You’ve undoubtedly heard the term “cloud computing” being used over the past couple of years, and you may be wondering what all of the buzz is about.
First, let’s make sure we’re talking about the same thing when we say “cloud computing,” as there is a good amount of confusion as to what exactly it is. The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) provides the following definition:
Cloud computing is a model for enabling convenient, on-demand network access to a shared pool of configurable computing resources (e.g., networks, servers, storage, applications, and services) that can be rapidly provisioned and released with minimal management effort or service provider interaction.
That’s a mouthful.
The key characteristic of cloud computing is that the processing and storage of data is “in the cloud”; that is, the processing and storage of data is not in a specified, known or static location. This is in contrast to a more traditional model in which the processing takes place on a server in your office closet or the data center down the street.
Parallels to this concept can be drawn – and have been, in such books as The Big Switch by Nicholas Carr – with the electricity grid. You purchase the electricity to power your house and your office, most likely without any knowledge of where it is produced and what infrastructure is required to produce it. This is the concept behind “cloud computing.”
You want the “electricity” (computing power, applications, etc.), but you don’t need to know how the power plant (network, servers, etc.) works, and you certainly don’t want to buy a power plant of your own.
You may laugh at that last statement, but photographs of businesses in the early 1900s show that most businesses did have generators (power plants) of their own because the public electrical grid was not what it is today. It’s incomprehensible to us today that we would need to generate our own power each day to work, and the argument is that it will be equally incomprehensible in another ten years that you once had to run your own technology infrastructure.
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||About Fernando Sosa
Fernando Sosa is a technology consultant, project management professional, and software developer who helps small businesses and nonprofit organizations make the most of their information technology resources.