Let’s face it, everywhere we go these days we hear the term “The Cloud”. But what does it mean? What does it do for us? Is it for home folk to use to store their music? Or is it something viable a business can use to enable information flow and utilize it to do business faster, cheaper, and ultimately better?
Well I’m hoping to shed a bit of light on this topic. Let’s start with what “The Cloud” is exactly…
Original Definition: The Cloud is a group or collection of resources which are available to users on demand. Traditionally this didn’t mean just through the internet, but rather over different types of networks. Basically it was accessing data from a pool of resources which were allocated to provide the data. From the get go you can tell it’s a very loose definition, which can cover technologies that existed before “The Cloud” even existed, odd huh?
Today’s Definition: A means to deliver a software, service, or platform from a cloud of resources available, sold by a reseller or provider. Usually sold on demand by the number of seats (or users), and by the time used.
In the beginning
In the beginning, there was a company that was pioneering a new technology called virtualization. This virtualization technology allowed a physical server to run more than one operating system simultaneously. Ultimately this technology allowed a server, to actually be 10, 20, essentially numerous servers packed in to one physical server. All of a sudden, we created a pool of servers, inside of one server. In a datacenter, there could be numerous physical servers, each running numbers virtual machines (virtual servers). This is where the term “The Cloud” originally started being used.
IT staff could create servers, move servers, re-organize servers in “The Cloud”, and the services and data on these servers inside of this cloud would be provided to users. Essentially you’d be using “The Cloud” of servers.
Virtualization has become an amazing technology which in our opinion is mandatory for any company with multiple servers. In a way you could say it’s a next-generation technology that’s available today!
And let it be said we fully agree with and support these technologies. Digitally Accurate specializes in virtualization, and this virtualization technology helps businesses every day perform business faster, better, and more effectively.
Over time as more companies adopted virtualization, the term “The Cloud” caught on more and more.People were doing more and more things with making information available anywhere, whether it was music, business data, pictures, you could access it from anywhere!
Now fast forward to the recession. At this time, lot’s of large corporations minimized their IT budgets, and the majority of Small to Medium sized businesses virtually eliminated their IT budgets. IT Solution and Support providers were no longer making sales, or selling solutions that cost what was now considered a fortune. IT providers in the interest of self-preservation had to find a new way to make money and the providers who were still doing well during the recession, needed to find a way to target small to medium sized businesses with their new budget limitations. With the expertise in these technologies and understandings of the way they worked, IT providers started to figure out that their potential clients were more interested in penny pinching, then looking at the bigger picture. Why not develop a solution for these companies that allowed them to pay small amounts monthly, which was secured by a long-term contract (that’s inescapable), and that allowed the IT companies to provide the services to a customer that would normally be provided by the customers own infrastructure.
This allowed the IT provider to provide services from their own servers to multiple clients, essentially squeezing out every ounce of performance possible from equipment. The re-occurring revenue secured their existence, and the length of the locked-in contracts made sure clients couldn’t leave once they were drawn to the low setup costs and monthly costs of the service.
Often, the client’s weren’t sold everything they were looking for and since they were locked in to a contract they couldn’t change providers after being duped. Essentially, they would have to pay more and more to actually get the services they thought there were getting in the first place. This allowed the IT providers initial quotes to remain low, look cost-effective, but open the door to major profits once contracts were signed.
Over time this model caught on, a whole industry was created, from the companies that owned the servers in the data center, to the companies that setup, managed and maintained the physical servers, to the companies that applied “The Cloud” or “Software as a Service” model and provisioned the cloud, to the company that ultimately resells the services.
Fast Forward to Today
Businesses are often lured in by the cheap setup costs and cheap monthly costs thinking they are getting everything their businesses need. The moment a business signs off on a contract to implement these services, they are usually immediately passed off to another company up one tier in the Cloud industry I mentioned above. Usually all support, maintenance, and other services are provided by an entirely different company than the one which you signed the contract with.
The reseller has officially made their profit off your signature and can now walk away. In some cases you won’t hear from them unless you need to purchase more services, licenses, etc… Ask yourself, is this a business relationship? Or more like a door-to-door salesman?
Most companies aren’t told that all their information they will be accessing from a server in who-knows-where requires a lot of bandwidth. If you have people accessing simple things like e-mail, word documents, etc… if you have numerous users doing this, it can halt all your productivity to a stand still unless you of course upgraded you internet connection to handle this (wow, there’s some more additional costs).
But wait, what if the internet goes down? Well, you’ll need a redundant connection or you won’t have access to any of your data (wow, more costs???). If you don’t have that redundant connection, you won’t have access to your data. Be sure to make sure it’s fast too, so you don’t have people waiting 30 minutes to open an Excel spreadsheet.
What about disaster recovery? Do you know if the company is actually backing up your data? Do you know what their policies are on recovering that data? In this industry, it’s about signatures, and profits. Pushing clients through the pay door, do you think their main focus is backing up your, and all their other clients data precisely?
Where is your data being stores? Lots of cloud providers actually use data centers in the United States. Do you need to be concerned about the patriot act?
Have you heard all the news about the shutdown of the “MegaUpload” service? That was a cloud based service. It got shut down, do you think paying customers were given the opportunity to retrieve their data before it was taken offline? And wait, you mean the same server that is hosting your data, might be hosting illegal content?
What about security?
What if, what if, what if…
The Cloud… Where is IT leading you?
I leave you with this thought…
Cloud based services to share music, pictures, and dumb personal stuff? Great, awesome technology, simple, etc… Nothing too important. If it goes down, who cares.
Cloud based services for your business, confidential information, intellectual property, financials, mission critical information? Wait a sec, this reminds of of Russian Roulette.