If I were writing this article a couple of years ago, you’d probably be asking what the hell I’m talking about. These days however, you’re probably at least familiar with the term “The Cloud” even if you don’t fully grasp the fundamentals of how it all works and what benefit it can be to you and your business.
In truth, you don’t need a high level of understanding. Like with anything in this field, you need to know what it is, how much it costs and what it can do for you. These are the questions I will aim to address in this guide. If you are familiar with cloud architecture this will perhaps seem a little bit basic and for that I apologise. But for those looking for a quick run through as to what it is and what it can really be used for, I hope you find the read both enjoyable and somewhat educational.
To understand the cloud you need to understand shared computing and shared resources. The cloud is just a fancy name for that, an industry buzzword more than anything. It has nothing to do with the weather.
In the simplest terms, it’s about shared computing power. Imagine 10 computers with 10 users. Not all users will be using all of the resources of their computer at the same time. Some may be using it 100%, some may be idling using 5% and so on. The Cloud allows all of the resources of these 10 computers to be combined. So the user maxing out their specific system at 100% could harness more power by making use the the computer which is idling at 5% and so on. That’s it in its basic terms and that can be applied to any resource, most commonly diskspace. Take an array of 1000 TB drives on 1000 computers. All working in sync. You could use the resources of all those machines without being limited to a single physical box.
How Popular Is It?
The popularity of the cloud cannot really be measured as people have been making use of cloud solutions way before it was called the cloud. So it’s not particularly easy to gauge popularity. Then you’ve got the issue of people storing their files online and not really knowing that they’re effectively storing them in “the cloud” either. One thing is for sure though, if you’re doing anything online you’ll almost certainly interact with something connected to the cloud on a daily basis. Using Facebook, checking your Gmail or sending a Tweet. All these services run on cloud based hardware so you don’t need to be uploading your files to iCloud or backing up your computer with a cloud storage solution to make use of it.
What Can I Do With It?
The most common use of the cloud is storage. Whether you’re storing photos, music, videos etc in the cloud or business critical data. By utilising such you can have a lot of disk space accessible anywhere in the world from any device. You’re not confined to the limitations of your physical machine or location. Due to the nature of the cloud and it’s virtually limitless resources, you can use it for pretty much anything that requires computing power or resources.
Is It Expensive?
Due to the nature of how the cloud works, it’s not really expensive at all. When you think of the raw cost outlay, the server, the bandwidth, the maintenance, the monitoring and so on – it can effectively be limited to one machine. So in simple terms, if you had 100 users sharing the resources of a single physical computer then that cost could be spread out across the 100 users etc. Likewise with the cloud, if you’re an individual making use of the resources of 1000 machines but there are 10,000 other people making use of the resources of those machines too, the cost will be low.
But alas, cloud hosting companies are not in the public service industry so don’t expect them to charge you anything in relation to what the service costs them. You’ll be charged a competitive rate but fortunately the industry as a whole is very competitive with pretty much every web hosting company you can find offering a cloud hosting solution.
One of the better companies I have found during my research into cloud solutions was HostPresto.com. Whilst they’re typical a run of the mill web hosting company their cloud solution in terms of spec against cost etc is extremely competitive in comparison to the offerings by the larger, more established companies.
That’s about the size of it, in a nutshell. From this you should now have a firm understanding of how it all works, what it costs and what exactly it can be used for. So, the next time you hear of someone boasting about something cloud based or storing something on the cloud etc, you’ll at least know what they’re talking about.
As to whether or not you can make use of it and whether it would be beneficial doing so would depend on your situation and intended use. Cloud technology most definitely has its place in the market but personally I just think it’s putting a fancy name on something which has been around for a while. But as we know, the tech industry do love their buzzwords and fads.