What Is the "Cloud" and How Can it Help My Business?

Every couple of years in the technology industry, a new buzz word comes along. Soon enough, the buzz word gets thrown around and even misused to such an extent that it becomes almost meaningless. In the past, terms like "dotcom", "interactive", "smart" (as in smart phone), and "web 2.0″ were unavoidable. This time around, it is "the cloud" that is everywhere. But as much as the term cloud gets thrown around, not many people take the time to define exactly what the cloud is, and why business owners should care about it.

What the Cloud Is--& What It Isn't!

Before I explain the cloud, let's clear up a couple of things. First, the cloud is not the same as the internet, although some companies throw the term around so loosely one might get that impression. Second, some seem to believe that moving a server away from your company headquarters into a datacenter means that you have put your server in the cloud. If it is a single server, this is not the case, and even if you move multiple servers into a remote datacenter, it still does not constitute a "cloud" except under specific circumstances which I will explain below.

So what is "the cloud?" Essentially, a cloud setup has two requirements: a group of connected servers, and virtualization software that connects those servers. The virtualization software is the key piece that turns a regular group of computers into a cloud computing setup. With virtualization software, you get a bunch of machine "instances" that can be controlled as if they were independent computers. That means that each instance can run a different operating system and have a different setup, even on the same machine. The ability to run these different instances can reduce IT costs and allow hardware to be used more efficiently.

Increasing System Availability and Stability through Cloud Computing

Now that I've defined what cloud computing is, I want to mention why it's important. As mentioned above, cloud setups can achieve more efficient use of hardware resources. But even more important for businesses, an end result of this efficiency is that it is possible to ensure high availability of resources in situations where traditional setups might get bogged down. Cloud computing can also improve stability by increasing network "redundancy"; while you might think of redundancy as negative, in this case it's a great thing, as it means that if a problem occurs with one virtual instance, another is there to seamlessly take offer so that no gap in service occurs.

The Private Cloud & the Public Cloud

One key distinction to make when speaking about the cloud, is to differentiate between the public cloud and the private cloud. The "public cloud" typically refers to offerings made by large companies, where you share the use of cloud resources with many tenants. While the public cloud has its uses, and can be cheap to get started on, it also has downsides. First of all, getting the setup right can be difficult, and may offset potential cost savings that the technology appears to offer. Furthermore, you share resources with neighbors whose identity you don't know, and it's possible that their actions could impact the performance of your cloud instances. You are also at the mercy of whatever policies the provider implements, which may or may not be to your benefit. Finally, the public cloud is provided by very large companies, and these are precisely the kinds of companies that hackers love to go after.

The "private cloud", unlike the public cloud, offers a client much more precise control over the technology setup. Unlike the shared public cloud, a private cloud is walled off from the world like its own little castle. Each private cloud can be built to solve a specific problem and address precise business requirements. This gives businesses a higher degree of control and flexibility, while allowing them to take advantage of the same virtualization technologies that are used in the public cloud.

Solutions for Your Business

CPURX offers private solutions for Data Protection, Backup & Recovery, Website Hosting and Business VoIP, to give our client peace-of-mind their systems are stored in a secure and isolated environment.

Can't get enough of the "Cloud"? Stay tuned for my next article about the benefits of Hybrid-Cloud solutions.