Cloud computing is now well established in the world of business. Early adopters have now benefited from cloud based technologies for 2-3 years. So if you weren’t an early adopter, you can be in what is termed in innovation as the ‘early majority’. These are the people who will benefit from new products and services, but won’t be guinea pigs like the early adopters were.
So what are cloud services? Cloud services are really just hosted servers in data centres. The only difference to a dedicated standalone single server and a cloud based ‘service’ is that the cloud service must be automatically scalable or ‘elastic’ in nature. That is, when the staff from a business all logon and work at the same time, the server must offload excess tasks to another server, and another, and so on. To the end users, there should be no degradation of service. However, if there was only one server available, the service would degrade, with access to software, data and files getting slower and slower.
The way cloud businesses make their money is by charging per hour per central processing unit (CPU), called CPU time. In the example above, the business will be charged for the main server, plus the additional CPU time that was needed to ‘top up’ the service. Most providers charge monthly. The dilemma the cloud providers have is that they need to provide an excess of capacity of servers, in case several of their business clients have a high number of staff online, which they need to fulfil.
So that’s the hardware scalable, but what about software? Microsoft Windows Azure and Amazon EC2 are just two technologies that automatically scale and reduce as user demand increases and decreases. These allow the servers to work together seamlessly. Users have no idea that they are being provisioned by a cluster of servers.
Ask your IT provider about if cloud computing is something that your business, school or charity could be benefiting from.