Every cloud has a silicon lining | Part 1

In this F2MKE.co.uk blog series I explore cloud computing.  What is it?  What are the advantages versus risks?  What must businesses and schools check before putting their heads in the Cloud?  Does Cloud make sense in these times of austerity?

Cloud’ is certainly shaping up to be this decade’s information communication technology buzzword.  January’s BETT Show 2011 – the biggest UK (and arguably world) trade show of educational technology and resources – signalled this with lots of suppliers, large and small, marketing as many of their services and products as in the ‘Cloud’.

But what does ‘Cloud’ really mean?

There has been 4,403 revisions to Wikipedia's definition of cloud computing since the first entry in March 2007

A Google search reveals countless definitions augmenting the confusion.  Some of this is surely caused by suppliers blurring the definition to ensure that their products or services fit.

Elsewhere industry experts are stammering to reach agreement.  In the first 18 days of 2011 alone the Wikipedia entry for Cloud Computing has been revised no less than 87 times.  That’s nearly 5 revisions per day!  The first entry was on the 3rd March 2007 with a simple link to Utility Computing, described as a metered utility approach to the delivery of computing resources.  Since then there have been 4,403 revisions and counting…

My personal preference is for the following succinctly put definition:

“The term Cloud is a metaphor for the Internet.  Cloud is a different technological approach to the traditional data centre or in-house service where physical hardware and connectivity is purchased as required.

Put simply, hosting services in the Cloud in an infrastructure as a service model reduces the need for detailed capacity planning and management – a subscription model for computing power more aligned to utility services such as gas, electricity, telephone, water, etc.”

Examples of Cloud Computing are many.  From office productivity, collaboration and communication tools like Google Apps or Microsoft Office 365, through to backup, file management and media sharing such as Zmanda, Dropbox, Flickr and YouTube.

If the software that you are using and the files that you are creating are independent of your PC; and you can access them at anytime and from anywhere with an Internet connection, using only a web browser, then you are working in the Cloud.

In fact, there is arguably little that the typical office and home user, student or teacher, can’t do today in the Cloud, that they can using software installed on a local PC or server.

So…  I get what Cloud Computing is.  But what are the advantages and what are the risks?

In Part 2 of Every cloud has a silicon lining we’ll explore the advantages of Cloud Computing versus the risks.

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