What is the Cloud and why do I want to be there?


Every time you open up a newspaper or magazine (assuming you still read those!) someone is talking about “The Cloud.” And if you have “techie” friends, you’ve probably heard them going on and on about The Cloud.

But if you’re like a lot of people, you’re probably more focused on your job, your family and your life than on “geek-speak.” So you may not be 100% certain what they really mean when they talk about the Cloud. And that’s okay - the Cloud is actually a generic term for a lot of different things and may even mean different things to different people.

So let’s begin by taking a short trip down memory lane. If you’re over 30, you probably remember “time sharing” services like AOL and CompuServe. Those companies owned big computers; and had hundreds, or even thousands of customers at a time who would “dial into” their computers using telephone modems (remember those?). They would then share files, lookup recipes, send email, read the news, etc. It was sort of the precursor to the Internet.

But even before that there was old-fashioned time sharing. In the 70s and 80s, if you owned a small business, you probably couldn’t afford to buy a computer. Back then, computers were big boxes that filled an entire room and cost hundreds of thousands of dollars.

So instead, a small business would use a time sharing service bureau, a company who owned big computers and rented out access to other companies, over telephone lines. All of your data was stored on the service bureau’s computers and they were responsible for backups, disaster recovery and so forth.

Well, as the old expression goes, everything old is new again. In a lot of ways, The Cloud is the descendant of those old service bureaus. Instead of keeping your entire IT infrastructure in-house, in a Cloud world, you’re keeping all or part of that infrastructure in someone else’s data centre.

So when you buy “Cloud Services” you’re essentially buying storage capacity and computing power on a remote server that belongs to another company, usually located in a large data centre and often far away from your office.

Let’s try to simplify things and look at the kind of things you can do with the Cloud. Here’s a partial list:

Backup: Probably the most common use of Cloud services. One of the biggest challenges in this day of digital cameras, MP3 downloads and streaming video is how to save all of those precious files.

Tape drives just don’t cut it any more. Besides being slow, very few tape drives have the capacity to hold all that information. Better still, Cloud backups are always in a safe, secure location. So if you experience a server crash, or theft, or vandalism or a natural disaster like a fire or flood, you never have to worry about recovering your data.

Key Applications: More and more software applications are being moved into the Cloud. Perhaps the most common is email. Maintaining an email server is costly and requires a lot of effort. And if your server goes down, most people have no fallback position. By using a Cloud-based email hosting service, you ensure that you can access your email from anywhere and that your server will always be available. You also transfer the burden of backups to your email provider.

But there are lots of other applications that are moving to the Cloud. One of the best known examples is Microsoft Office 365 which allows you to use your Office software and access your files from any computer with an Internet connection.

Virtual Data Centre: And finally, for those businesses who want to avoid the cost of investing in IT infrastructure, or who need to make their infrastructure servers available from many locations, or who want to disaster-proof their business, there is the option of moving their servers into the Cloud. There are many different ways of doing this: you can rent a “piece” of a virtual server from a data centre, or you can rent an entire server, or you can even purchase a server and have it “co-located” at a secure data centre. What you choose to do is really dictated by your needs.

Server virtualization doesn’t work for everyone or every software application. But it’s definitely an option worth considering.

That’s the broad brush tour of the Cloud. The truth is that there are many Cloud providers, offering many different options, and it can be very confusing if you’re out there shopping for Cloud services.

And that’s where Connectability comes in. We’ve been working with the Cloud and with Cloud providers for years. We’ve established strong relationships with some of the best Cloud providers in the industry and we can help you navigate through the decision-making process to choose the best Cloud solutions for your business.

To learn more, give us a call at (416) 966-3306 or email [email protected]. We promise to be your guide!