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I would like to take the opportunity to thank Matthew Malcolm for his support on Tuesday in helping Harbourside Market resolve a major connectivity issue we were experiencing with the Motorola PDA’s and the commercial wireless installation. Please pass on my thanks to Matthew as his support was very much appreciated.

Merv Williams

Harbourside Market

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Cloud Computing Explained


Life is busy, time is short and everything is expensive. Technology continues to steam roll ahead in its effort to make your daily tasks easier, quicker and cost effective. It can be a daunting task trying to make sense of it all let alone know what technology will best suit your needs.

This article’s intention is to provide you with a brief but clear understanding on one of the fast approaching pieces of technology today, Cloud computing, Covering how it all works and what it means for the future of your business.

Within the last few years you may have heard the term “Cloud Computing” floating around. It is said to be the future of IT and will simplify the way we currently use computers. So what is “The Cloud?” Simply put, it is a metaphor for “the internet”, and “Cloud Computing” is all about putting more of your computerised material out on the web and less on your PC and servers.

Unlike the conventional server client networks where data is stored on local servers and client versions of an application are installed on workstations, cloud computing has all data storage and processing performed on a bank of rented servers which are offsite and within the cloud. Space for data, processing time and applications are all rented on a manageable per use /per month agreement meaning you only pay for what you use. This makes your IT outlay scalable as your requirements ramp up or down.

Users connect to their required services via a web browsing capable device. With cloud services being web-based, they are accessible on many platforms including Windows, Linux, Macintosh, iPad’s, and smart phones.

  • A perfect example of Cloud computing is webmail services such as Hotmail and Gmail. You have access to your email from anywhere in the world and the service is available 24/7.

  • Google Docs allows you to create and share documents, spreadsheets, presentations and forms all from within your web browser.

  • Microsoft has recently released MS-Office 365. An always-up-to-date cloud based service. Providing users access to online versions of MS-Office products such as Word and Excel, Outlook.

There are numerous advantages with cloud computing. As previously mentioned, it’s easily accessible and versatile across platforms. It’s also quickly deployed. However the most attractive drawcard is the promised cost savings. It can become expensive maintaining your own servers, updating and patching applications, and keeping up with hardware demands. The idea revolves around outsourcing these burdens to a specialist who can provide the same services on a simple pay as you go system. Electricity, water, waste removal, the supply of these utilities are better outsourced to a large vendor and the argument suggests that your IT systems can also be better managed externally.

Cloud computing is regarded by many as being the next step in the evolution of technology. I personally do not doubt it for a second. Everything including radio, TV, telecoms, business and home computing, it will all be cloud based and we will simply plug in. Let’s face it; just over a decade ago the internet was nothing more than a toy that people accessed via a dial up modem. Now it is a necessity in modern society. So it is not a matter of “if” this technology takes over but when.
The Pro’s of Cloud computing are being heavily marketed and they are very attractive but tread carefully during these early times as there is still plenty of development required. I personally feel that the three biggest concerns that businesses have with cloud computing are yet to be properly addressed. Which is security, availability and performance.

Moving systems off-site and entrusting an external organisation with the security and maintenance of your systems will require more than just a handshake agreement. SLA’s that guarantee security and reliability is paramount. Recent events such as the hacking of the Sony Playstation Network, (where 77 Million user’s Credit Card and Personal details were compromised) highlights the growing sophistication of cybercriminals and the necessity for cloud providers to prove they can keep up with security demands.

Availability and performance of cloud services is questionable in comparison to what we are used to with conventional client to server networks. There have been reported incidences of cloud vendors going down temporarily or losing client data which again calls for solid SLA’s guaranteeing their reliability. One sided contracts can leave clients without access to their data during times of disputes (over payment or lack of services) and there is a certain level of trust placed in the integrity of the cloud vendor when it comes to the privacy of client data.

The internet is the backbone to cloud computing and a reliable, fast connection is critical for the service to be successful. Quite frankly, this does not exist in Australia. So until the National Broadband Network has been rolled out I believe the cloud computing pursuit is a frivolous one. At least for the majority of small businesses.

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