What is Cloud Computing?

If you’re in the IT field you’re probably at your wits end hearing the term “Cloud Computing”. Chances are if you’ll admit that you know that it’s a good thing, you don’t really know why, and you haven’t the time to figure out what it is. If not, you’re probably high up in the chain of command and have been using the term as a buzzword for years because it sounds smart and nobody would argue with you that it’s a bad idea. This is because cloud computing IS at its core a really good idea for your business. I almost feel like I’m a couple years behind writing about this idea because cloud computing has existed as a service for at least 8 years now (the first I believe being Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2) in 2006) which an eternity in the tech industry.

So what is cloud computing? An analogy about how companies used to consume electricity might work best. Back before there were electric companies, if you ran your own factory, one of your fixed expenses was that you’d have to buy a power generator for your facility. You would have to have a generator that produced enough electricity to satisfy your peak power consumption. The issue was that during the rest of the day when you didn’t require peak use, the generator wasn’t being used at its full capacity. It also meant that if your electricity requirements rose beyond a generators maximum output, you’d have to replace your existing generator with a whole new one. This was exceedingly cost inefficient. This is synonymous with purchasing web hosting. You need to pay for hosting that covers your maximum load, even if it only reaches that maximum once a day, week, or even month. If your website has 10000 visitors over the course of just one hour a day, but is idle for the other 23, you are still required to reserve and pay for resources that can deal with that load for the other 23 hours. Wouldn’t it be nice if you could share those resources with other people that needed them for another hour in that day?

This is where cloud computing comes in. Returning to the electrical generators example, the same issue was identified. Instead of every business having its own generator, there was an opportunity to produce all the electricity in one place, and serve it out and charge for it based on usage. You could expand your operation without buying more generators. This is the idea behind cloud computing. Cloud computing allows you to be charged by usage, and as your website becomes popular (which is something everyone wants) then you can expand without incurring extra fixed costs. Having a slow month? You won’t be charged for that bulky server that’s sitting idle. You are charged for what you use by sharing that processing power. Efficiency and money savings.
There is a lot more to discuss about Cloud Computing. Hopefully this post has given you enough information to wrap your mind around the concept and given you some ideas on how you could make Cloud Computing work for your business needs. It is now a mature technology so fears faced by the non-early adopters should be dissipated. This is the new way the web will look going into the future, so it’s time to take that old diesel generator out to pasture. Your website should grow as your business does, and there is no better place for it to do that than the cloud.