If you read three blog posts about business technology, you are likely to be told how the "cloud" has already changed everything, and is about to change everything again. However, you aren't likely to get a lot of detail about what exactly the "cloud" is - in the world of tech jargon, it immediately became synonymous with "awesome," and kind of went from there.
If your company has not yet made the jump to the cloud - and you will, it's true - you should check out the US-CERT report "The Basics of Cloud Computing," which answers questions about the cloud from a no-nonsense, small business perspective. The four-page PDF is available free to IT Business Edge users here in the IT Downloads library.
For starters, the report defines the cloud as:
a subscription-based service where you can obtain networked storage space and computer resources.
Pretty simple, huh?
It then goes on to spell out the differences between various cloud delivery models:
The report also discusses the various cloud service levels - from Software-as-a-Service to Infrastructure-as-a-Service - and addresses the undeniable security and data management conundrum presented by giving up control to a cloud provider. There's no way around the reality that the cloud is a one-size-fits-most proposition, but that can often be offset - particularly for small businesses - by the reality that a cloud provider may well be better at security and data management than you can hope to be with limited resources. But, then again, cloud services are the Holy Grail of targets for hackers - all those credit card numbers in one place are always going to get a lot of attention.
The report also includes pointers on interviewing potential Web suppliers and determining which of your business processes are the best fit for the Web.
If you are evaluating an initial jump to the cloud, also be sure to check out the Risk Factors for Tech Categories in the Cloud Presentation, from our partners at Toolkit Cafe. The presentation gives you an overview of 17 cloud services categories and rates each on these factors and risks:
It's a useful tool for any company considering its initial move to the cloud.