Cloud computing is a phrase that has been used in many different industries and communities over the past few years. It has come to represent an entire wave of IT that is quickly rising to prominence and replacing the now outmoded systems that came before.
But what is cloud computing and how does it work? Answering these questions will help you gain an appreciation of why so many plaudits are being directed at the cloud, but first, it is sensible to examine traditional IT solutions to see what changes and benefits are brought about by cloud computing.
Prior to the ascent of the cloud, businesses had to invest in individual workstations on which separately licensed pieces of software could be installed and used by employees. This was complicated, costly and meant that tasks such as upgrading or maintaining systems needed to be handled in house.
In addition, businesses would have to run their own servers on site to provide networking, connectivity and a variety of important digital services for these workstations. What if a company wanted to add more users? That would be fine, of course, but it would have to buy more equipment, procure more licences and hope that its server could handle the additional workload.
With cloud computing, the idea of needing to install software on every single PC at a business to give users access goes out the window, because instead this software can be hosted remotely by a third-party provider at a data center dedicated to serving the needs of multiple clients.
There is still server hardware doing all the hard work, but businesses need no longer procure and maintain this internally, since it is the responsibility of the provider, who is then able to offer access to apps and other IT services on demand, as if they were utilities.
Handing the intensive acts of running software and storing data over to a remote server farm that is intended to bear this load without breaking a sweat makes a lot of sense. It means businesses no longer need to worry about constantly upgrading in-house equipment and can enjoy a future-proof approach to IT.
Providers are also able to ensure that the cloud is robust and resilient, with redundancy measures ensuring that hardware, power and connectivity can be sustained and restored for maximum uptime.
To enjoy the benefits of the cloud, all you need is a compatible device with a web connection; you do not have to be tied down to a single location because as long as there is broadband on tap, the internet-based apps running in the cloud will be available.
Scalability is another watchword of cloud computing, because adding new users is a simple task that requires no major internal infrastructural overhauls. Businesses can grow at their own pace and because you can tap into the power of the cloud flexibly, there is no need to pay more than is necessary at a given time.
For the end user, the way that cloud computing works will seem incredibly simple, because the most technical aspects are hidden behind simple, intuitive user interfaces that can be accessed through web browsers or standalone software portals.
Behind the scenes there is still a lot going on, with a lot of progress to be made, but providers are able to deal with challenges and develop innovative new techniques with the backing of business customers.
The cloud will continue to permeate more areas of the market and in many instances it will be implemented so transparently that the user will be unaware of its existence.