Man Cave
August 27, 2013 posted by littlewhitecottage

So what is the Cloud?

What is the cloud?

What is the cloud?

Emma has asked me to pen the odd blog from my point of view as a father/husband/man (take your pick). So here is the first of many, hopefully answering a question that Emma has asked me on quite a few occasions.

So what is the cloud?

A really good question! Emma asked me this as we sat in a coffee shop and her smart phone jumped onto the Wi-Fi network ‘the cloud’ with an audible ping. ‘Is this the cloud I hear you talking about so often?’ she asked. My answer was helpfully both yes and no with a healthy depends thrown in for good measure! So I thought I would write this blog for the non-technical person who has wondered what all the fuss behind the cloud is. So here goes.

The problem with an actual definition of the cloud is that there isn’t one! Ask 10 different IT bods what the cloud is and you will get 10 subtly different answers and they are all quite convinced that they are the only ones who know what they are talking about and will sit and debate over the internet for endless hours.

So why is there no definition when the world of computing revolves around standards and definitions? Well for one very good reason, the cloud is not a new invention or a thing with a patent it is simply a new way of using existing technology and software. Simples

There is loads of background and different types of service information that you can google but that’s way beyond what I want to talk about here.

So why all the fuss if we are just using the same things differently? It is all to do with the word service that I mentioned above. For me the simplest way of looking at and describing the cloud is by considering it not as a thing like a piece of hardware but as a service that is offered out to individuals and companies alike.

The service might have different properties depending on the company providing it, you can think about it like the different mobile phone packages offered Vodaphone, Orange etc. So onto my shortened Chris definition of what I think the cloud is:

A new way for individuals and organisations to access and use computer resources.

Simple as that! You can add lots of fluff to this such as how it is paid for and how it behaves when certain things happen however that as I have said it is all fluff!

So looking at a real world example and one that most of you have probably used is the iCloud from Apple. Now many IT people will scoff and say that this is not really a cloud but I beg to differ. You and I as a user of the service do not care if some computer nerd has deamed it a true cloud or not. What we are interested in is the service it gives us. Subscribe to the service and you instantly have access to a seemingly endless amount of storage to hold your digital media keeping it safe and back up your various idevices. Now this is very useful if like me you are always losing the things

Think about it for a minute, by simply signing up to a service you have not had to buy any hardware that will become outdated and need replacing. You do not need to look after that computer and ensure that it has the correct software that needs configuring. No you simply subscribe and you can start using the service and you get the benefit straight away and that in my mind is the epitome of a cloud based service!

Now extending this into the corporate world. Imagine that you can start to use IT as a resource rather than having to go out and buy expensive hardware such as servers, storage devices and network infrastructure then looking after it. Imagine that you just take on a service that has a monthly subscription and you use as much as you need without ever having to worry about the maintenance and capacity of the system as it is no longer your issue. You just keep paying your nice friendly service provider who will look after everything for you.

This is why the cloud revolution is becoming really rather popular in the business world as in theory it gives greater agility to a business at a lower cost.

So the cloud is here to stay and as a user of services you will start to consume more and more through subscriptions such as Netflix, Gmail and many others. I think the term cloud will fall out of usage over time and it will be more and more about the services that you take over the internet.

I hope that is helpful, if you would like any clarification just comment below and I will get back to you 🙂

 

4 Comments

  • Thanks Mr LWC. At last, geek jargon translated into normal speak!!

  • Not technical at all – does this mean that data is held on somebody elses server? How does the client know it is secure? what happens if the company shuts down?

    • Hi Nora,

      Thanks for the questions, I hope that you find the following answers useful:

      Q) Is the data held on external servers that belong to someone else?
      A) Short answer is yes unless you build an internal cloud. The servers will be in an external data centre on servers that are ‘Shared’ with other customers.

      Q) How do I know it is secure?
      A) The million dollar question, there are many aspect to security from perimeter security (The traditional firewall etc) to internal security that looks at the data being passed from server to server or in and out of the environment. You really do get what you pay for here. For example if you just take a server from AWS (Amazon Web Services) there is no security in this solution. You will have to design the security. Then we look at security of the Software as a Service such as Microsoft Office 365 product or Salesforce. You have to trust that the data is being held securely and that there is effective DR in place etc.

      Q) If the company goes bust then the receivers should allow a period of time for you to access the data to retrieve it, so you need to ensure that the cloud provider does nothing to lock you in to the service by making the data or virtual machines difficult to move.

      On a final note, cloud is changing the ways that organisations think about IT. It enables larger organisations to operate with far more agility and small organisations access to software and infrastructure that they would never been able to afford and then offers them the elasticity that you need while you grow.

      I hope that I have answered you questions here, if you have any questions then please let me know and I will do my best to clarify.

      If I can leave you with a question, what sort of services would you look to use?

      Chris

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Facebook Comments