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A Definition of Cloud Computing PDF Print E-mail
Written by Tim Wray   
Monday, 07 February 2011 04:50


Cloud computing has been a trendy term tossed around over the last couple of years by the industry. I have noticed that many people outside the IT industry have caught onto it and seem to feel as if it is a new form of computing, something fresh, something never before seen.


Unfortunately for that theory, it is neither new or fresh. The reason why?


The internet IS the cloud. We’ve been cloud computing since the beginning of the internet.


The internet, from the beginning, represented “the cloud”. In diagrams in textbooks, the internet is ALWAYS represented as a cloud.


Let’s do a quick study on the internet.


The internet is a large network of computers, comprised of millions of individual computer systems. Servers serve up data over a protocol known as Internet Protocol, or, more commonly, IP. This data is accessed in several ways, via other protocols/methods relying on IP’s functionality. This includes the world wide web (using HTTP), FTP, e-mail (SNMP), and many others.


So, technically speaking, whenever you access data in any form on the internet, it is in a “cloud”, basically, stored somewhere remotely, usually in a location that you are not aware of, or what type of computer it is stored on.


Again, the concept of the “cloud” is not new, it is simply a fresh buzzword that the tech industry seems to have latched upon for discussion, advertising, and the like. Most of the tech journalists out there (computerworld, zdnet, etc) have also latched onto it in large numbers. Someone at work recently brought me an article in a magazine that was covering the cloud’s place in the manufacturing industry. It was aglow with reviews on the great reasons one should purchase offsite storage and services that are in the cloud.

So, let’s examine the cloud, and how it has existed before cloud was the latest popular thing.


The cloud has existed nearly as long as the internet. Early examples:


1. Hotmail (established 1996) - web-based e-mail. You store none of your e-mail on your local computer, unless you save it manually. Therefore it is stored in the “cloud”, (or, on their server equipment.)

2. FTP Sites - (protocol created in 1971) - Offsite storage on a remote server. While an FTP site might not always fit the definition of “the cloud”, purchased space or hosting from an online company generally provides you with some ftp storage space, whether it be in the form of a way to transfer data to your website space, or if it’s offsite backup space, etc. In the “cloud” theory, you purchase space to use from an external vendor. So, you don’t really know where your data is. It could be in a data center across the state, or a data center buried under the ice in Antartica, nobody really knows.

3. Internet databases (SQL, oracle, etc) - This is an interesting and not as often known approach to data storage: Having access to an offsite database system. This is something you often see from Oracle and MySQL/Microsoft SQL. These have been around for more than a decade and are commonplace. Ever renew your license plates online? Ever buy something on eBay? These are examples of data stored in the “cloud”, or simply put, on the internet.


So, simply put, the cloud is the internet. No changes, no new amazing technology. It’s a marketing ploy, designed to trap more companies into buying server storage and software as a service (say, Google Docs instead of Microsoft Office on a local machine) on a month-to-month basis. It’s a new way for big compaines (and some crappy little ones) to make more money by controlling your data.


Yes, I said controlling your data. Think about this: More and more companies are adding offsite storage on their server systems. This is a situation where you store all your company’s important information, like internal documents, etc, on some other company’s server farm. If something major goes wrong (which, I know, is uncommon), and they lose all your items, that’s it. You either deal with it, or sue them for the money you lost when all your data went down the tubes in the latest hurricane, fire, or plane crash.


Another downer for moving your stuff into the cloud: If you lose your internet connection at all, all productivity is gone. You can’t access e-mail, you can’t get to your spreadsheets, you can’t read reports from your database. You can’t even watch a video on Youtube or read your Facebook status updates, because your internet connection is down.

On the flipside, if you have just a couple of in-house servers, acting as a file server and a database server, you still can have all that functionality to work on internal documents and with internal database information even while the internet is down. If you have an internal e-mail server, you can compose e-mails that will go out once the connection is restored, and still access all your e-mail that you would not be able to read if it were stored in the cloud.


Essentially, to recap, the cloud is simply a marketing ploy to get you to send more money to external vendors to have them do things that you can probably do more affordablly inside your own facilities. You pay them a monthly or yearly fee, which will not be small, to have less direct access to your own data, and without the security of knowing you can back it up and know the backups are working by doing it yourself.


If you buy into the cloud hype, good luck. Hope your selected vendor doesn’t go under and you lose out when they turn off the servers.