TECHNOLOGY: ‘CLOUD’ WITH A SILVER LINING

Words: Chirag Patel

Cloud is not a new phenomenon having existed since the beginning of the internet and the early days of using Hotmail and Yahoo. Essentially what is Hotmail? A Cloud based email service! We have been using Cloud Computing services without even realising it. Some of the most popular examples are your email provider, mobile account (photos, contacts, calendars), even your Social Network services like Facebook and Instagram!

Increasingly as the internet and connectivity got more powerful, the cloud got better and faster. More and more services and daily tasks migrated to the cloud. Earlier the cloud was all focused-on consumers as they didn’t have enough computing resources. Businesses typically had the resources they needed to operate.

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So, if you had walked into a company, they would have a local server, proxy, email-server etc. So businesses in the early days could do without the cloud. In stark contrast, in a home with a single PC, everyone wanted privacy and own mail accounts. So, that way the cloud made a lot of sense for consumers and they were the early adopters.

BEAUTY OF CLOUD

As technology and internet speeds changed – experience of local network and internet merged. Currently it is possible to access internet/cloud resources pretty much at LAN speeds. For most tools (read software) that businesses need to function smoothly (Accounting, CRM, Email, ERP etc.) there are viable options available on the Cloud – that too as a service… Software as a Service (SaaS).

Getting started with SaaS is as simple as signing-up for an email account. There is no hardware to procure, nothing to configure or setup – and more importantly nothing to maintain on an ogoing basis. Essentially, what required huge capital expenditure (capex) is now available for a monthly / yearly fee that can be part of your operating expenses (opex). Here too… you only pay for what you use.

Beauty of the Cloud is that it is on an internet server and not premise bound. If a company has more than one office they don’t need to have a duplicate setup at every office. Cloud based services are location and device agnostic… meaning users from multiple locations can access the services on a multitude of devices (PCs, Mobiles, Tablets etc.). Everything is real-time and synced – making it possible for multiple users to easily collaborate.

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HOW DID THE TERM ‘CLOUD’ ORIGINATE?

There is a very funny story as to why it is called a ‘cloud’. Earlier when techies used to design computer architecture, or depict a PCs/Servers connected to a connected the internet, the internet was always drawn as a bubble. And that shape, because everyone had a different way to draw it, ultimately came on symbolize a cloud! We often use the phrase ‘it’s in the cloud’ and that’s how the term came into being. Most people don’t wonder why it’s called Cloud. Maybe because it is ‘up there’!

So, from collaboration to monitoring tasks and processes, now it is possible to have a unified system, across the company, even with thousands of employees spread across the globe. Needless to say, this adds a lot in terms of productivity gains and cost savings.

From a consumer points… if you are using any smartphone.. Android, iPone etc…. you have already experienced the power of the cloud. It is the cloud that makes it possible to sync your contacts and photos across multiple devices. Thanks to the cloud you can update your calendar on a PC and have the reminders on your mobile. These days, if you lose a device – you seldom worry about recovering the data – because in most cases the data is already backed up in the cloud.

THE CONCEPT OF CLOUD COMPUTING

A ‘cloud’ refers to a distinct IT environment that is designed for remotely provisioning scalable and measured IT resources. The term originated as a metaphor for the Internet which is a network of networks providing interconnects and remote access to a set of decentralized IT resources. Cloud Computing enables the use of remote servers hosted on the Internet to store, manage, and process data, rather than a local server or a personal computer.

Local resources come at a dedicated cost (be it hardware, software or people). To take the example of Email… to host an email server requirs dedicated high-end hardware, connectivity and specific technical expertise. The same would hold true for other solutions… ERP, CRM etc. Such infrastructure is also subject to dependecies, break down of which can bring the solution down. What if your IT person falls sick or leaves the organisation? What is a hard-drive fails, or there is a virus attack?

When it comes to Cloud Computing, the very solutions you want to use are hosted and managed by experts. While local resources serve a single company, cloud resources are setup to service multiple companies. This brings in economies of scale – making it possible to invest in redundancy, efficiencies and constant betterment (upgrades) of services. Cloud resources are provided on strict security, privacy and SLAs (service level agreements) norms – so you don’t need to worry about breakdowns or loss of data. More so the entire hassle of maintaining hardware, backups, security is done by experts while you focus on your core business.

FUNDAMENTAL CHANGE

The shift to Cloud Computing is a fundamental change in terms of how an enterprise spends money. Since everything has migrated to Cloud and is being provided as a service, one only needs to pay for the service they use. What used to be a huge capital expense now becames a monthly service charge based on the features you use and the no. of users.

This helps start-ups and smaller organisations to use world-class solutions for an affordable fee – essentially, allowing them to compete with the best organisations in the world without having to spend large amounts of money.

An apt analogy for this is that if you wanted to have a milkshake, earlier you had to buy a cow!

Now you can simply pay for the milk shake. Pay as you go and more importantly pay as you grow!

TYPES OF CLOUD COMPUTING

Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) refers to raw computing hardware over the Net, like servers or storage. Since you buy what you need and pay-as-you-go, this is often called utility computing.
Examples: Amazon Web Services (AWS), Microsoft Azzure, Google Cloud Platform

Software as a Service (SaaS) refers to a complete application running on someone else’s system.
Examples: Office Suites such as G Suite from Google, ZoHo, Office365, CRM from SalesForce

Platform as a Service (PaaS) refers to the development of applications using Web-based tools so they run on systems software and hardware provided by other companies.
Examples: Google App Engine, Apps Stores such as Google Play or iPhone Appstore

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