So what is all the hype around this "Cloud" concept? This is certainly one of the most popular IT buzz words these days, but what exactly is it and how can it benefit my organization?

Simply put, "the cloud" refers to hosted services and applications. Hosted email, web pages, web applications, file storage, and even hosted servers have all been lumped under this concept.

Benefits of the cloud:
  • Allows organizations to outsource services and applications to reduce overhead related to deploying and maintaining them in house.
  • Provides the capability to scale these services and applications up or down to dynamically meet the demand of the organization.
  • Reduces front-end deployment costs by eliminating the need to design and deploy the solution(s), as well as minimizing equipment costs.
  • Minimizes the expertise required to design, deploy, and manage the services or applications.
  • Typically, the cloud provider handles all security, backups, monitoring, and high availability, and usually include an SLA as a part of their offering.
  • Access to the cloud services and applications anywhere you have an internet connection... from the office, home, on the road, it doesn't matter.
  • Can provide supplemental features to services you are using in house. For example, you may already have an email system deployed within your organization, but you can use the cloud to provide email archiving, encryption, antivirus and anti-spam, backups, and service continuity. Some organizations even go so far as to have a portion of email users in the cloud and the rest in-house.
Public Cloud
The public cloud concept is your traditional service providers that provision their application or service among several customers. Popular examples of the public cloud are Microsoft Office 365 and Rackspace, where you share their services with many other tenants. Some terms you may hear:
  • SaaS - (Software as a Service) Applications are provided to customers on a subscription basis, such as
  • IaaS - (Infrastructure as a Service) Typically refers to hosted computer infrastructure, such as hosted virtual servers, storage, or network equipment. The customer is typically responsible for all management and maintenance of these solutions (such as OS patching, upgrades, etc).
  • PaaS -(Platform as a Service) Similar to IaaS, however the customer has no control of the underlying OS, infrastructure, etc. which results in no administrative overhead. Typically, the service provider will provide the customer with an instance of their platform for you to install or develop your applications into. Examples here are Windows Azure, SQL Azure, and the Google App engine.

Private Cloud
Basically, a cloud solution dedicated to a single customer or organization and not shared with any other customers or organizations. This concept allows organizations to use dedicated infrastructure and software to provide Public Cloud services (SaaS, IaaS, and PaaS) without sharing any resources with other organizations. Private clouds can be hosted in house or with a service provider on the internet. Private clouds are typically used for testing and development environments, and to facilitate charge-backs between departments or business units.

Office 365
Microsoft's wildly popular public cloud, launched in 2011, is the successor to their previous and less publicized BPOS (Business Productivity Online Services). There are many plans and different services offered through Office365 to suit the needs of SMB and Enterprise customers. Subscription packages are available in different bundles or a la carte for the following services:

  • Office Professional Plus - Subscription based Office 2010 Professional
  • Exchange Online - The premier corporate e-mail messaging system
  • SharePoint Online - Team sites, public web sites, and document collaboration
  • Lync Online - IM, Audio/Video and web conferencing, and presence
  • Office Web Apps - Web based version of Microsoft Office
Click here for more details on Microsoft's cloud solutions

Of course, feel free to contact us for more information or assistance deploying your cloud solution!