Cloud Computing

October 7, 2014

My MD always said I had my head in the clouds! Come to think of it, so did my school teacher. You may be wondering what all this cloud stuff is about?   Cloud computing is Internet-based computing. Large clusters of remote servers, or server farms, work together to store and process data and provide online access to that data and those resources. You can get Public Clouds, Private Clouds and Hybrid Clouds. A Private Cloud is one you run yourself, typically on your own infrastructure, but it doesn’t have to be. A Public Cloud is something like Google Apps or Microsoft Office365. A Hybrid cloud is a combination of the two. If that wasn’t enough, clouds also come in lots of different flavours – you can have infrastructure clouds that are a collection of hardware resources, platform clouds that are a collection of operating systems, databases, web servers and programming languages such as Microsoft Azure and Google App Engine. Then there is Software as a Service such as Xero Accounts, Office365 and Google Apps, and there are many more… In fact, there is a cloud platform for just about anything in computing and just about everything is moving to the cloud. Is it for me? Maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, but soon, and for the rest of your life! Seriously! Cloud computing IS computing. At Digit we’ve been championing cloud for years, we were one of the first to sell Office365 (BPOS as it was back then) and have been using 100% cloud infrastructure ourselves for several years. We get cloud. What about security? Of course this is an issue, but there is no reason why data stored on the cloud cannot be as secure if not more secure than that stored on your own servers. You still own your data (although it’s still worth checking the Terms and Conditions in full!) and most reputable cloud platforms will now encrypt all of that data and give you the only key. So they can’t look at it, the NSA can’t look at it (maybe) and hackers can’t look at it (at least, not through that path). You still need to have backup policies and security solutions in place just as you would if stored in-house, but the economies of scale offered by cloud computing are passed onto you as the end user, so you can have truly enterprise-class solutions at small business prices (which has long been one of our mantras). What are the benefits? Economies of scale can really add up! Plus you get access to the latest hardware and software and scalability…well, if you want to start the next Google from your bedroom you won’t have a problem for the next few years! What are the shortcomings? The biggest is communications. Having all of your systems and data in the cloud is great, so long as you can get to it. At Digit we are blessed with 300Mbps connections, but that is out of reach of most places in Cornwall. The reality is that today the communications infrastructure is the biggest single constraint we have when looking to move clients to the cloud. In many cases the cost of adequate communications proves prohibitively expensive, but this is changing and hopefully within the next 2 – 3 years this barrier will be removed for the majority of businesses. The cloud truly is the future.