedicated data link.  Recently the dedicated data link has been replaced by an Internet connection.

That is the essence of a cloud, a remote data centre, shared or private, accessed over the Internet. The data centre can be in a single location or distributed over multiple locations. Simply put, a Cloud Solution is the delivery of computing services over the Internet. The rationale is that Cloud Solutions are more flexible, offer faster development and innovation times, all with economies of scale.

There are at least three types of cloud, public, private and hybrid.

  • A public cloud is an off-site Internet source where a service provider provides the infrastructure. It could be file storage like OneDrive or DropBox or a full transfer of the organisations computing environment to a service provider.
  • A private cloud is exactly that. It is hosted onsite, on your equipment or offsite on a dedicated infrastructure.
  • A hybrid cloud is a combination of both. Some applications and data are hosted on a public platform, and other, perhaps more sensitive ones hosted on an internal private cloud

Again, as the cloud concept has developed, new types and styles of clouds have emerged. As an example, the Internet of Things has meant that many networks deal immediately with large numbers of simple transactions. That has brought the concept of Fog Computing to the fore, a series of individual clouds at the edge of a network dedicated to processing those transactions, rather than overloading a network by sending them off to a central server.

How Does the Cloud Work

How Does the Cloud Work

The Cloud is just an extension of the shared outsourced Data Centre concept. As with many other IT concepts, a fancy new title for an existing concept.

At its simplest, it is an outsourced data centre, accessed using an Internet connection, and managed by a service provider.  Service suppliers such as Google, Microsoft and Amazon Web Services provide Cloud infrastructure and software.  Other Managed Service providers such as HostSailor leverage off Open Systems and proprietary software solutions to provide Cloud facilities from their data centres.

Here are some questions about how Clouds work:

  • Cloud Solutions are cheaper

    This is There is a kernel of truth in the statement, but it will only be true under certain restricted circumstances.

    Capital and operational costs are incurred with Cloud Computing, capital, making the transition to a cloud environment, and the operational costs thereafter.

    Substantial costs might be necessary to provide the upgrades to the hardware and software setting up a private cloud. On the other hand, operational costs could be reduced if the cloud environment is outsourced to a MSP.

  • Clouds are insecure

    Cloud security is a key issue. In the case of in-house private clouds, the security environment is no different from a non-cloud environment. The data centre will need standard network protection, such as Firewalls, Malware protection, and continuous network monitoring.

    For cloud environments outsourced to a service provider, the service provider must operate a secure environment.  Their security environment is likely to be top-notch.

  • It’s easy and simple to migrate to the Cloud.

    No. It is a complex, time-consuming and costly exercise.

    The first issue is to consider whether you should operate a private, public or hybrid cloud. This is determined by your business needs and what you can safely expose to the Internet.

    The second consideration is operational. You may retain some parts of the current ICT environment, rather than handing it all over to a service provider.

    The third is moving to the cloud environment. Some applications cannot be simply transferred to the cloud and must be re-engineered or replaced. Current business operations will continue while the migration takes place.

Hopefully this gives an indication of what the Cloud is, how it works, any why you might want to use it.

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