The Cloud Computing Primer


Cloud computing can do all sorts of fabulous things, but again, only when it's properly done. "Properly" may sound like something that's subject to opinion, but even a non technical person can easily make the right decision with only a basic knowledge of the four types of cloud computing.

Search the net and managed hosting companies will flood your Google pages. These are companies that own and rent servers as a service. If you'd rather not buy a server, managed hosting is an option.

The hosted server you rent is, essentially, an IT engine. It's the horsepower minus the rest of the vehicle. While managed hosting is technically cloud computing, as some of your IT assets are housed somewhere other than your office, it's just one component.

You might choose to keep some of your applications or data on off-site managed servers, but this does not address the fundamental challenge of providing your staff with a smart, unified, IT solution.

Managed Hosting is all about irony. You still do most of the managing.

So what exactly is managed then when you have "managed hosting?" Not very much. A managed hosting firm will install new versions of common applications, make sure that they're working, and keep your servers turned on.

Managed Hosting will not give your employees any new ease-of-use advantages or capabilities. What you're paying for is primarily a box in which you keep data or applications.

Whatever level of IT support you rely on now you'll still rely on with managed hosting. This means that it does not give your current IT support staff any more time to focus on bigger business initiatives, nor does it reduce your overhead.

What managed hosting really means is that it's up to you to keep your full range of IT assets running properly. It's up to you to find a way to give everyone in your company easy access to your applications. It's up to you to build a system to manage security and permissions, as well as enable file sharing.

The sound bite: It's up to you to manage most of your IT with managed hosting.

Software as a service is when you use applications through the Internet, as a service, and pay monthly or yearly. Each stand-alone SaaS application lives on a different server farm provided by its own software vendor. Most software companies make SaaS applications these days. That's what is, and Microsoft Office Online.

What stand-alone SaaS lacks is a unifying platform and desktop so you can turn these applications into a practical business solution. In fact, stand-alone SaaS can even hurt your productivity if you don't have a unifying Portal Desktop.

Every time you want to use a stand-alone SaaS application, you have to log in. If you use six stand-alone SaaS apps in the typical day, that's six times you're logging in. If you don't keep them open, you'll be logging in and out some multiple of six times—as will everyone else in your company. This is not only a drag on productivity; it's a drag on morale.

Consider further what happens when you have a problem. Let's say that an application you're using suddenly misbehaves or you can't print. You're forced to contact whichever company makes that application.

If you work with six stand-alone apps, you now have six different service departments to deal with. And even before you make the call you need to determine if the application is the problem, or if it's something else. Your Internet connection? Printer software?

Having to do your own preliminary trouble shooting tends to take the fun out of your cloud computing party.

There are, in fact, real advantages to SaaS, but only provided that these applications are joined together in a high performance, unifying IT vehicle. Alone, they're really just scattered-across-the-country IT parts. (Think shifter, steering wheel, radio spread across your driveway.)

Some companies, afraid of cloud computing, but believing they should give it a try, are working with only a few applications hosted in the cloud while keeping the rest in their office. One foot on the dock, the other on the boat. You know what's coming next.

A half-in/half-out (Hi-Ho) configuration still doesn't give you a way to access everything you need in order to work with all of your IT assets, regardless of where they are, or on whichever device you're using—iPad, laptop, mobile.

You gain little in company performance or security, and only lower your monthly overhead a fraction. Not nearly as much as you would if you simply embraced the comprehensive, and proven solution of a Portal Desktop.

Hosted Desktop/VDI is a second desktop that sits on top of your computer's built-in desktop. Working with Hosted Desktop is like wearing two pairs of pants. Every time you need to access something in a pocket of your first pair of pants (your built-in desktop), you have to lower your outer pants (Hosted Desktop). Raising and lowering your pants all day is no way to work.

Working with assets on two desktops wouldn't be an issue if they were listed on one taskbar. Then you could instantly click from one document to the next. Unfortunately, the Hosted Desktop/VDI taskbar only shows you outsourced applications. Not so with Portal Desktop. Every open application is conveniently there, right in front of you, on one task bar. No raising and lowering your desktop all day.

