Monday, July 29, 2013

Virtually New Networks

Have you noticed the changes in computing in the last 10 years?  

Much has happened, is there anything we can’t do on our computing devices?  That right there– computing devices– that concept has changed.  10 years ago the desktop still ruled.  Many of us have used laptops, but the majority of the devices around were desktop computers. Today, that’s just not so.  Many people have even abandoned their notebook computer for a tablet such as iPad or Android– and a Smartphone.  They check their email on either device.  They get directions, find restaurants, buy movie tickets or anything else on one of these.  

Do you ever take time to think about how networks have changed?  A network was something you had in your office.  You probably had a server or a few servers, and your shared files and printers with everyone on your staff. You probably still do.

Today we talk about cloud computing, but sometimes people don’t know what they mean by that.  Cloud computing is really just about how the functions we do every day are now available on any device we want to use.  The device doesn’t matter, the real power is in the cloud.  That means it’s on a server but usually not like the old server.  This server is in a professionally managed Data Center somewhere– anywhere.  It is climate controlled, and protected like you can’t believe.  Most of us don’t even know where these Data Centers are.  And we don’t need to know.  It’s just there when we need it.  And we get all stressed if it isn’t around for a few hours or even a few minutes.  

Most of my work life I’ve worked with smaller networks.  These networks changed in complexity over the years but I still worked with small to mid-sized companies who were providing services for between 4 and 100 workstations.  Today I have a hard time suggesting the same setup for my customers.  Things changed.  While the cost of technology has come down, the cost of servers has gone up.  The network is really now, The Internet.  We are all connected whether we think we are or not.  Actual prices of servers are up, and the management of those servers becomes costly.  And every 3 to 5 years we need to swap it all out and do it again.  We can try to make that cycle longer, but there are all kinds of pressures to change.  It becomes very expensive and the costs are out of our control for the most part.

But the Cloud is going to help the small customer as well.  The small customer can now use the power of the Cloud for their benefit.  I hope to explore some of the ways we can benefit in follow up articles.  But basically a Network can now be purchased as a Service in The Cloud.  This is called Network as a Service (NaaS).  You don’t buy hardware to update it.  You don’t buy tape backup units, or dedicate a room to the Servers.  You order what you need as a Service.  You can scale up or scale back down as your business requires.  You don’t have to wait for replacement parts to be shipped to you, and you may not even need to worry about software licenses of standard OS or Major Applications.  You can add servers for special projects even.  Everything is taken care of for your standard monthly fee.

Sure there may be some things that are outside of the standard fee but the basics are generally handled.  This changes how you make decisions about your local (or virtual) network.  The rules are completely different. Some are already using Software as a Service (SaaS).  Maybe you use a hosted version of your accounting program or your email.  If so, you have already made one step.  Why not move the whole network?  It makes a lot of sense as the next step.

You don’t have to worry about what used to frighten you.  You now worry more about your business and not about the Network.  As I say I have some follow ups from this concept and lots to share, but for now this is a good start.  Just know that it can all be much easier.  The small business can act like a big business.  And the small business can actually afford it.

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