What is the "Cloud"?
BY UDO SCHAFER
We get asked this question all the time. To properly answer this question, we have to look back on the history of computing over the last 40 years. Before the advent of the PC, most corporations had two choices when it came to computing:
- Bring a very large, very expensive mainframe server and store it in-house, or
- To avoid the expense, outsource the computing to a third party.
With the advent of the do-it-yourself PC in the early 1980`s it became possible to do computing yourself in an inexpensive manner. In a bit of a reversal, the advent of fast internet has prompted many corporations to return to outsourcing visa via the “Cloud.”
Cloud computing means that instead of all the hardware and software residing on your desktop, or inside your company`s network, it is provided for you as a service by another company and accessed over the internet. Exactly where the hardware and software is located may not matter—it`s just somewhere up in the nebulous "Cloud."
Most of us use cloud computing all day long without even realizing it. Google, Netflix, Facebook, Twitter, etc., are all examples of cloud computing. All of these organizations use what are called “Server Farms.” A server farm is a group of large computers known as servers which are housed together in a single location, perhaps thousands of them in one building.
All companies that maintain server farms will then replicate them in some other geographic area. For example, one server farm might be in Toronto and backed up constantly to a similar farm in say Vancouver. This backup system is designed to mitigate any damage caused by catastrophic weather or fire that might affect a server farm.
Customers sometimes have concerns about where the server farm is located. A very common objection we find with customers contemplating moving to the cloud is the U.S Patriot Act implemented following the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. This Act allows federal officials authority to track and intercept communications. Many business owners do not want their data residing on a server farm in the U.S. In response to this concern, Microsoft has actually instituted server farms and their redundant counterparts within Canadian borders to allow Canadian customers to use Canadian server farms.
We have embraced cloud computing at Plexis. Our disaster recovery product is cloud-based. We use Microsoft Office 365, which uses the Cloud. This fall we move to a cloud-based Customer Relationship Management system and a cloud-based ticketing and scheduling system. For 2018 Q1, our goal is to migrate our in-house accounting system to a cloud based one.
If you are thinking of moving some of your computing to the cloud, here are some pros and cons:
- Lower upfront costs for hardware and software.
- You will always be current as the cloud provider constantly applies upgrades to the software.
- Known and fixed monthly pricing.
- Not having to maintain expensive servers.
- You must have a good feed to the internet.
- Risk of being locked into a contract you cannot easily get out of.
- Your cloud provider disappears and you are left high and dry.
- Go with a reputable player.
So while it sounds somewhat mysterious, the Cloud is simply another evolution in computing, and one that makes sense for an increasing number of our customers. BL
If you have any IT questions you would like us to write about, feel free to reach out to us at email@example.com. Udo Schafer is the president of Plexis Limited located on 1931 Fourth Avenue in St. Catharines. For more information please call 905.684.7253, email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.plexisltd.com.