The Basics of Cloud Computing

Noah Ullman
Director

Do you want to know more about cloud computing but don’t know where to start? This article is here to help!

Cloud computing is simple in use. In fact, you probably use “the cloud” regularly without even knowing it. If you bank online, play games online, use online email like Hotmail or Gmail or conduct a voice search using Siri, Google or Cortana, you are “in the cloud.”

What is …The Cloud?

What does that mean? Simply stated, “the cloud” is a remote computing system—high powered servers and massive datacenters that millions of people and devices can connect to at a single moment in time. Remote computers connect to these systems too, so the cloud is a hive of activity—people, devices, data centers and servers processing away, sharing information and processing content.

Just like in nature, there is more than one “cloud.” There are public clouds and private clouds. If you are old enough to remember mainframe computing, this is basically the same thing, except the computers are much bigger and more powerful…and most importantly, we can connect wirelessly. This means the systems are accessible to everyone, allowing anywhere, anytime access (assuming that you can get a Wi-Fi or cellular data signal).

Cloud Computing Examples

The development of the cloud has allowed PCs to do more, and thin clients (computers that aren’t that “smart”) to tap into almost limitless resources, the greatest constraint being bandwidth. Here is an example of a fairly complex cloud computing scenario.

You say, “Siri, tell me a joke.” Your iPhone captures your voice and translates it into bits and bytes and sends it to the cloud. The server recognizes that you asked for a joke and then references its database for Siri jokes, sends one back to your phone in bits and bytes where your phone then translates it back into “The past, present and future walk into a bar. It was tense.”

Most people think Siri is on their phone. It is, but only the user interface which converts human voice to computer language and computer language back to voice (or text). The iPhone itself is a powerful device, but not that powerful! Siri requests happen millions of times a day, 24/7/365, all around the globe, in dozens of human languages…but only one computer language. The “cloud” gets smarter every time a query is made, it “learns” when it makes mistakes and is corrected by users. Its data base grows every time a query is made.

Here's another example. Let’s say you’re playing a driving game online with other players. All of the players are connected internally through a server where the track lives, and all the complex physics that make driving games so fun are computed in real time on that server in the cloud. When you are playing with other players, there is a primary instance of the game running on the server with all the players. The position of all the cars are sent to your device but the calculations of how that car is being driven is happening in the cloud…just the position is sent to you so you know where the car is. Collisions between cars happen on the master track in the cloud, not on your device. Your device handles the I/O (input/output) of your game, but the interactions between players happens on a server in the cloud. Your device is sent display information much like a television, except this television is playing multiple versions of the same show, all coordinated centrally in the remote server (aka cloud).

We’ve heard several times now that 90% of the worlds data was created in the last 2 years. I’ve seen this stat published in 2014, and again in 2016. With more and more people connected to, and interacting with the cloud 24/7/365 perhaps we’ll see again in 2018 that 90% of the worlds data was created in the last two years.

How can the cloud help your organization?

So how do you put the cloud to work for you? To steal a line from Apple, “Think Different.” Your computer isn’t much more than an interface or translator for you. You should love your device because of the feel of the keyboard, or the weight, or the quality of the display…but the horsepower is in the cloud. You should be able to use your devices at different times of the day and for different reasons, but have one source of your data. This is how your email works, and its exactly how you should be working with files and lists. Since many of us use productivity tools from Microsoft, we strongly recommend migrating to the cloud with Office 365—a cloud-based version of the world’s most popular software suite. More on that in another article, but if you’re interested in learning more now, please feel free to reach out to me anytime at nullman@imagineblum.com.

These are the basics of cloud computing. More white and fluffy than dark and ominous, the cloud promises a very bright future for us all.

Read more from Noah:

Finding Business Value in the Cloud
The Futurist
 

Litigation Support Services

Advisors | Auditors | Consultants | CPAs – BlumShapiro is one of the premier consulting firms in New England and a Top 100 CPA Firm in the U.S. Our professionals serve companies in Boston (MA), Hartford (CT), Cranston (RI), Shelton (CT) and Quincy (MA) with technology consulting, business valuations, litigation support, project management, process & controls and bankruptcy consulting services. We are a Intacct Partner offering accounting software including Cloud ERP solutions. Learn more about our City of the Future offerings.