Cloud Computing: Benefits and Definition

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A day does not pass here at Website Magazine where we don't get a question on cloud computing. As such, we thought we'd do our best to explain the concept (and technology) in its absolute simplest form and let you know what we think its benefits are to Web professionals.

Cloud computing relies on shared computing resources rather than having local, dedicated services to handle applications. The objective is to apply high-performance computing power to consumer-oriented applications. Cloud computing networks are essentially large groups of servers, usually those with low-cost consumer PC technology, with specialized connections to spread data-processing chores across them. This shared IT infrastructure contains large pools of systems that are linked together. 

The benefits of cloud computing to Web professionals are many (which is why you hear so much about it):

  • Lower up-front costs – Instead of buying hardware, software and consultants to set up and run applications, businesses can pay a cloud-based provider “by-the-drink.”
  • Faster time to market – The ability to deploy and scale your app in hours without changing code ultimately enables companies to begin making a profit sooner.
  • Reduced financial risk – Instead of the entire financial risk taken upfront, with uncertain return, financial risk is taken monthly and matched to return.
  • Lower CapEx - Cloud computing model leverages commodity hardware and eliminates unnecessary over-provisioning, allowing a utility pricing mode.
  • Lower OpEx - Administrators are freed from tedious manual provisioning and management of servers, so application operations are streamlined.
  • Decreased downtime & costly delays - Businesses can add capabilities quickly without investing in new hardware or having uncertainty of data loss and downtime - and scale from a fraction of a server to hundreds of CPUs in days.
  • Additional services - Services include more security, redundancy, bandwidth, and dedicated expert staff than most small and mid-size businesses can afford on their own.
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Jake McAuley 12-18-2008 8:54 PM

Could you give some real life examples of applications running in the clouds?

LeeS 12-19-2008 7:38 PM

If I hadn't read other articles on "cloud computing", I still wouldn't know what it is from the above article.  Basically, it's Software as a Service (SaaS) - which is really catching on in many different industries. Instead of buying software and installing it on your computer (or everyone's computer in your office - which can get expensive & time consuming), all you need is a computer with a browser and an internet connection.

You subscribe to the service online and interact with the program online - but all of the software stays on the host server - not on your computer. A very simple example is web-based email like your Yahoo email that you read, reply, save, delete, etc. all online - not on your computer's hard drive.  Another example is Google Aps for Word Processing, Spread Sheets, etc that are all done online via your browser - not software installed on your computer. A third example would be - online ("cloud" or SaaS) accounting software for Law Firms.

Because all of the processing (and saving) of programs is done via the web - not on your computer - the popularity of netbooks ("mini" laptops with 9" screens and built-in WiFi) are getting very popular (you can pick one up for under $400). They typcially don't have a lot of memory (512 Mb) or hard drive space (160 Gb), but they don't need to. They're made to work with apps & programs online via a web browser.

From a user's point of view, one of the best things about SaaS, in my opinion,  is that the software you're using (via the internet) is always up to date - no fixes, no patches, no new versions to download and install on your computer. Every time you log on to the software service provider - voila! the software is always current.

Jeff Hardy 12-22-2008 1:59 PM

Last month I had the opportunity to speak at PubCon in Las Vegas about Cloud Computing.  I sat on a panel with Mike Culver of Amazon Web Services and I have received tons of positive feedback on this.  My take was to help differentiate hype from truth in Cloud Computing.  The responce was so great that I followed it up with an article:">

When push comes to shove, as Cloud Computing gains market buzz we must remember what it really is and--perhaps more importantly--what it is not.

Be well,

Jeffrey J. Hardy

Paul Web 02-16-2012 8:27 PM

Though this article is already years old, I think it still is able to cover most of the basic fundamentals of cloud computing. One flaw of cloud computing is that hackers can target the servers at once and thousands of people can be affected if they all run their applications from those dedicated servers. Thanks for sharing this information!

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