postheadericon TECH TALK: All About the Cloud

Last year's most expansive buzzword in the IT world was "cloud computing," and this year cloud computing is probably one of the largest implementations on the IT department's plate of upgrades. But what does cloud computing mean to you, whether you be a home user or an i/NGO wonk hashing out development programs?


To understand cloud computing, just compare cloud computing to something that you know, like Hotmail or Gmail, or even better, Nepal's beloved Facebook. These services offer computing without using software or hardware located in your home or business (other then a simple web browser and Internet connection). For example, if you use Gmail as your primary email application - and interact with your Gmail account solely through your web browser - you are already flying high in terms of cloud computing.

Likewise with Facebook; if you are using Facebook to contact your friends, store and share photos and videos, and spend the entire evening constructing a new city block in CityVille, you are most certainly in the cloud when it comes to your computing behaviour.

Inversely, if you are someone using Microsoft Office applications, and continually upgrading these applications as well as your local storage to hold more and more content, you are firmly grounded in a previous decade's technology, and perhaps falling behind the rolling curve of IT in 2011. And if you are a Nepali business or development organization, you are probably so far behind on that curve you can't even see what you're missing!

But that might be good news for those who have not yet begun to embrace the benefit of having local area networks with a client-server type model of computing. You or your organization might be able to just bypass these old-school setups and instead, leapfrog to the newer model that's blowing over the horizon.

One of the most striking benefits of cloud computing is lower costs. In a cloud environment, delivery of computing services to your staff turns from capital expenditures (high-end PCs, large server boxes, and internally created or maintained software packages) to operational expenditures (third-party cloud storage and application services). One example of how your organization could save big time in the future is with Microsoft's new Office 365, currently out in public beta.

Office 365 is a completely web-based office application solution that is not charged per software license (nor requires a beefy desktop to run), but instead requires just a simple device that has Internet access via a modern web browser. In this scenario, each user pays just $6 USD per month to access all of Office's new web-based tools and web-based personal and shared storage.

Since beta testing began, over 100,000 organizations have signed on board to give Office 365 a twirl. Tim O'Brian, Microsoft's lead platform engineer says,

"We are betting big on the cloud with our most successful product (MS Office) and we are investing heavily in product engineering and physical infrastructure." 

Think of it: no more problematic software installs or storage headaches for your org's spreadsheets, documents, images, or databases!

However, cloud computing does raise some issues for groups or individuals moving there. Security comes to mind, as well as accessibility. For example, if you can't get an Internet connection – ke garne! Yet cloud experts say that in terms of security, this massive centralization of data and services improves it – and allows organizations that devote a large chunk of resources keeping assets safe and free from local viral outbreaks and nasty malwares, to simply focus on something else. For IT professionals concerned with multiple levels of redundancy and backup, private clouds are an option that offer yet another way to keep vital assets safe and secure.

Even for home users, there are already many free or low cost cloud solutions available. Take for example, Dropbox, a drop-dead simple-to-use application that can take all of your sacred files and synchronize them with your own private and/or public place in the cloud. Dropbox has options to back up all of your local data, place your files in shared folders, and works with any device in the home or office (PCs, tablets, and smartphones).

Dropbox encrypts your data in the cloud, and even provides secure transmission back and forth. If by chance you delete a file or folder, you can always recover it. In other words, your files are safer in your Dropbox than on your local computer. Use of the service is free up to 2Gb of files, and if you need more, you just have to pay – $10 USD per month for up to 50GB.

Dropbox is just one great way to soar into the cloud, where more then a few IT experts predict we will all be floating around in very soon.

3 comments:

  1. HeroBlog says:

    HI There Jigs! I really liked this one and look forward to reading more. BTW, When will you have the comic strips up?

  2. forum says:

    So what's the weather like in KTM these days?

  3. cloud computing will slowly replace the way we are computing at present. It will be safer, reliable and even better than the computing we are doing. Even in nepal, it will be accepted, although at slow pace.

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Jiggy Gaton
lives in Kathmandu and is an aging technologist - has been since the days of Woodstock - so in the words of Roland The Gunslinger "he is from a world now gone by." However, Jigs is extremely up-to-date on all things tech and is also available for hire.
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