Calming the Storm of Confusion: Popular Cloud Computing Knowledge Debunked

By Carmer P. Fleischauer, Citrix ShareFile

Poor, misunderstood cloud computing. As it turns out, most Americans have no idea what it actually is.

(Hint: it has nothing to do with the sky.)

16% think of it as a network to store, access and share data from Internet-connected devices.

54% say they hardly ever or never use the cloud even though...

95% use cloud services like Facebook, Gmail, and YouTube.

32% see the cloud as a “thing of the future.” 

Do you know what the cloud is?

More than just fluffy and white, the cloud is the present and the future of technology. But what does that mean? Did you know that any time you access data that isn’t stored in a computer or server you or your company owns you are engaging the cloud?

Want to understand how it works? Let’s break this down to make it clearer. Vendors, like Amazon Web Services (AWS), have locations with servers and databases, called data cen- ters, which are available to customers on a monthly, service-based subscription. These data centers have high security precautions like ballistic-proof exteriors, fingerprint scanners and ID checks for entry and exit of facilities, locked cabinets and cages, and redundant off-site monitoring of security systems to ensure that data is protected. The data centers exist to be offered as a service for customers that do not want to incur the cost and/or hassle of main- taining their own data centers. This makes it easier for you, me, your company or really any- one to access cloud services.

Where did the cloud come from?

Having nothing to do with weather patterns, cloud computing is a metaphor that comes from computer-networking diagrams. Typically, important systems like servers and databases (data centers) are depicted on the perimeter and all non-important networking infrastructure is drawn as a cloud in the center of the diagram. Cloud computing is simply computing that is done in the figurative cloud of the diagram. It represents the infrastructure it takes to send and route information back and forth between locations.So, back to our original premise: every time you access information that does not originate in the same physical location, you are using the cloud because the data has to travel from one location to another.

I’ve heard a lot of things referred to as the “cloud” – which one is right?

There are many cloud-based services available – from personal services to large-scale enter- prise services. Because the cloud has the hype of growth, you are going to see it everywhere. Let’s look at a few of the ways the cloud is described so we can cut through some of the confusion.

1. A reference to the cloud refers to “cloud computing” or “cloud storage.” The cloud al- lows anyone with an Internet connection to access a vast network of computers and servers located around the world containing information, which facilitates the sharing of files, information, storage space and resources over the Internet.

2. Internet-based computing allows servers to provide resources, software and data to computers and other devices on demand. Cloud computing is a natural evolution of virtualization, service oriented architecture and utility computing.

3. Cloud services offered on a subscription basis are referred to as “software as a service” (SaaS). Needs can be tailored from month to month and because subscription is monthly, it can usually be cancelled at any point in time.

51% believe the weather can affect cloud computing. The name comes from the cloud-like shape used to represent the Internet’s infastructure.

29% believe the cloud has something to do with the weather.

22% say they’ve pretended to understand how the cloud works.

14% have pretended to understand it during a job interview.

17% have pretended to understand it on a date.

Have you ever faked it?

No more need to pretend! Now that you have a working definition of the cloud, you are closer to getting the most out of it for your business.

It’s likely that you’ve already used the cloud for something general like online banking, e-com- merce or social networking. The right cloud services can help you work more efficiently and productively but has greater implications for businesses. According to a recent report by AMD, “37% of businesses globally are deploying cloud to either remotely host applications or host data (or both), with North America and Asia being most advanced in their implementation of cloud solutions.” In addition, the report showed that “75% of organiza- tions globally had the necessary skills in-house to support the move to cloud.”

What’s in it for you?

Aside from clear (albeit absurd) benefits like working from home in pajamas (or in the buff), and avoiding troublesome coworkers or clients, the cloud has already begun to change the landscape of business. The potential for cloud adoption in the coming years is growing. The AMD study reports that “businesses are deploying cloud solutions in great numbers and are basing the strategic future of their IT in the cloud. More encouragingly, they are already beginning to see business value from these deployments.”

40% see working from home in their “birthday suit” as the cloud’s biggest advantage.

35% like that the cloud allows them to interact with people they’d rather not see in person.

Cloud services provide an easy, cost-effective solution to problematic business functions, and many businesses have turned to the cloud to drive down costs. Implementation of cloud services has seen increasing ROI. According to AMD, 41% are experiencing up to 50% ROI on cloud deployments.

The beauty of cloud computing is convenient, on-demand access to shared, configurable resources that can be set up and maintained with minimal management effort. The work anywhere concept can be realized because of the convenience of the cloud. To- day’s users are able to connect to a variety of services at any time, from anywhere.

Cloud storage and file sharing

Using the cloud for storage and file sharing is rapidly becoming a preferred solution for businesses. Cloud storage reduces stress on your computer’s hard drive and allows access to files no matter what device is being used. With anytime access, plus an easy way to send files internally or to clients, cloud storage and file sharing are important to keeping business running smoothly.

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