"You don't generate your own electricity. Why generate your own computing?" -Jeff Bezos, Amazon
I am a cloud novice. I am happy to hold my hands up and admit that. My knowledge of clouds is limited to 'Look, that one looks like a dragon!'. However, I’ve done some research and I’m going to share what I’ve learnt.
Cloud computing is not a new thing. The idea of outsourcing your IT processes harks back to the 1970s. The difference is that in those days you were sending out your numbers to be crunched and now your numbers are potentially already living in ‘The Cloud’. It’s not a physical thing but made up of space on thousands of servers which host different things, one part might be hosting a webinar on cloud security whilst another is hosting pictures of people’s breakfast posted on Instagram, and yet another is hosting the data of a major medical corporation. This network of servers makes up the cloud.
You may have heard people refer to the public, private, and hybrid cloud. These are the predominant types of cloud infrastructures that are available to businesses. I've listed some of the benefits and drawbacks of each type below...
The public cloud describes data that’s hosted on servers offsite worldwide. You would go through an IaaS (Infrastructure as a Service) company such as Amazon Web Services to purchase space on the cloud. It’s the obvious choice for you if:
- You have applications being used by a lot of people (e.g. email)
- You use SaaS (Software as a Service) applications such as Salesforce or GoToMeeting
- You’re collaborating on a project with another company
- You’re using a PaaS (Platform as a Service) for ad-hoc software development
The downside of public clouds is the security issue – remember when Jennifer Lawrence’s Dropbox was hacked? Public clouds are much more vulnerable than private clouds but the cost benefits can outweigh the risks.
The private cloud is more suited to businesses with a bit more cash to spare. The services and infrastructure are maintained on a private network. You get the greatest level of security and control, but you must purchase all the software and infrastructure up front. This could be the cloud for you if:
- Control and security of your data is your most important factor
- You need to conform to strict data protection laws
- Your company can run a next generation cloud data centre efficiently on its own.
If you’re still not sure which one is for you then you may need to think about a hybrid cloud – a combination of the two! A hybrid cloud would work well for you if:
- You have some data that needs to be hosted with the utmost security
- You work with other companies regularly and need to be able to collaborate effectively
- You have a little money to spare but want to make sure your solution is as cost effective as possible.
The cloud is constantly evolving and changing – public cloud companies are now offering private cloud solutions and vice versa. Companies like Google have stated that all data being uploaded by their paying customers will be automatically encrypted but if you’re not paying for your share of the cloud then hard cheese! The best way to ensure you’re getting the best of both worlds is to invest, at least a little.
There are some who don’t want us to return to a world where we must pay an outside company to manage our data, it feels restricting, and it’s true that you may be limited to ‘off-the-peg’ solutions rather than something tailored to your needs. If you’re a small business however, it might be just the thing to help you spring board your company without spending massive amounts on IT infrastructure.
Here’s hoping my guide has helped you to understand a little more about the cloud, now I’m off to learn about Java – that’s coffee, right??