So, What Exactly does ‘Cloud’ mean?
So many salesmen, so little time. What is ‘the cloud’ really?
Essentially it is resources, services and applications that are based in datacentres. The cloud can offer the following:
- Instrastructure as a service (IaaS) – Hardware essentially. Physical or virtual machines, storage, network, and load balancing.
- Platform as a service (PaaS) – Operating system, database servers, web servers, bespoke applications.
- Software as a service (SaaS) – Pretty much any software that can run on a machine provided as a service to an end user.
- Network as a service (NaaS) – Traditionally linking sites or individual machines using virtual private networks. Other network related services.
What you really need to know is that all the above is the sort of stuff you’d only gt involved with if you were thinking of providing cloud services.
If you are a typical end user, you are only really interested in what it can do for you in terms of productivity or saving money.
We can provide any of the above, by the way, in case you’re interested, but for the layperson the following headings may be more relevant.
Services Relevant to the Layperson
Most of what we are hearing about with all the talk and advertising about cloud computing is down to software as a service (SaaS).
It may not be immediately apparent, but most of the big players with regards to operating systems and software are now trying to switch their sales to a more predictable revenue stream in the form of subscriptions. This is most apparent with Microsoft’s pricing model for Office 365’s Exchange Online component; it now makes more financial sense for businesses to pay for the service than to run their own mail servers. Most software companies are now offering several methods of using their products, but increasingly are making it more attractive to subscribe to them. Microsoft Office 365 and Adobe’s Creative Cloud are being aggressively pushed, as well as Google’s Apps for Business, although that was always a cloud offering.
The other services you may have heard of are Amazon’s Web Services (EWS), Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2), Google Compute Engine (GCE), and Windows Azure, and there are plenty of others. These are all the infrastructure as a service (IaaS) models designed so that companies can use them to bring vast amounts of computing power online for a certain time period.
Tips For the SME/SMB
Putting e-mail systems into the cloud with services such Exchange Online (part of Office 365) or Google’s GMail (part of Google Apps for Business) is a bit of a no-brainer. The savings on hardware, software and support mean that it now no longer makes sense for the SMB/SME to run its own mail server.
The story is a little different for data, as there are complications on how to share it, back it up and more importantly, volume – does your data need to be where your users are? File sync-ing products work fine for small teams but you can get into an awful mess with versions and multiple people accessing the same data.