Rich Crocco

Demystifying Cloud Computing

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I recently attended a talk on cloud computing by Dana Edberg of the University of Nevada, Reno. Although the talk was geared towards accountants, as the audience were mostly CPAs, I am interested in the general concepts of cloud computing effectively presented by Edberg.

First thing is to demystify the concept of cloud computing. The buzzword ‘Cloud’ has led to inaccurate characterizations of just what cloud computing is. Basically, the cloud represents servers accessible through the internet. This means you don’t need servers and other IT infrastructure to create, develop or operate computer applications. All you need is an internet connection. Currently there are three major forms of cloud services available (there are more on the way):  IaaS, PaaS and SaaS. I will explain each one in a little more detail.


IaaS stands for Infrastructure-as-a-Service.  By the way, each one of these acronyms represents which part of the overall computing power has been out-sourced to the cloud, or provider. In this case it is infrastructure only. This is the most basic form of cloud computing and is for the most part reserved for larger companies requiring large amounts of storage and computing power. With IaaS basically all hardware is out-sourced but none of the software. If you develop all your own software and/or have large storage needs requiring large climate controlled rooms and buildings to house servers and other infrastructure, then IaaS may be a good option.


Platform-as-a-service is the next step up from IaaS. Not only is the hardware out-sourced to the provider, you are also accessing a platform in which to develop your software applications. An example of this would be Microsoft Azure or IBM Bluemix. With PaaS you can access the tools you need to develop and test your own applications without the hassle of maintaining the hardware or back-end software. As with IaaS, you pay as you go. This is also a benefit in some cases as you don’t need to buy expensive software or storage you may not fully utilize.


Software-as-a-service is basically an end-user product. There is no development necessary. Examples of this include Gmail, and even LinkedIn. The user can in most cases customize their experience of the product however all development, maintenance and support are handled by the provider. Just access the program through your browser and you’re off and running.


One of the main benefits of cloud computing is scalability. If your business doubled in size, traditionally your IT infrastructure would need to roughly double in size as well. With cloud computing however, you just utilize more of the seemingly endless resources of your provider. There is no need to re-engineer your IT environment.

The main difference between all types of cloud computing and traditional computing is that services are accessed over the internet rather than a local network. This understandably raises questions about data security. Your data is no longer down the hall in the IT room. Cloud security resembles that of any network security and includes preventative, detective and corrective controls. At this time however, there is no guarantee that all data is 100% save at all times.

Cloud computing continues to grow exponentially as it grows in popularity. One of the major providers, Amazon Web Services, claimed their cloud business will eventually surpass their retail business in size. There are also new types of services on the way such as cloud based disaster recovery services. The interesting thing for me is if you have a good idea, for a mobile app let’s say, the barriers to entry are greatly reduced through cloud computing. You don’t need to invest in IT infrastructure to develop your idea. Instead you can out-source all that and concentrate on development.  This may be easier said than done, but as soon as I have a good idea for an app I will let you know how it goes!

Do you think cloud computing is a benefit? Do think it is worth the data security risk? Let me know your thoughts.



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