By now we have all heard of Cloud Computing. It is the real technology buzzword these days. The basic idea is that the programs or information that we need are not stored on our own computers but rather on another computer or server out on the Internet… somewhere in the cloud. I must confess that I have been something of a cloud-sceptic, partly because of the threat it poses for my profession, given that the real IT players in the cloud are very large corporations like Google and Microsoft, however I am coming around and am now convinced that the cloud offers tremendous advantages, not just for end users but also for IT professionals.
Small business server
If we step back to a decade ago, anyone wishing to have a corporate email solution, i.e. firstname.lastname@example.org, would have had to invest in a very expensive email server, to add to all the other file servers and print servers. Around that time, Microsoft introduced the Small Business Server (SBS) to combine these functions into one affordable, easy to set up server. The problem is when this server goes wrong or stops working. Recovery of an SBS server in difficulty is every IT professional’s worst nightmare, especially if there was no clear back-up strategy. Even when working, the technology becomes obsolete very quickly.
The cloud solution
The most popular cloud software service is email and there are several advantages to using a cloud solution, both for the end user and the IT provider. The end-user gets access to the latest email technologies anywhere, anytime from any device, be it a computer or a mobile device without the need to purchase expensive hardware or software. They don’t have to worry about availability or back-ups and they pay for the service as they go without any capital investment. For the IT provider, they don’t have to worry about the infrastructure but rather can concentrate on helping their customers get the most from the technology, using it in the most effective and efficient way possible.
What other cloud services are available?
We have all heard of the email and document management solutions from the two big players, Google (Google Apps) and Microsoft (Office365), however there are many others, including document sharing, such as www.dropbox.com, collaboration tools – www.soonr.com, Customer Relationship Management (CRM) solutions, such as www.zoho.com, Accounts Payable – www.bill.com, Communications – www.skype.com and many others.
And the future?
The cloud is very much here to stay, both on the software and solutions side as described above but also for just raw computing facilities like the Amazon Cloud computing platform Amazon EC2 (Elastic Compute Cloud) www.amazon.com/ec2 where you can literally rent computing power as and when you need it! This is not so far-fetched and in the future you may not need a PC at all and control everything from your iPad. So go on, embrace the cloud – it’s fantastic!