Out of the Closet and Into the Cloud

    We’re working on a newly designed website.  I hope you are going to love it.  In doing so, we’ve been revisiting some of the basic questions about what we do and how and why we do it.  It’s a really good exercise for any business.   So, I’ve been writing about basic questions, like “What is VoIP?”, “Why Choose a Hosted Solution?”, and “What’s the importance of Managed?”  I hope you’ll all enjoy our in-depth explanations for each of these, but in my opinion, what it really comes down to is taking the guts of your phone system (you know the box with the cable spaghetti) out of your utility closet and trusting it to the “Cloud.”

    Please don’t get me wrong. I’m a huge believer in Cloud Computing (sometimes called “Hosted” or “Software as a Service”).  Among other things, it levels the playing field by making software services available to smaller companies who could not afford to run them in-house and reduces total ownership costs for even the biggest of competitors.  I guess it’s the name that’s been bugging me.  What’s “The Cloud”, and why should I trust it?  After all, clouds are ever-changing, imprecise, nebulous things that I can’t predict or control.  Why did a bunch of smart people who are mostly trying to sell software and services call their platform something so, well, cloudy?  Why not call it “The Vault” or “The SuperCyberMatrixNet?”  I don’t know, something more…solid?  I’m a curious girl, so I thought I’d find out.

    It turns out that the cloud as a visual metaphor of the Internet was an idea taken from early drawings that used to represent telcom networks (Who knew?).  If you were designing a network, you focused on understanding what devices were on the network and how they would work together and be managed.  You had to understand every aspect of the network you were designing.  Usually this involved creating an intricate diagram of “your” network.

    But, some networks hooked to other networks to or the Internet.  It was important to indicate that this was part of the design.  But you wouldn’t know how to draw the other network; you didn’t necessarily even know how it worked.  It was just there, managed and understood by someone else.  Engineers decided on the cloud as the symbol of this unknown.  It makes a strange kind of sense.

    Ok, so is trusting your phone system (or any other business application, for that matter) to something that you can’t draw, can’t really touch, and don’t control a good idea?  Sure, the benefits are significant, and it allows you to focus on your core business, not on the phone network. But it underscores the importance of choosing a provider that is not only a thought-leader, but also one that is committed to managing the change and complexity of systems and applications that are outside of your direct view, so that you can sit back and obtain the benefits.  The details of cloud computing will not be transparent, so the history, reliability, and customer satisfaction of the provider had better be.

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