Does the phrase 'cloud computing' inspire visions of hacking away at a keyboard while balancing on a cumulus nimbus? If so, here's the ultimate beginner's guide to the cloud and why this technology is relevant to your business.
We are in the full throes of the 'Information Age'. A company without an adequate information technology infrastructure will almost certainly be left behind, as speed, efficiency and communication are the building blocks of business success.
IT is, effectively, the superconductive glue that holds modern business together. It allows for a new field of business known as knowledge management, which, like a synthetic brain ensures that the right information, or "knowledge," gets to the right people in the right places at the right times, with few delays.
The advent of cloud computing is a further example of how information technology best practices radically innovate the way business is done. Depending on whether you choose to use a public cloud or a private cloud, you can either have all of your business' computing resources located on an off-site server (if you use a public, or outsourced cloud), or all the computing resources are located in one massive server at the heart of an office (if you use a private cloud).
Whether it's public or private, the server creates "virtual" machines which it sends to different terminals around your office for users to work on.
"Cloud computing" comes from the fact that the new information network, once a decentralized web of nodes, is now a single entity, or cloud, from which every point draws its sustenance.
Save money with the Cloud
Cloud computing drastically cuts computing costs, including those related to maintenance and tech support, because there are far fewer machines that need to be serviced. A single IT management professional can monitor all of the machines from one location, as the "machines" are just programs on the network. They are virtual constructs of memory, processing power and hard drive space stored on the central server and "served" to office workers and administrators.
Working within the cloud also makes it easier to foster collaborative projects in the workplace, as the same programs can be installed on every computer with the click of a button. Virtual machines are already stored on the same drive, so it is easy to create programs that allow different virtual machines to work on projects together. This makes it easier to hire freelance workers for collaboration efforts, saving money on health benefits while maintaining stellar productivity.
Security in the Cloud
As e-commerce grows in importance throughout the business community, many managers find that cloud computing lets their company engage with customers as a unified brand rather than as a bunch of disparate technicians or workers. In addition, cloud computing is great for keeping networks safe from malicious programs that populate the Internet of today. Antivirus, firewall and other security programs need only be installed on one machine - the server. If a security risk is detected, it is easy for the IT professional to shut down an entire machine without having to leave his desk.
Cloud computing is undoubtedly the wave of the future for business information technology. Improvements in efficiency, security and collaboration have cemented its place as the cutting edge of IT, at least until the next big breakthrough comes along. Undoubtedly, that will be sooner than we think.
Amy Greenacre writes on behalf of ITHound.com, business technology article library; for the latest cloud computing white paper
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