What is the Cloud?
The sharing of computers, software and data storage
By Larry Wendt
Doing a Google search on the phrase “What Is Cloud Computing” generates more than 166 million search results. This is an active and often confusing issue in the world of computer technology – what exactly is cloud computing?
A brief, formal definition of cloud computing states:
“Cloud computing is on-demand, location-independent computing with shared resources.”
Informally, cloud computing is the sharing of computers, software and data storage (called computer resources) between many organizations or individuals. This sharing can be applied to almost any type of software or service. The computer resources are typically owned by a vendor (for example, Microsoft) who desires to sell the use of those resources to many organizations or individuals. The benefit for the user is that they essentially rent or lease the use of the resources and pay only for what they need or consume.
The whole concept of cloud computing can be illustrated by a Quickbooks example. If you want to use the cloud version of Quickbooks, you would go to the Intuit website and sign up for the ‘Quickbooks Online’ option and pay a monthly fee. To use the software, instead of starting it on your computer as you would in the traditional model, you would open your Internet browser, login to your specific account on the Intuit website, and access Quickbooks within your browser. What makes this a cloud application is that Quickbooks is running from the computers owned and maintained by Intuit. Your data is stored on the Intuit computers as well. Backups, security, maintenance and upgrades are all done by Intuit – not you or your company. When you need to add more users, you would still need to purchase a computer for each individual user, and then add them to your Quickbooks Online account. The resources required to support the additional users would be automatically provided.
Many computer tasks and software are candidates to be cloud applications, although some are better candidates than others; this is an important consideration when deciding whether to use a cloud application. You may even be using some cloud applications now. For instance, if you have a Gmail or Yahoo email account, you are using the cloud.
Is the Cloud secure?Cloud-based applications depend on encryption technology to keep information transmitted across the Internet and stored data secure and safe. Encryption technology is the deliberate scrambling of data as it is sent from a source location – say your computer – and a subsequent reversal of the scrambling when the data reaches its destination.
In the webinar “Your Business and the Cloud – A Primer”, you will learn how the cloud can potentially help or hinder your business. We will review the basic elements of cloud technology and how you can evaluate whether or not the cloud can give your business a competitive edge. Be sure and register for the Wednesday, April 6 at 10:00 a.m. CST webinar to learn more about cloud technology.
About the Author
Larry Wendt has led Syscon, Inc. as its chief executive and systems designer since 1986.