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555: organizational social networking in the cloud

We’ve come full circle with computing You may have to be at least as old as I am to comprehend how quickly we actually accomplished it.  When I began working with computers last century, in larger businesses (British Telecom was actually my first experience with it), monitors and keyboards were hung off a mainframe central computer.  You're Already Using the CloudNow, as processes move to the “cloud,” the computer terminals have morphed into our laptops and our PCs, but they’re hanging more and more off the processes and services that exist on the meta-mainframe that is the cloud.  Indeed, there’s some contention that the mainframe in many cases IS the cloud.  You no longer have to own the software or even the storage, you simply access it as a service.  What does this have to do with social networking as communication?

As the image shows, you’re already using the cloud if you use Gmail, Hotmail, YouTube, Twitter, YahooMail, Linked In, Facebook or Skype among many others.  If you’re reading this, chances are you’re using one of them.  If you use a photo storage site, you’re using the cloud.  At work, if you’re using a document sharing program such as Documentum or one of the other enterprise document management or knowledge management systems, such as Sharepoint, you’re using the cloud.  That particular cloud may be internally based, on your company’s own servers, or externally hosted.

The everyday user of cloud-based computing is much like the owner of a car.  Do you know what makes your car work?  OK, maybe you do, but I certainly don’t.  I know if it goes down the road or it doesn’t.  That’s the position the vast majority of individual users find themselves in–they simply know if their connection to the network works or it doesn’t.  And when either my car or my network doesn’t work, my frustration knows no bounds. I rely on my company to provide the necessaries to be able to access the cloud-based services I utilize pretty much every moment of every day.

However, companies that don’t have the internal resources to host their own cloud are beginning more and more to rely on external services.  The issues for companies that are using external hosting are enormous. Some of the possible implications are access problems, security problems, the hosting company’s longevity–in other words, if the hosting company fails, what just happened to all your cloud-based file storage?  Software licensing lends itself to some wholly nightmarish scenarios on the web, and that’s been acknowledged almost since the infancy of cloud computing.

Companies that use cloud-based external services for social media, in particular, are exposed to all these issues in ways that are just beginning to be understood.  If a company doesn’t have the internal resources to enable cloud-based computing, they also don’t have the resources to implement a disaster recovery program that is internally hosted, thereby leaving them at the mercy of their choice of provider.  The converse of course is that, if something happens to the physical location of the business, cloud computing may save the day, because the servers will be elsewhere.  Lots to think about.

5 Links, 5 Minutes

New Occupation for Mainframes:  Do the approval processes for mainframe usage disable the on-demand capabilities that are inherent in cloud-based computing?

Combining Big Iron and Cloud Computing:  Maybe the answer is “do both.”

Software Licensing and the Cloud: As DevCentral showed almost two years ago, “the old models of software licensing are wholly incompatible with cloud computing and on-demand environments.”

Disaster Recovery and the Cloud:  Maybe externally hosted clouds are the answer to disaster recovery.  If your information is safely stored elsewhere, your company may be able to ride out a calamity without data loss.

Solving the Cloud Management Puzzle:  Just a few of the things that need to be considered.

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