‘To the cloud’


Because of a new concept, “cloud computing,” the virtual office has just expanded. You can now access your computer system from anywhere in the world, while using project management, CRM (customer relationship management) and other software packages. I have also been using a virtual office recently (easily the easiest and most effective virtual office London has) and it’s just a brilliant way of keeping the personal postal address private, so look into that if you need such a solution.


The cloud computing model has changed the rules of the game. All servers, networks, applications and other elements related to data centers are available via the Internet.

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The cloud model differs from traditional outsourcers in that customers don’t hand over their own IT resources to be managed. Instead they plug into the “cloud” for infrastructure services, platform (operating system) services, or software services, treating the “cloud” much as they would an internal data center or computer providing the same functions.

In a recent Oracle white paper, the NIST (National Institute for Standards) identified the five essential characteristics of cloud computing.

  1. On-demand self service – Users are able to provision, monitor and manage computing resources as needed without the help of human administrators.
  2. Broad network access – Computing services are delivered over standard networks and heterogeneous devices.
  3. Rapid elasticity – IT resources are able to scale in and out quickly and on an as needed basis.
  4. Resource pooling – IT resources are shared across multiple applications and tenants in a non-dedicated manner.
  5. Measured service – IT resource utilization is tracked for each application and tenant, typically for public cloud billing or private cloud chargeback.

Users can select among a number of service and deployment models as they customize their cloud to their specific business and IT needs.

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Service models

Software as a Service (SaaS): Applications delivered as a service to end-users typically through a web browser.

Platform as a Service (PaaS): An application development and deployment platform delivered as a service to developers who use the platform to build, deploy and manage SaaS applications.

Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS): Compute servers, storage, and networking hardware delivered as a service.

Deployment models

Private clouds: These are used exclusively by a single organization and typically controlled, managed and hosted in private data centers.

Public clouds: For use by multiple organizations (tenants) on a shared basis and hosted and managed by a third party service provider.

Community clouds: A group of related organizations who wish to make use of a common cloud computing environment can share this cloud.

Hybrid clouds: When a single organization adopts both private and public clouds for a single application in order to take advantage of the benefits of both.

Cloud computing offers the user many options as to service and application models. For the small- and medium-sized business person the cloud could be a very attractive option to maintaining their own servers and support staff. Here are a number of the pros and cons along with risks that need to be considered prior to entering into the world of cloud computing.


Quick deployment: You can add capacity or applications almost at a moment’s notice.

Metered cost: The pay-as-you-go approach for services yields a more efficient use of your IT budget.

Capital investment: Costs don’t stay on the books for years.

Maintenance cost: Maintenance is all from a workstation or configuration screen.

Lower costs: Many customers use the same infrastructure, but less staff, lowering per-unit cost to each customer.


Capital investment: Services don’t depreciate over years as capital expenses do. This could be a tax disadvantage over time.

Monitoring and maintenance tools are still developing.

You may need to increase your “bandwidth” to counter any latency (delays in data processing speed).

Immature standards: Groups such as the Distributed Management Task Force, the Cloud Security Alliance and the Open Cloud Consortium are developing standards for interoperable management, data migration, security and other functions, but real standards are still years away.


Data mobility: Most cloud vendors have some ability for customers to download and store data, but often that you can’t get all your data out of it in a way that’s usable in a different vendor’s software.

Privacy: Most cloud contracts include privacy language that promises a customer’s data is secure and private. Cloud-monitoring and management software are still in its infancy. The customer’s ability to know who’s looking at their data is limited, even within their own organization.

Service levels: Cloud computing isn’t entirely one-size-fits-all. There is some ability to customize the applications and services each customer gets. The ability to tailor service-level requirements to the specific needs of a business is far less than with internal data centers.

Interoperability: The highly-customized internal applications that many companies rely on most heavily are often incompatible with generic IT infrastructures available within the cloud. That may be fine with many companies, which would prefer to use only relatively generic applications outside their own firewalls.

Now that you have reviewed the pros, cons and risks of cloud computing, the decision is yours. Now could be the time to get your head into the clouds and flex up your computing capacity. As your business grows, you can now take advantage of the latest technological developments as they become available. For the small businessperson and the entrepreneur the cloud provides an opportunity to capitalize on the newest technology without a large capital investment.

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