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Editor's note: What are the best practices in moving data to the clouds? Learn more here!



If you listen to the IBM advertisements on television, the company describes itself as a workload optimized service management platform -- but what does that mean? Basically, in the most simplistic form, the cloud is a virtual data center. That's it!

People often ask why the cloud is so popular. So you don't get the deer in the headlights look trying to explain what an optimized workload is, I usually go with a data center. However, there are unique characteristics that allow it to be referred to as the Cloud. First, it is usually fully virtualized and accessed via the internet (or cloud), whether it is a virtual private or public network. The areas where companies are rapidly adopting cloud computing is software as a service, Disaster Recovery and storage backup.

Most, if not all, fortune 500 companies have had "the Cloud" for years. Basically, they created their own virtual data center for disaster recovery or for centralized server management and remote or branch offices access applications, services and/or infrastructure via a secure internet connection. These are considered virtual private data centers versus what the Cloud is typically referred to as a virtual public data center, like Amazon, where services, platforms or infrastructure is accessed via the internet.

Google, the "Software as a Service" (SaaS) model for years, is used as a way to access legal briefings and decisions for research. Lexus Nexus is probably the most notable provider of these types of services to thousands of law firms. The reason is that Lexus Nexus has made the investment to provide all of this legal information so the company doesn't have to. Essentially, it becomes a commodity type of service that you lease for as long as you need that information or service.

Another benefit of the Cloud is its ability to be utilized as a disaster recovery facility or alternate facility to enhance backup and recovery requirements. For smaller businesses the cost to create a data center is usually too expensive to justify. Many companies don't have the business continuity they would like. With the introduction of cloud providers offering infrastructure services all of the sudden, it is more cost effective for SMB's to lease infrastructure for disaster recovery than it would be to gather all the funds required to make that purchase at once.

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