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Everything now is about the cloud. How to store and retrieve information efficiently. How to back up and secure cloud based databases. How to integrate applications, systems, and platforms with the cloud.

However, if your only experience with the cloud is to back your iPhone up once a year you may not understand what all the fuss is about.
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Simply put, cloud computing is computing based on the internet. In the past, applications or programs were downloaded onto a physical server. Cloud computing allows users to access the same programs and applications through the internet.

Anytime you tweet or post a status on Facebook, you’re using cloud computing. Same goes for checking your bank account or surfing Safari.

Above all, cloud computing offers flexibility and ubiquity. The concept of global connectivity is the basis of cloud computing and dates back to the 1960s, with ARPANET. The idea behind ARPANET was for the world to be interconnected and able to access programs and data from anywhere, independently. Cloud computing achieved this vision, and is essential to the way individuals interact with machines and information in the digital age.

Salesforce LogoSalesforce.com was actually a major milestone in the developing timeline of cloud computing. Salesforce pioneered the concept of delivering applications via a website. Amazon Web Services expanded upon the basic Salesforce model by providing a suite of cloud-based services including storage and computation. Another milestone came with Google Apps, a “killer app” that took the features of Microsoft Office and made them shareable.

Ease of use, automation, increased collaboration, and disaster recovery are some of the many advantages of cloud computing.

But how does the cloud compare overall to traditional methods of data storage?

Moore’s Law states that computers, machines that run on computers, and computing power all become smaller and faster with time, as transistors on integrated circuits become more efficient. Basically, data will continue to grow exponentially, machines and systems will become more interconnected, and the costs of computing will decrease.

The decision to move to the cloud, versus building a custom data center, is based on a few factors:

Accommodating Growth

Data centers are ideal for companies that need a customized system with full control over the data and equipment. Data centers are typically more suitable to companies that run many different applications with complex workloads. However, flexibility is still the key.

Once you build a data center it cannot scale with the business. A data center has limited capacity, you cannot change the amount of storage. The cloud is scalable with the business. Cloud based systems have potentially limitless capacity, especially as tech companies like Amazon Web Services, Oracle, and Google are racing to build as many cloud-based data centers as possible. Supply will not outpace demand. This is important when you consider the rate at which data will be created. The only significant drawback is a lesser degree of control, since a third party will run the data center.

Security

This is possibly the single biggest area of concern about the cloud. There is the prevailing notion that cloud based systems are fundamentally less secure, because they do not need to be accessed on site. The cloud is accessible to anyone with Internet access and proper credentials. You just need the key. Data centers are connected to a local network, which makes it easier to control user access and credentials.

Basically, in cloud-based systems there are more entry and exit points that need to be secured.

Costs

The cloud is the more cost-effective option. Data centers take much longer to construct, because they are built from the ground-up. Maintenance and administration are handled in-house in non-cloud data centers. Cloud computing requires no time or capital to get started.

This is a significant advantage for small businesses that do not have the means or capacity to build custom data centers.

In 20 years cloud computing might be the only option. It’s just too easy to use, to efficient for business operations, and requires such little maintenance that the alternative option is impractical. A Forbes survey confirms the rapid growth of the cloud: by 2020, 68% of the cloud workloads will be in public cloud data centers. This is the evolution of cloud computing: a hybrid format where daily computing requirements are handled by a private cloud and backed up by a public cloud for additional traffic.

You’re already using the cloud every day of your life, the choice to integrate your business to cloud computing will simply mirror the reality of personal computer users.

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