In essence, the cloud is just someone else’s computer. What that means is there is a group of large companies that have worked out how to operated services on an absolutely massive scale. Think of multiple extremely large warehouse-type buildings with an unbelievable amount of servers and network gear all with one purpose, to host content for customers.
This content can range from complete websites to pictures of cats, to millions upon millions of emails. Still not sold? Well, have you used Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Gmail or Outlook today? Then guess what? you’re already using the cloud. Think about it at any one point in time millions of users just like you around the world are checking their email or looking up the latest happenings on twitter. The only way to achieve this is through scaling cheaply and effciently.
So what does that mean to you as a small business? Well, the answer depends on your needs. Some companies specialize in hosting servers to serve web content to visitors. Companies such as Amazon, Google, and Microsoft, have spent billions of dollars to build the infrastructure needed to allow anyone from everyday individuals to large multi-billion dollar enterprises to host as much or as little of their precious data and content with relative ease and comfort. They do this because it is almost always faster to provision new resources and at times vastly cheaper than building everything in-house.
Another reason for this growing trend is high availability, you can store your cat pictures in Amazon S3 or Microsft Azure Blob Storage, not only for less than a penny per gigabyte but because internally these services replicate your data to dozens or perhaps hundreds of storage hosts that ensure that when you want to pull up your favorite cat meme it’s there for you to crack a smile at.
The trend of moving things to the cloud has become so popular that there are now dedicated jobs within companies that specialize in all things cloud, with titles like “DevOps Engineer” or ” Cloud Architect.” The very site you are reading this article on is hosted in a cloud server somewhere in Northern NJ. Why do you ask? While at Jones IT we certainly have the capability and know-how to host our web server out of our offices or perhaps even rent data center space, it makes more sense from a purely economic perspective to use a cloud service.
Let’s Break it Down
To host this site out of our office we would need to have the following:
- Servers – Plural because we need to make sure the site is always online even if a server fails
- Bandwidth – We have a 1G symmetrical connection in our office however we would need to share that bandwidth with website visitors or buy a secondary link dedicated to serving web content
- Storage, Pictures, and videos these days look amazing, but one drawback oh this is they take up more space, which scales relatively linearly, the more content you have the more space you need, and also we’re back to the need for Bandwidth to serve that content
- Power at the end of the day everything needs power. Power in PA is very affordable compared to say NY or CA, however, the costs can grow astronomically when you have dedicated equipment running all day doing nothing but serving web content
Those or just a few of the considerations that one must take into account when trying to self-host content that must always be available to the public.
Ultimately where cloud services are the most useful are for storing files and hosting emails. We have an article that goes into a bit more deal about email and document hosts.