Cloud and ‘Cloud Services’ are almost household terms these days. Cloud computing is a giant leap for IT and home users alike. So what exactly is ‘Cloud’ and when will the sun come out? Cloud computing refers to computers and the specialist software that runs on them in a gargantuan warehouse somewhere in the world. Google, Microsoft, Apple and lots of smaller companies build ‘Data Centers’ and stuff them full of expensive, blisteringly fast server computers that do all the leg work when you open a Google Photo or search your Hotmail for that email from the restaurant with the 10% off voucher. These servers are working 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and data is routinely replicated between continents in line with backup and business continuity policies. When you open a Gmail (email) account with Google, your emails will be stored in one or more of these giant data centers. More and more smaller businesses are moving their IT into the ‘Cloud’, or more plainly saving their files and emails in an account rented from a Cloud service provider. Put more simply, they ditch their rack of server computers for an ‘off premises’ Cloud solution and pay a small monthly fee for the service. This is especially great for new companies. Ten years ago, even five years ago, a small office of 50 people working would have been investing tens of thousands on their rack of flashing lights and whirring fans, a big investment needing specialist staff to install them, keep them updated and running smoothly. Now, in a fraction of the set up time, their entire IT infrastructure can be ‘spun up’ and ready to go for a relatively small monthly sum.
The big players in this Silicon Valley inspired Cloud game are of Course Google and Microsoft; both these companies provide their business class Cloud services free of charge to all education facilities (including countless UK schools) absolutely free of charge. For many of us still at school age, Cloud computing will be second nature. For the rest of us, it’s possibly a rather perplexing phenomenon!