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Clould Computing

Cloud Computing
Technology with Integrity

By Tim Torian, Torian Group, Inc. 

Cloud computing is Internet-based ("cloud") development and use of computer technology. The cloud is a metaphor for the Internet. IT-related capabilities are provided “as a service”, allowing users to access technology-enabled services from the Internet ("in the cloud") without having to create or manage it themselves.

Chances are at least some of your software vendors are trying to convince you to switch from buying their product to subscribing to it. Nearly all information data services, such as tax and legal research, have been operating this way for years. More and more software companies are offering their product “online”, storing your data on their servers and making it available to you anywhere that you have an internet connection.
You are probably already using cloud computing services. Your smart phone may connect to computers managed by your vendor to provide services that allow you to update your email calendar and contacts. Web mail stores your email on your vendor’s server, and you can get to it from any browser. Google Apps provides common business applications online that are accessed from a web browser, while the software and data are stored on the servers.
Cloud computing includes:
  • Data Services (Lexis/Nexus, CCH)
  • Peer-to-peer/volunteer computing (Bittorrent, SETI@home, Skype)
  • Web application (Facebook, WebMail, Web 2.0 sites)
  • Software interfaces, the basis for Web Apps (Amazon EC2 & S3, Google API, UDDI)
  • Software as a service (Google Apps, Salesforce, QuickBooks Online)
  • Software plus services (Microsoft Online Services, QuickBooks Payroll)
Should you be moving your data to the cloud? Here are some benefits:
  1. Low cost of entry. Because you are sharing the cost with many others, you can get much more for your money. Your capital investment is eliminated. You pay just for what you use.
  2. Rapid Deployment. There is nothing to install. Often you can convert or upload your existing data to the new service based system. Adding a new user is simply upping your subscription.  You don’t have to worry about upgrading hardware to scale up.
  3. Available anywhere. You can work from anywhere you have an internet connection.
  4. No maintenance. Since it is all online, there are no more upgrades, failed hardware, or compatibility problems.
On the other side:
  1. No control.  Your vendor has your data. Your vendor decides what and when to upgrade. Your vendor can go out of business. Your vendor can charge whatever they want.
  2. If the internet is down, so are you. If your vendor is down, so are you.
  3. Data Islands. Unless you can find a comprehensive solution, you may find that your customer or other data needs to be updated multiple times for each vendor you get services from. Also, it is much more difficult to share data across applications, since it is often not stored where you can access it directly. This will probably change as services get more sophisticated.
  4. Ongoing expense. Unlike a purchase, you get charged forever.
  5. Web apps can be slower. Some get around this by downloading components.
There is a clear trend toward providing software as a service. Even Microsoft is getting in to the game with “Azure”, providing many of their products (Exchange, SQL, CRM, Dynamics, and others) online. The next version of MS Office will be available as either a retail box or an online service.  Most products already have an online component, offering updated content or online services as part of an installed program.
By being aware of the trends, you can make more intelligent choices for your business.

Tim Torian has taught computer networking at the College of Sequoias and Cal Poly Extension. He has a BS in Computer Science, and has been consulting on computer networking for the past 30 Years. His industry certifications include: Cisco CCNA and CCNI, Microsoft MCSE. He was recognized as Entrepreneur of the year for 2008 by the Tulare County EDC. He is president of Torian Group, Inc. which provides a full range of Technology Consulting services to local business, including computer services, networking, web and custom software development. www.toriangroup.com


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