Information technology people talk about three different kinds of services provided by cloud computing.
For 30 years, the trend in computing has been to migrate away from big, centralized, mainframe systems to more personalized, power-to-the-people, do-it-yourself PCs. The current topic of conversation is centered on cloud computing. But ask 20 people on the street what it is, and you’ll get 20 different answers.
What is cloud computing?
Cloud computing means that, instead of all the computer hardware and software you’re using sitting on your desktop, it’s provided for you as a service by another company and accessed via the Internet. Exactly where the hardware and software is located and how it all works doesn’t matter to you, the user—it’s just somewhere up in the nebulous “cloud” that the Internet represents.
An example is when you conduct a Google search. The words you type are quickly shuttled to one of Google’s hundreds of thousands of clustered PCs, which dig out your results and send them promptly back to you. The real work in finding your answers might be done by a computer sitting in California, Tokyo or Beijing. You don’t know, and you don’t care.
Types of cloud computing
Information technology people talk about three different kinds of services provided by cloud computing:
• Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) means you’re buying access to raw computing hardware via the Internet, such as servers or storage. Web hosting or DropBox are examples.
• Software as a Service (SaaS) means you use a complete application running on someone else’s system. Web-based email and Google Docs are the best-known examples.
• Platform as a Service (PaaS) means you develop applications using Web-based tools so they run on systems software and hardware provided by another company. For example, you might develop your own e-commerce website but have the whole thing, including the shopping cart, checkout and payment mechanism, running on a merchant’s server.
1. Lower upfront costs and reduced infrastructure costs. No need to buy and maintain a complex computer system, maintain anti-virus software, processor upgrades or deal with hard drive crashes.
2. It lets you buy only the services you want, when you want them. Easy to grow your applications—it scales up or down quickly.
3. Avoid equipment going out of date and other familiar IT problems like ensuring system security and reliability.
4. Overall environmental benefit (lower carbon emissions) of many users efficiently sharing large systems.
1. You need a reliable, high-speed Internet connection functioning the whole time you’re working. There’s greater dependency on service providers.
2. You’re at the mercy of your suppliers if they suddenly decide to stop supporting a product you’ve come to depend on. You could be possibly locked into proprietary systems and long-term arrangements with large, inflexible companies.
3. Potential privacy and security risks of putting valuable data on someone else’s system in an unknown location.
4. It’s sort of like renting a fully serviced flat instead of buying a home of your own. Clearly, there are advantages in terms of convenience, but there are huge restrictions on how you can live and what you can alter.
Steve Farmiloe is general manager of Top Speed Data Communications. As independent network design consultants, Top Speed Data Communications professionals can help you assess your ideal network design at no cost to your organization. Contact Steve today at Steve@TopSpeedData.com (707) 242-8270 or visit us at www.TopSpeedData.com.
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