It’s safe to say we’ve all heard someone reference “the cloud” at one point or another. While the term may be used more casually in tech conversation these days, some may be left scratching their heads as to what the cloud actually is/means. So what exactly is “cloud computing”?
At its core, cloud computing in the context of corporate IT is simply a way to deliver services over the Internet faster and cheaper than using in-house IT resources which include servers, power, switches, applications, and labor to manage it all.
Cloud Computing Basics
According to the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), there are five essential characteristics of cloud computing:
- On-demand self-service
- Broad network access
- Resource pooling
- Rapid elasticity or expansion
- Measured service
NIST also lists three “service models” (software, platform and infrastructure) and four “deployment models” (private, community, public and hybrid) that together categorize ways to deliver cloud services. These characteristics and models serve as a means for broad comparisons of cloud services and deployment strategies, and to provide a baseline for discussion from what is cloud computing to how to best use cloud computing.
Another major component of cloud computing is what’s referred to as Virtualization. Virtualization provides the foundation for cloud computing by allowing multiple virtual computers to share the resources of a single physical computer or storage device.
It enables us to dynamically size our virtual computers according to the service delivery requirements, instead of trying to match physical hardware to service or application. In addition, the process of virtualization provides independence from the underlying hardware, so that hardware drivers (e.g., disk and network adapters) are standardized. The result is much more efficient use of physical resources and portability of virtual servers between hardware platforms.
Speaking of Cloud Benefits…
While one could argue for a much longer list of benefits afforded by cloud computing, we’ve condensed the list down for four key areas:
- Flexibility: Having access to scalable compute and storage means you can expand capacity as needed and that network can be automatically updated and adapted to the changing needs of your user base.
- Speedy Deployment: Experienced Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) providers that use advanced virtualization products can make resources available in a very short period of time.
- Security: With its constantly evolving data protection landscape and system reliability, the cloud makes for a powerful “one-two” punch, particularly for IT with end-of-life (EOL) infrastructure or data stored on drives that are not always backed up.
- Cost savings: Cloud computing can lower your entire operations and maintenance costs because you only pay for what you use and can later buy additional capacity on demand without making a large outlay of capital expenditure (CAPEX). Furthermore, according to current day estimates, migrating to the cloud can save an average of 15% in overall IT costs.
The Takeaway: From Clouds Come Smoother Sailing
Ultimately cloud computing is about enhancing and enabling a company’s business focus. By making your IT “leaner and meaner” you save both time and money which then allows your business to focus its efforts on improving the customer experience through delivering better products and services. By enhancing these core competencies you’re able to propel your company forward no matter how choppy the economic waters may be.