As shown by our frequent coverage of cloud computing and, to a lesser extent, virtualisation in recent issues of Housing Technology, they are clearly both hot topics for 2011 and beyond. Mark Johnson, ConvergeOne’s managing director, explains some of the benefits of moving to the cloud.
In essence, cloud computing is simply a practical way of working that removes the need for an array of expensive hardware and software solutions on-site. Using the superior processing power of a remote, shared resource means that each office desktop is merely transmitting data back and forth from a CPU cluster via the internet. Thanks to the cloud, users can connect to a data centre which hosts the applications they need rather than hosting them locally.
Furthermore, a company’s stored data can also be outsourced, resulting in unlimited storage space and better data sharing capabilities. As a consequence, the data centre is now responsible for the storage, software updating and general maintenance of the vast majority of the computing infrastructure. This in turn removes many of the running costs associated with maintaining a business network.
The actual location of the data centre can vary – it’s possible for a housing provider to maintain its own cloud or even to connect to one on a different continent. There is even the option of running several programs simultaneously from different servers; your client database could be in Bangkok while your data storage is in Vancouver. Many server hosts actually scatter their data centres around the world so that a power failure at one can be covered by instantly rerouting all clients elsewhere, with no discernible loss of performance.
Single clouds can also be serviced by more than one data centre, so a high-demand cloud can expand beyond the confines of a single server space. It is up to each company to select a cloud service that is attuned to their requirements in terms of speed, safety and budget. For housing providers, it makes sense to form a partnership with a provider with a proven pedigree in housing.
Speed & economy
Cloud computing presents a great opportunity for businesses looking to speed up or economise their IT model. An increasing number of companies are turning to cloud computing in order to boost their own efficiency and to afford a level of computing power that would otherwise be unaffordable. Thanks to cloud technology, memory-hogging programs can become a thing of the past; once installed on a remote data centre, such software can be accessed by every PC in an office, remotely, or across multiple sites. Furthermore, custom-made packages, complete with a pre-loaded infrastructure, can simply be adopted by a business. This removes the expense of building up onsite resources to cover software, hardware and technical support.
The cloud service should be tailor-made to each company’s requirements. A company only needs to buy the programs and server space it requires, rather than waste resources on off-the-shelf computing packages, many of which will prove to be extraneous.
Smaller companies may rule against acquiring their own cloud, relying instead on a third-party provider. In such case, it is essential to use a trusted and capable cloud provider as business-critical and sensitive data will be passing through the system, as well as the need for guaranteed SLAs.
The recent Housing Technology 2011 report found that 30 per cent of housing providers consider virtualisation to be ‘business critical’ and an additional 50 per cent citing it as ‘important’. So, with many companies wanting to increase remote and mobile working over the next three years, cloud computing looks set to become the norm.
Outsourcing used to be a dirty word, and many companies still prefer to keep their entire business under their direct control, including their IT infrastructure. However, as it becomes apparent that cloud computing is safe, fast and practical, more and more companies are likely to move to a localised or remote cloud service. Naturally, there are certain pitfalls that any company thinking of taking to the clouds should be aware of. These include over-sharing of a single data centre among numerous clients (something any cloud provider worth its salt will avoid), or inversely, purchasing too much space for the needs of an organisation. With the right provider however, cloud computing is an ideal solution in the multi-layered world of modern commerce.
Mark Johnson is managing director of ConvergeOne.