Part of my job as a small business IT support specialist is to advise my clients on their IT development strategies and help them take advantage of how the latest technologies can help them be more efficient and effective in running their organizations. In this regard, the hottest topic over the past few years has been, hands down, cloud computing.
Very often, that conversation centres on what Cloud computing does. But what Cloud computing does isn’t really much different from what conventional, in-house computing does – it provides information and communication technology resources. To really understand why small businesses can benefit from The Cloud, you need to understand what Cloud computing is and why it should be part of your organization’s IT strategy.
If you are a person who struggles with the concept of Cloud computing, this article will explain Cloud computing is a clear, non-technical way that the you can easily understand.
To start off with, let take a look at a formal definition of Cloud computing. This one is from the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and is as good as any that I have seen. Good… yes!… but laden with technical jargon that average lay-person probably won’t understand so please bare with me for the moment.
Definition of Cloud Computing
Cloud computing is a model for enabling ubiquitous, convenient, on-demand network access to a shared pool of configurable computing resources that can be rapidly provisioned and released with minimal management effort or service provider interaction. This cloud model is composed of five essential characteristics:
- 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. There is a sense of location independence in that the customer generally has no control or knowledge over the exact location of the provided resources but may be able to specify location at a higher level of abstraction (e.g., country, state, or datacenter). Examples of resources include storage, processing, memory, and network bandwidth.
- 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 to be 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.
Now let’s try and put that into a plain English definition of Cloud computing:
Cloud computing is a method of providing information and communication technology resources as a service. Cloud services has five essential characteristics: