Cloud computing is a term that still means very little to most non techie’s. You may also hear staff saying that your business needs Citrix, (one of the most common enablers).
So what is this all about?
The compelling advantages of cloud computing can be summarised as follows:
- It gives us flexibility about what technology we use.
- It means that we can access technology from wherever we happen to be
- It reduces the costs of IT support and our technology licensing costs.
What types are there?
Virtual Desktop Infrastructure and Cloud Computing are usually interchangeable as far as end users are concerned.
Cloud computing is generally described as on-line applications, either available to anyone or provided to us by an organisation to which we belong.
Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI) is a technology that allows users to access their own work desktop from any location.
To end users VDI and Cloud Computing can appear to be identical, but VDI has two forms; on-line or off-line.
On-line means that a user connects to a data centre and is presented with their usual desktop but;
- what happens if the user can not find a connection?
- the system can be slow if connections are made infrequently. This is because a backlog of system updates usually takes priority and can delay the connection. A two / three minute wait for a connection can be very frustrating for users.
Off-line means that the user will be downloading data and applications to their hardware. They use it during the day and then synchronise with a data centre sometime later. This is convenient where;
- Real time communications are not needed for the role.
- The applications use static data and activity can be batch processed without affecting service levels.
- Geography means that connectivity is erratic
Is this good for all users?
That depends on the type of work a user is doing. Do they need their whole desktop or just parts of it? Are they a Remote User or a Mobile User?
- Remote users want to do real work, on a full desktop, with all their apps and communications options. Homeworkers fall into this category because they want to use the same desktop at home and in the office.
- Mobile workers want to do some work, with some of their applications and they want to do it on the move, typically between appointments. They need to view and update their data from whatever device they happen to be using, usually a Smart Phone, iPad or similar device.
Both user types want to use cloud computing, but in entirely different ways.
Will it work with your IT?
Generally, yes. The tools exist to virtualise most applications or a workable compromise will be available. If your organisation has a partnership arrangement of some kind, go and have a conversation about their approach to Cloud Computing. Most major vendors have their own unique strategies on this subject and understanding their approach from the start will save you time later on.
What about my Network?
The network will be affected. Typically Cloud Computing will;
- change network traffic patterns
- change the way users connect to the systems they use
- change the solutions for network and data security
basically it affects everything. So, don’t select an on-line application and expect it to be live the next day. The lead times could be long and complex.
Is it Secure?
Of course, all technology can be made secure. And the technical bit is relatively easy compared to the contractual bit. Your biggest security risks will be:
- How technology partners handle your data
- The potential for end users to misuse, share, loose, steal and corrupt your data.
But, do not fall into the trap of spending all your planning time worrying about the theoretical misuse of your data. Ensure you know how to realise the benefits first, then consider the most likely risks of your chosen solution.
Do I need a policy for Cloud Computing?
Yes. Even if you have no cloud based applications, some employees will be using Google Apps or social networking sites to share data. It is human nature to use convenient tools and it will happen whether we like it or not. Making sure employees know what is allowed is a sensible precaution.
What are the Benefits?
This could be a very long list. For brevity the key ones are:
- Users can work in any location.
- Technology performance can be improved because data centre servers are much more powerful than desktops.
- Users can personalise their experience. This makes adoption, training and accuracy much easier to achieve.
- Hardware updating is easier when it is based at the data-centre. All users are updated simultaneously.
- It improves data security. Back-up is centralised. Data is not usually stored on the users hardware.
- The hardware costs less because the computing power is in the centre, not with the users.
Today’s Blog was inspired by Alan Lee-Bourke. A very knowledgeable and helpful guy who has probably forgotten more than I have ever known about cloud computing.
About the Author: Adam Blackie is a professional Interim Manager who leads service delivery teams through their change programmes. He works with CEO’s and their Boards in the UK to change the way technology is used by staff and their customers.