What is This Thing Called Cloud?

What is This Thing Called Cloud?


A lot has been written, spoken and hyped about “The Cloud”. But for the average business person, all the hype can be confusing. What is this “Cloud”? What can it do for me and my business? Do I have to get it? Why?

Everyone is in the Cloud

In fact, you are probably already a Cloud computing user. You can count yourself Cloud savvy if you use social media like Facebook, or flickr to share photographs with friends and family; if you use an application like Skype, or Internet banking – even if you have a Gmail address.

You probably like the fact that your photographs are there when you want to see them, and you can do your banking from wherever you happen to be and using whichever device you happen to have close at hand – your smart phone, your tablet computer, your notebook or your desktop PC.

And that’s one of the most compelling benefits of Cloud computing: the fact that it delivers when-you-need-it, where-you-need-it, data and applications – without the need for any major investment in IT infrastructure and skills.

There’s also a lot more to Cloud computing than social media and personal applications. The Cloud can be a powerful business tool.

What is the Cloud?

Simply defined, Cloud computing is a general term for anything that involves delivering hosted applications and services over the Internet.

The name “The Cloud” comes from icon that the IT techies used in diagrams and flow charts to symbolise the Internet. It was drawn as a fluffy white cloud, probably to symbolise the impression that information appeared to float from one computer, or one individual, or one business to another rather like clouds floating through the sky.

But there’s nothing airy-fairy about the Cloud.

Where is the Cloud?

The Cloud is powered by thousands of data centres around the world. MWEB Business operates three of these data centres and we have been delivering a range of Cloud services to South African businesses for years (except they’ve only recently been referred to as Cloud services).

Internationally, large companies like Google and Amazon already have most of their IT resourced in the Cloud because it reduces the amount of hardware they need to purchase and maintain.

Uptake of business Cloud services has been slower in South Africa, possibly because uncapped, affordable high-speed Internet is absolutely essential for effective Cloud computing. Until MWEB uncapped the Internet a couple of years ago, the Cloud was simply not a viable option for small and medium businesses here.

However, we are starting to see a marked increase in interest from local businesses of all sizes that recognise the benefits of the Cloud in terms of cost savings, efficiencies and convenience.

Derek Hershaw
Derek Hershaw, CEO of MWEB ISP, joined in 1998 as general manager of the Dial Services Division. In 2003, he took over as general manager of Operations, managing the front and back office customer support environments and became CEO of MWEB ISP in December 2009. Before joining MWEB, Hershaw worked for Norwich Life for nine years, primarily in their Client Services Division. He holds a BCom (Honours) degree in Economics from Rhodes University.