Remember when conversations about clouds foreshadowed the coming of rain or a cumulo-form that resembled a teddy bear in the sky? (You know, when times seemed simpler.) That’s no longer the case. Everybody is talking about “The Cloud.” For those wondering what “The Cloud” is and where it is, you’re not alone.
“Cloud space exists on individual servers found at data centers and server farms around the world,” according to Theresa Jones, specialty business consultant with America’s Small Business Development Center, Louisiana.
Technology terms are being pulled from not only the sky above but also the earth beneath our feet. So, what’s a server farm?
A server farm is a set of many servers interconnected and housed within the same physical facility. It provides the combined computing power of these many servers by simultaneously executing one or more applications or services, according to www.techopedia.com.
A server is a computer that serves information to other computers. These computers, called clients, can connect to a server through either a local area network or a wide area network such as the Internet. A server is a vital piece of your IT structure, according to the online article, “What Does a Server Actually Do in Your IT Infrastructure,” by Robert Best.
“I tell people all the time that the cloud is nothing more than someone else’s computer,” Jones said.
Cloud computing makes it possible to use a network of remote servers hosted on the Internet to store, manage and process data, as opposed to using a local server or a personal computer for those tasks.
Instead of purchasing hardware such as servers, data centers, personal computers, routers, switches and other equipment, companies avail themselves of “infrastructure” from the cloud, this network representing a cadre of remote service companies. Organizations can build, run and manage applications without certain IT infrastructure in house. Devices that are used by companies and individuals don’t have software for an individual computer or even the company’s computers, instead these devices are provided with licensed subscriptions.
“The platform usually dictates if it can be data files, images, applications, etc.,” Jones said. “For example, look at a brand like Carbonite, a company that sells its cloud-based back up and restore services. One solution will back up different applications and files. The other solution saves only files.” OneDrive will save files and Microsoft applications only.
Examples of cloud computing include Google Docs and Microsoft Office 365. Users can access work presentations and spreadsheets stored in the cloud at any time from anywhere on any device.
“Apple cell phone users do not think of their iCloud accounts being cloud storage, but it is,” Jones pointed out. Other common things that are used as cloud storage can be backups on tablets, security camera systems for your home or office, automobile technology systems and web-based business applications, for instance Dropbox, a file-hosting service that offers cloud storage and client software.
Even though “the cloud” has become a technology buzzword, it’s been around for some time.
“The cloud was introduced in the mid-1990s by AT&T when they introduced a web-based file storage platform in the sense of how we use the cloud today, but in 2006 Google coined the phrase, ‘Cloud Computing.’ Some put the date of cloud computing back to the 1960s, at the birth of network-based computing,” Jones said.
“The neat feature of having your data stored in the cloud is, by design, the data is stored in multiple locations, making it harder to lose the information. It is unlikely that the capacity will ever fill up because data centers can be expanded to house more information,” Jones said. “In terms of failing, it could, in the case of a breach or attack, but it is uncommon due to the amount of security put in place to protect the sensitive data that is housed in the data center.”
Jones said cloud storage is safer than utilizing jump drives and external hard drives. Those devices can be damaged or lost.
The cloud, like all of today’s technology, comes at a price. It’s paid monthly or annually. An IT department generally plans backups and cloud infrastructure.
“Paying for a consultant can be costly, depending on how much needs to be migrated to the cloud,” Jones said. So, bottom line, the cloud takes the investment, maintenance and manpower cost out of housing your own data.”
People and companies will pay for the convenience and benefits.
“It is extremely convenient, especially if there is a disaster or issue with the facility and the data is needed to get a company back up and running quickly.”
For a small business, the cloud is helpful because of lack of manpower and resources, according to Jones. For example, OneDrive can be utilized because it’s usually included in an Office365 subscription.
“Once the software is set up, where everything is going to the cloud, the business owner will have access to data everywhere they go. This works perfectly for businesses with a small number of employees.”