Monday, October 8, 2012

The BVSD Move to the Cloud

The phrase “cloud computing” is everywhere these days, but what does it mean?

Cloud computing means that we access hardware (like servers) and software over the internet rather than from a server hosted at our location. Cloud computing is everywhere -- you use it every time you perform an online search, login to your bank account, or check your email. There is a great explanation of how cloud computing works in this video from Common Craft.

One analogy for cloud computing is the electric company. In the early 1900s, companies used to generate their own electricity. But these generators became cumbersome and difficult to manage as their energy needs increased, so companies began buying their electricity from large entities with the capacity to provide electricity quickly and in large quantities. Today it seems silly that an individual company would generate its own power, outside of supplemental solar power. In 5-10 years, having large data centers filled with computer servers will be a thing of the past, too.

BVSD has already started moving to cloud computing. When we moved our email and calendars to Google last year, we moved those services from a locally hosted server into “the cloud”. In this case, the cloud simply means that the servers are located in a Google facility somewhere. Large companies like Google and Amazon have huge facilities called server farms, and they employ experts whose only job is to make the servers run smoothly. Instead of individual companies and organizations maintaining their own servers, they now leverage the size, security, and scalability of server farms.

You may have noticed that your email storage space increased significantly when we transitioned to Google. This is a great example of the size and scalability of cloud computing: if your data needs increase, there will always be plenty of server space to meet your needs immediately.

Another advantage of cloud computing is that you can access your data from anywhere. Before we transitioned to Google, your email was stored on a local server. You could only access your email if you were on the BVSD network or if you used a web application that didn’t provide all the functionality of our regular email client. Now, your Google mail is accessible from anywhere, on any device.

We are moving other applications into the cloud, too. In January we will move Lawson (HR/Payroll, Finance). Eventually we will also move Infinite Campus and SharePoint into the cloud.

So the next time you hear about the cloud, you’ll know that it refers to a service that you access over the internet, from any device, anytime, anywhere.

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