What the Cloud is not!

You can read a lot of lists about what the Cloud is; how it can revolutionize business and how we interact with technology. The Cloud, if you believe some blogs, is the answer to all of our prayers rather than just a bunch of cloud servers. It’s true that Cloud Computing is fundamentally shifting the technology industry. The biggest change is that we’re moving from using desktop PCs to having all the same information and data accessible from handheld devices. It’s meant that designers and software makers have had to shift the applications, the systems and the services they are developing and offering. Not only consumers interacting with them differently but they are also expecting different things from them; look at the changes in Maps for example, rather than just giving directions we now need to know how far away the nearest petrol station, Wi-Fi zone or coffee shop is.

It’s exciting, if nothing else, and it has been a great leveller. Smartphones and tablets are much more affordable so the Cloud is more accessible. It’s something we can all use, to differing degrees, and therefore all have an opinion.

As positive as all this is, it isn’t all good news. The fact that we all have an opinion means there’s a lot of inaccurate information about the Cloud out there. Rumour and conjecture becomes fact in the course of an afternoon in the blogosphere, making it difficult for those who sell Cloud services, whether as a vendor or re-seller, to get their point across clearly.

So while The Cloud is made of cloud servers, here are five things it’s not:

  1. You can’t visit it. Yes, there are physical farms of cloud servers where real and tangible servers are held securely. But the Cloud isn’t somewhere you can visit. It’s not a state of mind, either. Think of it as wherever your data is, just a touch of a button away. That’s what makes it so flexible.
  2. Virtualization and the Cloud are not the same thing. Virtualization is the ability to run "virtual machines" on top of a "hypervisor." Virtualization can run on a physical machine, but isn’t limited to just one. It’s the process that makes Cloud Computing, particularly Cloud VPS servers possible. But it’s not the same as Cloud Architecture. That’s the framework that allows you to access Cloud Services. Confused? Think of virtualization as the technology that makes the Cloud possible. The Cloud is the ability to drive and travel to places quicker. Virtualization is the car.
  3. The Cloud isn’t a locked cell. It can be tempting, particularly if you find technology a bit jargon heavy and overwhelming, to think that signing up to the Cloud means you can simply toss responsibility over to someone else. You’re putting your data, services and information on a vendor's cloud servers. You’re entrusting a lot to an outside provider and so you need to keep an eye on it and change the service if you need to. Problems with those relying on the Cloud, like LinkedIn and GoDaddy shows there’s still a need for management. Just because it’s in the Cloud doesn’t mean you don’t have control of it anymore.
  4. It’s not one Cloud for big business and another for entrepreneurs. The Cloud is one great leveller. No matter your budget, size, resources and knowledge you can use the same Cloud resources as a multi-national even if you’re a one man band. It offer the same chance for business to test and invest in applications without taking a huge risk in terms of cost and investment. That makes it much easier for small firms and entrepreneurs to grow their offer and expand.
  5. The Cloud is not all talk. There is a lot written about the Cloud. A LOT. It can be tempting, therefore, to dismiss it as all talk. It isn’t the case and the rapid uptake of the Cloud over the past year, particularly amongst entrepreneurs and SMEs has resulted in a lot of positive case studies. It has changed how businesses and individuals relate to technology. They feel more in control of it, rather than the other way around. This shift is at the heart of cloud adoption and means that whatever is said about it, the Cloud is a game changer.

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Cloud Servers are as flexible as our outlook

If there’s one buzz word likely to stay around after the recession is a mere memory it is this: flexibility. The last five years has been tough for a lot of businesses and many are feeling battered and bruised. But there’s one reason they should be proud. They got through it. And largely the companies that have survived have done so because they adapted to change and embraced new ways of doing things.

Flexibility became the calling card because individuals and firms learnt that they had to streamline to ensure they could embrace new opportunities as they came along. It is an approach that has not only changed practice but also mind-set. This generation of workers isn’t stick in the muds, instead they look for creative solutions to tackle any problems or challenges.

