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Putting Your Head in the Clouds 1 – An introduction to Cloud Computing

By David Postlethwaite
Although the concept of Cloud Computing and Microsoft Azure have been around for a number of years it is only relatively recently  that it has matured to the point where it is no longer just an interesting curiosity but a serious contender as a business solution.
Microsoft claim that 80% for fortune 500 companies are now using the cloud and that Microsoft Azure has more than a million servers with about 10 trillion objects hosted in its data centres. My company has started to look at the potential of the Cloud and I have spent quite a lot of time recently understanding and investigating Microsoft Azure as a solution for a small project.In February I presented some of what I’ve learned at SQL Saturday in Vienna which went down pretty well with those who came to listen. One attendee told me he had used my slides as the basis for recommending his company take a closer look The one thing I have found out is that it is changing almost weekly. New features are being added and current features are being improved. I found that one slide on restoring Azure SQL databases had become out of date that day. My talk will need updating before it appears at another SQL Saturday! So if your company hasn’t started looking at the potential of the Cloud then now is the time put your head in the cloud and take a look.
So to paraphrase a famous song based on Austria, let’s start at the very beginning.
What is the cloud?
Wikipedia states:
“The practice of using a network of remote servers hosted on the Internet to store, manage and process data, rather than a local server or a personal computer “ In a nutshell cloud computing is putting all or some of your data centre into a shared resource on the Internet rather than running it from your own premises.
The word “cloud” is often used simply as another name for "the Internet" so the phrase “cloud computing” really means "Internet-based computing," where different services such as servers, storage and applications are delivered to your company's computers through the Internet. The Cloud covers more than just sticking a SQL database on a shared server. The cloud, as you will see, is everywhere without you even realising it.
If you use gmail, Hotmail, Microsoft Mail, in fact any web mail where the mail server is not on your premises this could be classed as using the cloud.
We’ve been doing that for years long before the term cloud computing was invented.
Cloud Storage
Lots of us are using cloud storage such as Microsoft One Drive or Google Drive to back up our data on our hard disk to the Internet.
You can automatically sync your local data to the cloud disk so that you never lose it.
And you can access your cloud storage from other devices so you are not tied to just one pc or even one location.
There are masses of software that you can run directly on a web site without having to download and install it on your pc., for example Office 365, Skype or PhotoShop
I’m sure everyone here has used an application on the web, even if it’s just an online dictionary or language translator, a foreign exchange calculator or online banking
If the application runs on a web site rather than an application installed on your pc then it can be considered as part of the cloud.
Server Hosting
Server hosting is what we traditionally think of as cloud computing. Running databases or application servers from a data centre on the Internet
All the big players, Microsoft, Amazon and Google offer this as well has many small suppliers most offer a free trail and now is the time to take a look.


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