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What is the "Cloud"?

What is it? The “Cloud” for computing is not just the preserve of the big boys and girls, it is especially suited to the smaller enterprise. Much like the way in which utilities are used such as gas, electric and phone, so too, can computing be considered in a similar vein.
So what exactly is the cloud? In the world of IT we have a great tendency to not only create new technology but often re-invent existing ones. The cloud tends to fall into the latter of these two. A far better description than something as vague as using the word Cloud is perhaps “hosted” or “off-site” or “online”. It refers to IT systems, whether they be hardware (physical computers and devices ), or software, (the applications and operating systems) not actually being housed in the company’s office, but using the Internet to connect and access these resources.


Let’s consider a simple scenario. For an organisation with several users, the computing set-up might consist of a server (the central “heart” of the network) and PC workstations, all connected together and to the Internet via a broadband connection. On each PC will be the applications used daily, such as email, word processing, spreadsheets, accounts and suchlike. If we apply this to the Cloud approach, however, the server would be hosted elsewhere at a service provider company, the applications and programs would be run from their system too, via a browser (such as Internet Explorer or Firefox or Chrome) or a software connector and not from an installed version on the local PC. All data and files would reside on the hosted remote server. Email would either be accessed via the Web or using software on the PC but with all the emails themselves hosted.

Even better, when out of the office or at home, it’s possible to access the same resources from anywhere in the world where there is an Internet connection.