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Advantages of Cloud Computing

Graphical depection of computing historyCloud computing has advantages that come from a long evolutionary trend in business information technology. This blog post will summarize the trend to show how Cloud Computing is right for many functions in today’s business environment.

Decades ago companies had centralized computing. The company computer(s) were run by an IT department. The department was responsible for the care and maintenance of all of the computers. These were big machines that required specialized rooms and environments. The equipment was expensive, the environment was expensive, and the labor was expensive. Eventually, the user’s interface to the computer – the terminal got out of the computer room to the desktop. This was great for the users because they could use the computers as they needed and when they needed.

In the 1980’s personal computers came out. At first these were stand-alone systems, but they soon were connected to the company’s mainframes. Now, instead of just a connection to the computers, users had actual computers on their desktop. Now user’s could send data, reports, information to other users within the company. The exchange of information increased and new business opportunities opened up. This is approximately where business computing is today. The computing balance between the mainframes and the desktops has changed over time as has the networking capabilities. This change to distributed computing (or client-server) reduced the cost of the equipment, reduced the environment, but increased the amount of labor. The increase was due to the need to support a Help Desk to handle all of the desktop computer problems and support all of the desktop computers and their configurations.

The use of the term “cloud” derives from early diagrams for the telephone network. It originally was used to hide the network infrastructure of Internet connections. It has been expanded to now include computer systems connected to the Internet for use by the public or subscribers.

The initial seeds of cloud computing were the online business websites of the mid- to late-1990’s. Business applications were open to people outside the company. Initially, these were simple applications, primarily email, shopping carts, and online stores. The range of applications expanded in the late 1990’s as other ideas were developed to include customer resource management, backups, document management, and others. This change caused two major effects:
1. Business could support their mobile workers with current information
2. Applications did not need to exist on all computers

People were becoming more mobile, independent of the state of computing. They would take copies of important information on their laptops and work on the local copies. Any modifications would need to be integrated with the master copy of the data when they returned to their office. There are a number of problems with making copies. They will be addressed in future blogs. Cloud computing allows business to support their mobile workers with current and secure information without the need to re-synchronize the information at some future time.

Since the data and applications are now available through the network, it is not necessary to have the full suite of all business applications installed on all desktop or portable computers. This reduces the complexity of the desktop installation, reduces the amount of support, and reduces the maintenance costs of applications.

Using the Internet (or private network) for accessing company data and applications is cloud computing. All, some, or none of the company applications and data may be available using the Internet. The mix depends on the particular business, business operations, and workforce.