Time for a Change

I got the title for this article from a good friend of mine in Zimbabwe (I owe you a beer, John). As most of you with some form of post-secondary education will have guessed by now, this blurb is about Cloud Computing. But we´ll get back to that later.

Some days I like clouds, some days I don´t. At the moment, they are not particularly in my good graces, probably because we have had torrential rains in Maputo for the last month or so. As a consequence, I have a lake at the end of my driveway that I have to navigate through twice a day. And every now and then, my car goes over a bit of a hump as I go through the lake. I´m worried that when the water finally dries up, we may find something fitting for a CSI episode lying on the road.

So I looked up “clouds” on the Internet to get a better handle on what was ailing me. There are four main types of clouds; Cirrus (the really high wispy clouds), Stratus (the dark, grey clouds that we are presently stuck with in Mozambique), Cumulus (the clouds that look like giant cotton balls) and Cumulonimbus (the scary clouds that cause thunderstorms). What they all have in common is that they are all formed from vapour which has condensed in the atmosphere.

The origin of the word cloud is from the Old English word clūd. The word clūd is from an old German dialect which meant rock. I´m not entirely sure how some Old English guys arrived at the perception that a rock is a cloud or vice versa. It could be that they were stoned at the time they were debating the similarities between the two.

The clouds from Cloud Computing have a different origin. There are many opinions on this, but mine is that in the old days of computing (all of 20 years ago), we used to draw communications diagrams for networks with clouds in them. Network communications invariably involved third party service providers who had some responsibility for connectivity or routing. Rather than draw out a communications provider´s network with all the detail, we would point those links to a cloud shape in our drawings and identify the provider name there as part of the client network.

Like the clouds in the atmosphere, the clouds for Cloud Computing are different but the same. All of the clouds we talk about in Cloud Computing are basically interconnected Data Centers populated with servers. So, at the risk of being repetitive, the phrase “Every Cloud has a Server Lining” is appropriate for this discussion.

When you move your IT operations into the cloud, what you are doing is using someone´s servers at a remote location to store your applications and data. This is a simple enough concept and for a small organization that only needs minimal access to email, office applications and some data backup, the Microsoft Office 365 suite is a pretty comprehensive offering to serve this market. And in this scenario, you would be using a Public Cloud which has no restrictions on it.

Another scenario is that you build your own Data Center, install your own servers and create links to your remote offices to host your own applications and data. This is a Private Cloud. Or you could use a combination of the above and operate in what we call a Hybrid Cloud. You could also use several different Cloud Providers and host your Mail with one provider, your financial application with another provider and keep an internal document management system in your Private Cloud. And, of course, don´t forget that as you add services and users to your Cloud Computing requirement, you need more and more bandwidth to support the external services you have selected.

All of which goes to say that Cloud Computing, like clouds themselves are a bit more technical than just looking at a cloud and saying “that one looks like a bunny to me”. In these complicated Cloud environments, you can often get some rain. Recently, a very large Cloud Provider in the United States went down taking with it several major web sites and information exchange services.

Should you consider moving some of your applications or data backup services to the Cloud? The answer is a resounding yes. This is the direction in which Information Technology infrastructure is moving and as IT budgets shrink in difficult economic times, there is no question that Cloud Computing can help create efficiencies and reduce costs.

And when you want more information or feel ready to make that move, CES is there to help you navigate the stormy waters and get you to the right solution. After all, we don´t want to see our partner´s businesses get shipwrecked in a digital thunderstorm.

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