Initially, your Hosted Desktop is basically an application shell, or framework. It's up to you to design and build a comprehensive, integrated IT solution within your Hosted Desktop.

You'll need to figure out a way to easily access and network applications (SaaS-based as well as Windows-based). You'll need a system of shortcuts, collaboration and organizational tools. You'll need a way to add and delete users and manage permissions, as well as embed web content into a common user interface. If the expression "easier said than done," springs to mind, you get the idea.

Hosted Desktop is worth this challenging journey, but only if you long for the past. As you begin to use your Hosted Desktop it becomes apparent that what you bought was created in the last millennium. Hosted Desktop was invented to run Win-based applications, not applications in the cloud. Hence, the day your Hosted Desktop, cloud computing platform is new, it's old.

Cloud computing, as a concept, is supposed to give you a way to work from any Internet connection. What Hosted Desktop gives you is something that doesn't fit on an iPad. Or, for that matter, let you connect to the growing world of SaaS without embedding a browser and taking a roundabout trip to your applications.

If you're still giving Hosted Desktop the benefit of the doubt, here's the coup de grace: security. Failover is neither as flexible, nor as reliable with Hosted Desktop as it is with the OS33 Portal Desktop. The reason? When an application or server fails, your Hosted Desktop relies only on network routers, a fairly basic technology.

Unlike the name might imply, a router is actually not particularly good at rerouting users to specific resources based on the application they request, their permissions, location and other circumstances. A Portal Desktop, which occupies the perfect space--between your staff and your servers--, is far more adept at handling these challenges.

There's an industry joke about Hosted Desktop. "Now that we have Hosted Desktop it won't be long before the ox and plow will be making a comeback. Anybody want some butter? I just made it with my wooden churn." The joke is unfair, as many companies use Hosted Desktop and feel it serves their needs, but you get the point. It's yesterday's technology.

This is where the real cloud computing excitement is happening.

CSU serves our clients using the OS33 Portal Desktop, and it makes everything IT simple. It's ready to roll with all of the fully-functioning, cloud computing benefits we talked about above. They're built right in. As for the "managed hosting," "stand-alone SaaS," "Hosted Desktop" drawbacks? They're built right out.

For your staff, the Portal Desktop provides integrated web-based access to all of their applications, data, email, and gives them integrated file sharing and collaborative tools. It allows them to work just as easily with Web-based applications as it does SaaS-based. And it's right at home on a PC, Mac, iPad or mobile device. (It's customized for mobile which, of course, has a smaller screen.)

From any Internet link in the world they can have single sign-on access to all of the IT assets (including SaaS) presented on the same desktop that they use when they're working in the office.

Your employees can post announcements, create shared departmental files, reference an automated, up-to-the-minute company directory, and add links to their favorite web sites.

For company administrators, the Portal Desktop is the world's fastest, easiest way to manage IT assets. Let's say that business is good and you need to add someone new to your staff. It's so simple to do it only takes a ten-year-old five minutes. (Eight if they pause to run up their score on Super Mario.)

You can easily control permissions or add and delete users, user groups or departments. With little effort you can update software, grant access and oversee security. An administrator can even train someone new (or several someone's) in just an hour.

If you happen to have an IT wish list, OS33 will let you check off all of your boxes. What's more, moving to the cloud with the Portal Desktop won't take years or cost a fortune. In fact, it's designed to save you money from the very first day. Capital expenses? Goodbye. Buying additional servers? Goodbye. Worrying about issues like backup, security, and on-call support? "Adios, sayonara, farewell."

It's the right technology today, proven around the world, and designed for what's coming tomorrow. If these claims sound familiar, there's a reason. Something similar is often used in the technology world to convince people that a particular solution is amazing. In this case, the words are true--something you'll see for yourself when you view our demos, or hear what our clients have to say about cloud computing with OS33.

Disclaimer: Used with permission of External IT and OS33