One of the buzzwords in IT is “The Cloud”. “What is the Cloud?” is something I get asked many times. However, the answer is not as easy as most things. This is because the Cloud is difficult to describe. The best way I can think of that describes it would be : a virtual network hosted via the Internet. The idea is that you move mission critical functions and programs to a remote network on the internet. According to NIST, there are five essential characteristics of cloud computing :
On-demand self-service. A consumer can unilaterally provision computing capabilities, such as server time and network storage, as needed automatically without requiring human interaction with each service provider.
Broad network access. Capabilities are available over the network and accessed through standard mechanisms that promote use by heterogeneous thin or thick client platforms (e.g., mobile phones, tablets, laptops, and workstations).
Resource pooling. The provider’s computing resources are pooled to serve multiple consumers using a multi-tenant model, with different physical and virtual resources dynamically assigned and reassigned according to consumer demand. …
Rapid elasticity. Capabilities can be elastically provisioned and released, in some cases automatically, to scale rapidly outward and inward commensurate with demand. To the consumer, the capabilities available for provisioning often appear unlimited and can be appropriated in any quantity at any time.
Measured service. Cloud systems automatically control and optimize resource use by leveraging a metering capability at some level of abstraction appropriate to the type of service (e.g., storage, processing, bandwidth, and active user accounts). Resource usage can be monitored, controlled, and reported, providing transparency for both the provider and consumer of the utilized service.
So when someone talks about “going to the cloud”, they mean that they are moving their critical infrastructure or service to a virtual network on the internet.
Cloud computing is cost effective, and provides much more capability than traditional networks. However, there is one drawback to it. You are totally dependent on your internet connection. If internet is down for any reason, the critical software or service will not be available. This may not be a big issue for some people. Our email is hosted on the cloud. If the internet is down at the office, I can go home and access my email with no difficulty. However, it is something to think about and take into consideration when moving to the cloud.
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