by Richard George
This year the Cloud has officially become a major player in the IT world (maybe the major player). But what is it? And why do companies use Cloud technology? I recently conducted a non-scientific, but random survey of what people thought of when I said the word “cloud”. Answers mostly included thoughts of those white fluffy things that float in the sky without a care in the world. When I added some context to my question, i.e., computing or technology services off premise or just SaaS (Software as a Service), I would get nods indicating they understood the concept but few had any specific examples of actually using the Cloud. Today we’ll leave the clouds in the sky and head down the internet superhighway to take a closer look at that emerging Cloud arena.
One simplistic way to show what Cloud computing looks like is depicted above. The Cloud is a computer or cluster of servers (powerful computers) that are not located on your premises, but are accessed via the internet. Responsibility for maintenance of the hardware and all of the software belongs to the vendor (cloud provider), which relieves your organization of the need to staff and train people for expensive and complex IT work and infrastructure maintenance. Just to be clear, when I say that someone else is responsible, I mean they’re responsible for nearly everything – all the hardware, software, including the operating system, updates, and system security. You’re responsible for configuring the software, administrating user security (adding/changing users), and anything that you might build that wasn’t delivered with the system (think interfaces or reports). The Cloud provider keeps everything “current”. IT maintains/buys new servers, updates all the software, and if something goes wrong, like a power outage, then your provider is responsible for a backup power source or moving service to a different location (quickly). Cloud contracts include uptime/service guarantees, so that ideally, when a problem occurs, you are not even aware of it. They provide “peace of mind” – an assurance to provide your service per the agreement. (Reminds me of those carefree fluffy white things in the sky. . . )
Are you currently taking advantage of the Cloud? Even personally, are you utilizing the Cloud? The Cloud provides many services that you are probably using today – from your Yahoo-mail to music from iTunes to nearly anything at Amazon (books/movies/shopping), i.e., there are many Cloud applications that you may use daily without thinking about it.
Where does the Cloud fit in for business use? One common Cloud service example is seen in the services provided by several HCM vendors to provide HR services, compute payroll or support open enrollment.
If you are interested in learning more about the Cloud, starting with the basics, then next week I’ll talk about more of what sort of business applications are supported in the Cloud, using details and examples. As always, I’ll keep the blogs short and to the point and provide links to more detailed information or sources. Send me a note at (Cloud@Sierra-Cedar.com) with your comments and questions (or disagreements).
1 Cloud Statistics, http://siliconangle.com/blog/2014/01/27/20-cloud-computing-statistics-tc0114/
 When things go really wrong, https://www.ideals.illinois.edu/bitstream/handle/2142/95/Illinois%20Bell%20Telephone%20Fire,%201988.pdf?sequence=2