Ah, the Cloud, that serene place floating high in the sky that happily holds all our data, tracks our e-mails, and provides servers on demand.

In the past few years, this newly minted buzzword has been pushed by Google, Microsoft, Amazon, Rackspace, and soon even the all mighty Apple. Suspiciously absent (well not absent, but certainly well hidden) from all the television spots, the ads, and promotional material are the answers to the basic questions: “How can it help you?”, “what’s so new about it? and frankly “just what is this cloud thing anyway?”

So, just what is this cloud thing anyway? and what’s so new about it? Not much. The Cloud is just a large scale commercialized version of what we were doing in the age of the mainframe computer. Much like those mainframes of yore, the Cloud is really just a way to off load a lot of the problems associated with computers away from your desktop and into one “simple” centralized system. So your storage, your e-mail, your web servers, your word processing apps, the entire enchilada gets moved from running directly on your computer (like they have for the last few decades) and back onto the Mainframe. In essence, the Cloud is the IT world’s version of “That 70’s Show“, with kickin’ Hollywood special effects tossed in for good measure.

Fantastic, now we know what it is, but what’s it good for? After all, if this “Cloud” thing is really a scaled up version of ideas from the land time forgot, why haven’t we just been taking advantage of this all along? The simple answer: Bandwidth (if you think of your data like a milkshake, then Bandwidth is the straw you drink it from. The bigger the straw, the easier it is to get at your milkshake). Centralizing all your services means that your end users have to send data back forth with some kind of central system. So, if you are gung ho for the whole Cloud thing and try to off load all of your IT infrastructure onto it, your employees with be transferring their files, e-mail, word documents, etc. all over the wire back and forth from the Cloud.  All of this, of course, being done over the Internet- and when you start to get a lot of employees all those bits and bytes start to add up fast.

We know what it is, and know the basics of what it does – we’ve covered the essentials of Cloud 101 – all that’s left is the “where” and the “why”.  We will be looking at the “why” part of this conundrum in the next exciting installment of the Cloud Trilogy – “Cloud Control”.

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