In terms of technology one of the key trends to emerge over the same period of time is the Cloud. Some might not have fully understood it at first but now it is changing the landscape and being adopted at a fast rate. It is the sense of flexibility that makes it even more popular. It gives people the freedom to work anywhere, to define their own computer system – whatever they need it for – to grow and store whatever they need, rather than relying on an infrastructure that is inherited and might slow you down.

Individuals face a lot of the same challenges as small companies and big business. They want to be able to save their money while continuing to do whatever they want. For an individual that might mean several different things. They might have opted to run everything as a one man band. There might be several different brands involved with different web domains but all are protected under one arch. Alternatively they could host several different sites for companies, developing a new revenue strand.

For both of these Cloud Servers are an increasingly popular solution because of their flexible approach. Austerity has left us feeling that we should be getting value for the things we spend money on. That doesn’t stop at IT. We want to be able to do more with less and make IT work for us, rather than be restricted by it.

Virtualization is a growing side of that and it is what makes Cloud Servers a reality. Sitting on top of a physical server it is virtualization that helps people rent the space online they need and define their usage in terms of power, memory and domains. It simplifies the whole process allowing individuals and even businesses to make the most of their storage and resources. It’s streamlined, meaning they can have a tighter control on their purse and are thus able to respond to opportunities quicker.

Flexibility has left many of us feeling we can have more control over our work and play. As online is a growing avenue of both it goes without saying that we want to extend that flexibility online. Cloud Servers, along with the wider principles of Cloud Computing help us explore how that flexibility can save us money while offering us the same comprehensive service.

What to do if your traffic spikes?*

*Or, what happens when all your dreams come true? Let us be brutally frank. Every scrap of work you do today is about getting people to visit your website. You want people to read something pithy and erudite you’ve written on Twitter or to click a link you’ve posted on LinkedIn to a portfolio piece and you want them to visit your website. There they will read about what you do and, most importantly, how you see yourself. Then, they might want to work with you or hire you.

Whether employed, self-employed, freelance, contracting, or just getting your profile out there for the fun of it, this is why you have a website. If you’re using a cloud server to host websites for your clients then it’s probably the reason they have a website as well.

But what if all your dreams come true and suddenly hundreds and thousands of people flood to your site? Quids in? Probably not, actually, if you have a limit on your monthly traffic allowance.

Picture the scene. Say you’re a designer. You’ve just finished  a video of your work and you post online. A few contacts retweet it and link to the portfolio. Then a trade title picks it up and retweets it to their 3,000 followers. Then it’s picked up by one of the Twitter celebs like Stephen Fry or Derren Brown and retweeted to their millions of followers. The limit on your website means it goes down and no one else can view it. A wasted opportunity.

It could be something on a much smaller scale, but much more serious. Imagine you’ve been invited to talk at a conference. It’s a big opportunity and you want to be able to gain as much mileage as you can. Will your Cloud Server be able to cope with hundreds of people clicking on your url at the same time? If not it can damage your profile and ability to take advantage of these opportunities to extend your job opportunities.

If you want to host your website on a Cloud Server, and want to be able to do the same either for clients or a few websites you maintain then you need to ask the question about monthly traffic figures.

At Intrahost you can pick from a number of different deals and packages to suit your needs. But no matter the CPU Power, the Disk Space or the guaranteed memory you opt for you will always get unmetered monthly traffic.

Whether you blog, tweet, post on Facebook or LinkedIn, write guest articles or simply promote yourself through advertising, your aim is always to push traffic through your website. Why opt for a flexible and bespoke solution like a Cloud Server and then sign up to a deal that doesn’t allow you to grow your profile. Sign up to the wrong deal and you could end up hobbling yourself.

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What is Cloud Hosting or Cloud Computing?

Now there's an interesting question. I'm afraid to say that Clouding Hosting or Cloud Computing doesn't as yet have a clear definition. Most vendors that are selling cloud computing services (and there are very few as I type this post), are essentially providing a pool of resources, consisting of bandwidth, CPU time, memory and disk storage. This resource pool is then allocated as needed in the form of Virtual Machines, via a control panel. These VMs are then charged for on an hourly basis and used for whatever the user is looking to provision, including web applications and databases. Only time will crystalise the actual definition of cloud hosting, and by that time the marketing folk will have relabled it...