Cloud computing is shorthand for a variety of commercial third-party hardware and software services available via the Internet. The cloud metaphor can sometimes imply that there’s no physical hardware involved; but while the goal for end-users is to minimize hardware and IT work, this is only made possible by third parties taking on the responsibilities of server space, hardware space, data storage, applications, and other back-end logistics. Think of it as shared server space, broken up into many “virtual servers” that are accessible via the internet. That network of shared resources is called a cloud. On the individual level, the benefits of cloud computing are readily apparent: the difference between iPhoto and Flickr is that the former is hosted entirely on your computer’s hard drive, thus a little bit of disk space is lost every time you upload a photo. With an application like Flickr (or DropBox, or Photobucket, or any file hosting service) your photos are stored on a host server, and you pay only for your usage (or pay nothing for very limited usage). For individuals, cloud computing is a lot like renting an apartment. You’re sharing the same server with many different users, but everyone has their own virtual server space that is separate from and inaccessible by any other user. It’s a great way to store files and run applications without having to use up your own disk space or manually updating any number of external hard drives. Your files are safe, no matter what happens to your computer.
If you run a small-to-medium-sized business, think of cloud computing this way: in the mid 19th century, owners of buildings and small businesses were responsible for generating their own electricity. This obviously took up a great amount of time, labor, and expense. With the advent of electrical companies, all the electricity for any number of buildings could be generated and maintained by a third party. People could simply purchase the amount of electricity they needed and not worry about the logistics—not to mention the reliability of sharing electrical power in this way. Suddenly powering an operation became cheaper and more widely available than ever before, and people were able to focus on the core of their business. Cloud computing works much in the same way. Web presence and IT infrastructure are now mandatory concerns for businesses of all sizes, and the greatest benefit of cloud computing is that your IT resources can be easily expanded or scaled back depending on your business’s needs.
Cloud computing can be especially beneficial to software developers. Mobile apps can go viral overnight, and the logistics of producing and mailing software in the form of DVD roms is superfluous in the age of desktop applications. But not every developer has the infrastructure to handle a sudden spike in users, or quickly execute a software update. Platform cloud computing allows developers and engineers to build their own applications using third party infrastructure, and then deliver those applications to users via the internet from the provider’s servers. That way developers can focus on making a great user experience for their customers.
Contoured Solutions provides cloud computing resources for individuals, businesses, and developers that are custom-tailored to your needs and optimized for maximum security. If you’d like to know more about how Contoured Solutions can ease your IT workload, or have questions about how Cloud Computing works, don’t hesitate to contact us.