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Up in the clouds

The next generation of business computing is cloud computing

By Stephen Commorato

Traditionally, a small business would consist of several desktops, laptops, and servers networked together on the premises.

But one challenge small businesses are currently faced with in a traditional platform is the upcoming end of life on the XP operating system. Yes, XP will continue to work on your PC, but without the support and patches from Microsoft, the security risk of your network and information will diminish significantly.

Another challenge is the industry’s move to 64bit hardware instead of continuing 32bit, and how upgrading desktops and servers are essential for compatibility with a new operating system for the best performance in your organization.

Because there are so many options available today you should consult with an IT company to analyze your business goals and objectives. There are many factors and the most important is current infrastructure, so choose an IT company that has knowledge and experience in data networks (transport) and not just local switching and sharing of computers.

Business advantage

Cloud computing is a natural evolution of the widespread adoption of virtualization, service-oriented architecture, and utility computing. By using software hosted in the cloud rather than on-premise, cloud computing can deliver significant business advantages.

There are several deployment methods to get to the cloud and the first component consistent with all methods is a cloud client. The client computer hardware and/or computer software that relies on cloud computing for application delivery, or is specifically designed for delivery of cloud services, and, in either case, is essentially useless without it. Examples include some computers, phones and other devices, operating systems, and browsers.

•Public Cloud or external cloud describes cloud computing in the traditional mainstream sense, whereby resources are dynamically provisioned over the Internet, via Web applications/Web services.

•Community Cloud may be established where several organizations have similar requirements and seek to share infrastructure so as to realize some of the benefits of cloud computing.

With the costs spread over fewer users than a public cloud (but more than a single tenant), this option is more expensive but may offer a higher level of privacy, security, and/or policy compliance. An example of a community cloud includes Google’s “Gov. Cloud.”

•Hybrid Cloud has been used to mean either two separate clouds joined together (public, private, internal, or external), or a combination of virtualized cloud server instances used together with real physical hardware.

The most correct definition of the term “hybrid cloud” is probably the use of physical hardware and virtualized cloud server instances together to provide a single common service. Two clouds that have been joined together are more correctly called a “combined cloud.” A combined cloud environment consisting of multiple internal and/or external providers “will be typical for most enterprises.”

Another perspective on deploying a Web application in the cloud is using hybrid Web hosting, where the hosting infrastructure is a mix between cloud hosting and managed dedicated servers— this is most commonly achieved as part of a Web cluster in which some of the nodes are running on real physical hardware and some are running on cloud server instances.

A hybrid storage cloud uses a combination of public and private storage clouds. Hybrid storage clouds are often useful for archiving and backup functions, allowing local data to be replicated to a public cloud.

•Private Clouds still have to buy, build, and manage them and thus do not benefit from lower upfront capital costs and less hands-on management, essentially the economic model that makes cloud computing such an intriguing concept and IT organizations use their own private cloud(s) for mission critical and other operational systems to protect critical infrastructures.

Components of cloud computing

The two most significant components of cloud computing architecture are known as the front end and the back end. The front end is the part seen by the client, i.e., the computer user. This includes the client’s network (or computer) and the applications used to access the cloud via a user interface such as a Web browser. The back end of the cloud computing architecture is the “cloud” itself, comprising various computers, servers, and data storage devices.

Cloud application services, or “Software as a Service (SaaS),” deliver software as a service over the Internet, eliminating the need to install and run the application on the customer’s own computers and simplifying maintenance and support. People tend to use the terms SaaS and cloud interchangeably, when in fact they are two different things.

Application delivery typically is closer to a one-to-many model (single instance, multitenant architecture) than to a one-to-one model, including architecture, pricing, partnering, and management characteristics.

For a small business owner, the benefit, first and foremost, is to lower your initial capital costs and predictable recurring expenses. The second is to have greater agility and scalability to add and subtract depending on the needs of your company. The third is to have access to more advanced software and capabilities.

The big three!

Amazon, Google, and Microsoft provide shared (public) or hybrid solutions, but for this purpose, the focus will be on Microsoft because it is the most common business solution in the workplace.

Microsoft offers a comprehensive set of cloud-based business solutions that complements the portfolio of on-premise solutions that customers already know and trust.

With the Microsoft platform, you can choose when to run solutions in the cloud (public or private), on-premise, or a hybrid model. Microsoft Online Services in world class datacenters are delivered to customers as subscription-based services, reliably delivered with 99.9% scheduled uptime, and carry a financially backed service level agreement.

Customers who purchase the Microsoft Online Services realize a 40% discount over purchasing standalone services.

Microsoft’s online solution suites

The deployment of Microsoft Online Services (MOS) is generally accomplished with a 24-hour turnaround to the customer.

Small businesses typically may use Microsoft Office, and use of a file server or Microsoft SharePoint and Exchange mail is generally replaced with a third-party POP3 or webmail because the cost of ownership of an exchange server maintaining software and hardware is a burden to their budget.

MOS provides enhanced services affordable to customers unable to afford a collaborating work environment.

Microsoft Office Professional Plus: The world’s leading productivity tool now seamlessly connected and delivered with cloud services—for the best productivity experience across the PC, phone, and browser.

Microsoft Exchange Online: This provides cloud-based e-mail, calendar, and contacts with the most-current anti-virus and anti-spam solutions.

Microsoft SharePoint Online: This provides cloud-based service that helps businesses of all sizes create sites to share documents and insights with colleagues, partners, and customers.

Microsoft Lync Online: This provides cloud-based instant messaging services, online meeting experiences with PC-audio, video conferencing, and screen sharing.

Stephen Commorato is the senior engineer for Tec on Call Inc., a company with a core team that helps clients solve intricate challenges in implementing small-to-medium scale, complex, and business critical IT development and integration programs. He can be reached at 904-880-2355, steve@tec-on-call.com, or through www.tec-on-call.com.


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