By Bob Herman
IT Tropolis

FOUNTAIN VALLEY, CA – What’s all this buzz about cloud computing?  Just yesterday I was watching a special on Google wherein their VP of yadayadayada indicated that authorities in Washington D.C. use Google Apps and cloud computing for emergency services.  What’s up with that?   I used to live in D.C.  The thought of my 911 paramedic being in the clouds scares the you know what out of me!

But what really is cloud computing?  To start, the Internet is often referred to as the public cloud.  For years IT folks have been representing the Internet on network diagrams using the shape of a cloud.  Just the other day my wife showed me this rather miraculous application on her iPhone.  The app recorded approx. 5 seconds of a song we were listening to on the car radio, then quickly returned the artist, album and song name, with the option to download the song.  How did this tiny gadget that I could easily drop in the toilet manage to do that?  Actually, considering cloud computing, it’s quite explainable.  Her phone uploaded, via the cloud, the recorded sample to far more powerful computers.  Those computers are capable of quickly comparing the recorded sample to a very large database of recorded songs.  Once those computers found the match, they returned the answer to the phone.  So there you have it.  But why all the buzz then?

Cloud computing implies taking the Internet to the next level for business use.  Large providers like Microsoft, IBM, Oracle, Google, etc. are offering their services over the Internet, or on a cloud computing basis.  Businesses can use these services to drastically reduce the amount of up-front capital costs for servers and software, as well as to reduce ongoing maintenance costs, often providing better services for their employees at the same time.  Following are some of the practical uses of cloud computing: 

  • Backup:
    New online backup services have grown exponentially in recent years.  Businesses typically incur costs for backup tape drives, tape media, backup software, and then the costs to install and run the system.  In addition, backup tapes should regularly be removed from the office to an offsite location, often taken home by small and medium sized business owners.  Enter online backups.  No server software, no tape drives, no tape media, and best of all, data is removed offsite as it’s backed up.  Simply install a backup agent on your servers and presto, you’re on your way to peace of mind in minutes.
  • Email:
    Numerous companies offer cloud computing email services.  The typical business incurs costs for hardware and software to run Microsoft Exchange Server for email.  Now businesses can eliminate this up-front capital requirement, as well as the ongoing maintenance costs, by using an online email provider.  And though you can provide remote access to email when hosting your own email server, these cloud offerings offer remote access easily out of the box.
  • File Sharing:
    Both Microsoft and Google are aggressively marketing their cloud computing services for file sharing, called Microsoft Office Online and Google Docs.  By utilizing these online document sharing services, businesses can reduce internal file sharing disk space requirements, and often provide better access for employees.  These services offer secure access to the documents from any computer connected to the cloud around the clock.

In short, cloud computing can save you money while helping you provide better services for your employees.