The Internet is loaded with Cloud stories, announcements, predictions, advertisements and all sorts of information that may or not be factual or relevant to your situation. It is becoming more difficult to determine just what is good news, bad news or just informational overload. With atmospheric clouds we have 4 primary types -- cumulus, stratus, cirrus and nimbus. These can be further defined with sub-types like altocumulus or stratocumulus. Cloud computing is not so simply classified and the list of “cloud types” continues to grow.
Cloud Computing, simply defined, is the delivery of the computer-specific segment of information technology as a service. It is an alternative to the traditional practice of acquiring Customer Premise Equipment (CPE) solutions. Other terms associated with Cloud Computing are Software as a Service (SaaS) or On Demand which have replaced the earlier term Utility Computing. Industry pioneers were giants including IBM (News - Alert), Microsoft and HP in the early part of this century but vendors of all sizes are now in the market.
Advantages of Cloud Computing are many and begin with reducing hardware requirements and technical resources. End-users only require limited knowledge of the process and are usually unaware of the actual system configuration. They may not even know the physical location used by the service provider. Since the services are based on shared resources, the service provider is also able to leverage equipment and technical staff to hold down costs yet still achieves a high-level of productivity.
Modern enterprise computer networks with virtualized operating systems make the process of moving to the cloud for part or all of an organization’s computing needs even easier. A virtualized enterprise network, for example, requires less equipment for in-house operations and has built-in business continuity/disaster recovery (BC/DR) advantages. If one of the physical servers fails, other servers in the network hand take over the processing. Incorporating a virtualized in-house network with subscription services can provide for complete back-up operations in emergency situations. Mobile employees and those employees with home offices outside of the emergency zone are still fully operational.
Recently, Cloud Fax has gotten a lot of attention. This is probably due to the popularity of FoIP. Simply said, the IP part of Fax-over-IP definitely triggers a “Cloud Fax” association and many organizations are evaluating this option. Actually, the industry offers lots of choices including but not restricted to: email to fax; fax to email; fully hosted fax servers; managed fax services; BC/DR failover services and many other choices. Each of the options offers different cost-benefit ratios and features. Organizations have to be thorough when conducting their search to ensure the best selection for their requirements. Some options could even be problematic. For example, if the company is required to comply with HIPPA, FISMA or SOX regulations, the fax option must also be compliant and many offerings are not.
Generally, the selection process is fairly straight-forward with the correct vendor or service provider. Basically, the issue is not whether a Cloud Fax solution is in your future but, more, likely which cloud offering best fits your organizations requirements. Some organizations still demand a CPE solution but need BC/DR security. Others may select to migrate totally to the cloud. An important choice to make early on in the decision process is the selection of a reseller or consultant that offers cloud, CPE and hybrid options. This will eliminate the inherent bias of a company that can only offer you a single choice.
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Edited by Stefania Viscusi