It seems that everywhere I go I am being inundated with Cloud Computing. It’s on radio talk shows, magazine advertisements, sitcoms, websites, and billboards. Much like the marketing phase we all suffered through a couple of years ago where any product could be granted hipness by slapping an “i” or an “e” on the front of it’s name, marketing executives seem to think that any product can be transfored into cutting edge or revolutionary by placing the word “cloud” somewhere in the product’s name. But what does this buzz word du jour really mean? Why do I care if something is in “the cloud?”
At the most basic, cloud computing means that you can access data from your computer or phone where the data is hosted by someone on a server somewhere. The server is in the cloud. The beauty of cloud computing is that you don’t care who manages the servers, what software runs them or where they’re located. The important part is that you can access your data or application very easily.
We all use the cloud in at least a limited sense. For instance, Google.com is a cloud based app. When you type in a search for best cheese curl recipe your query is sent of to banks and banks of servers somewhere. You may be getting results from a server down the street or across the world. It doesn’t really matter. As far as we’re concerned, who cares what database system is processing my recipe request – as long as the answer to my question comes back fast and is the answer in the ballpark for what I wanted.
Although websites are the most obvious cloud application we run into, they’re not the only game in town. At The Strickland Group, we’ve been using a cloud based backup product for a couple of years now. It’s a server that sits on a client’s network and takes periodic backups throughout the day. At night – or whenever the client’s off-peak internet bandwith hours are – this server compresses the day’s backups into one file, encrypts it with AES 256 bit encryption and sends it to a datacenter on the East Coast US. From there the data is replicated to another datacenter on the West Coast. This gives the client emergency disaster recovery capabilities if something happens to their server room. This product has several other killer features such as the ability to create a virtual server from the most recent backups – if your mail server has a hardware issue, this device can build a virtual mail server that your employees can use without any action on their part until you can get the hardware issues repaired. Really amazing technology.
Another up and coming cloud app is Cloud based antivirus. This is a new slant on anti-virus software. Essentially, your files are sent to the AV providers servers where they are scanned. Your PC is not spending valuable CPU time scanning files because it’s all done on a server somewhere in the cloud. You don’t have to keep virus definitions up to date, you don’t have to install the latest version, you don’t have to keep your computer on certain nights of the week so a scan will run. All you really need is a very fast internet connection.
It will be interesting to see what comes of the cloud computing trend. I think it’s safe to say that the buzz worthiness of the concept will wear off, but the technology of cloud computing is here to stay. More and more of our online lives will be in the cloud.