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The Cloud and Web 3.0: The Third Generation of Connected Computing Has Arrived

web 3.0 icons If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it at least two or three times: computers involve too much manual labor. All this clicking of buttons and pushing the mouse around and plugging in physical objects with physical cords, it’s just absolutely exhausting. In fact, my doctor says it’s why I have chronic left-hand pointer-finger fatigue. I am elated to see the new developments on the horizon that could be the cure for my dysfunctional dexterity disorder (DDD): Web 3.0. We’ve covered some of the same ground here in previous posts, but it is fascinating territory, and it doesn’t hurt to further prepare ourselves for this overhaul of the relationship between the physical and the virtual. How Web 3.0 will change the world Some folks wonder when this environment is going to arrive, like a ragtag Internet commission (possibly composed of Al Gore, Tila Tequila, Stephen Hawking, and Hulk Hugan) is going to make an announcement one day that it’s here. The fact is, the third phase of the web is actually a grand transition that is connecting the physical and virtual worlds “at the hip” (the physical and virtual hips, both of which are wildly attractive). As Thoughts on Cloud suggests, it would be nice to be able to find a car key through a mobile app based in the cloud. Really, it would be nice to be able to find everything we own by clicking a button on our cell phones (regardless of the threat it poses for DDD sufferers). Our refrigerators could sense what items are running low and let us know what we need to get at the grocery store, in real-time, as we walk down the aisles. Our cars could let us know through the cloud when oil changes or tuneups are needed. All those scenarios are possible in the Internet of Things (IoT) – also known as Web 3.0. Smart phones are light-years smarter than their predecessors, and they are getting more intelligent all the time. The two primary reasons that’s the case are faster processing speeds and greater interconnection. Regarding faster processing speeds, nothing is capable of the fast and reliable performance that cloud computing offers. In fact, medical researchers have realized that the IT strategy outpaces the supercomputers that used to be the standard for handling massive scientific research data sets. Regarding greater interconnection, the fact that we’re racing toward a self-driving car – and that, in fact, one is already available on the market – should tell us how dedicated businesses are to apply new technologies to the world around us. The Internet of Things is a major, major development not just for our business and personal lives but in the unfolding history of humankind. We are building machines that replicate the real, tangible universe. It’s a mechanization, in a way, of the sixth sense. Telekinesis? You may not be able to move that object with your mind, but this device can with its artificial mind. Psychic perception? You may not be able to know immediately what’s going on across the world, but this computer can with its access to more locations, objects, and living things all the time – with high-powered algorithms and databases to understand them. We may well be able to put just about anything online. That which is not identified on the Internet could start to seem, over time, like artifacts of a quaint past. The digital world and the physical world will start to share the same space. Conceptually and philosophically, this technological transition is mind-boggling. The ramifications for security are massive – think what a hacker could do to a car traveling full-speed on the interstate. Privacy is also a major and compelling concern. But the momentum of the Internet of Things is unstoppable, revolutionizing the world in amazing ways. It’s an exciting time to be alive. Web 3.0: history & benefits As occurs when any new and game-changing technology that alters our way of life hits the market, we basically have three options, all of which are completely reasonable:
  1. run for the hills (or the mountains, if you live in the hills);
  2. stick your head in the sand (or in the dirt, if you can dig a big enough hole);
  3. get excited about the possibilities and see what it has to offer.
Here’s the skinny on the Internet of Things, with various pointers from CloudTimes. Internet of Things proposal Web 3.0 is a term meant to understand the web’s expansion into greater “real world” scenarios within the context of web history. In contrast, the Internet of Things is a popular buzzword these days among individuals and businesses: it captures our attention, even though most of us don’t think a huge amount about what it entails. The idea of interconnecting all the objects in the world – or as many as possible – was suggested in 1999. The idea then was to use an interconnected system of barcodes and RFID (radio frequency identification, as used in retail stores). Only in the last few years, though, has the idea really taken form in the public consciousness. Technologies such as global positioning systems (GPS), Wireless Fidelity (WiFi), and near field communication (NFC) have opened our eyes to the possibilities of this approach. If you don’t recognize NFC, it’s the technology that allows cell phones to establish radio communication with one another when placed in close proximity. Benefits of the Internet of Things The benefits of this movement will prove vast as they build exponentially, but several specific examples we already experience include the following:
  • watches and clocks that change in real-time to recognize adjustments in daylight savings time or time zone;
  • HVAC (heating, ventilation, and air-conditioning) systems that respond to changes in the local weather; and
  • recovery of stolen computers and cell phones by continued communication between the cloud and the device.
From a business and economic standpoint, further connecting the web to the world could also be highly profitable. Getting in “before the curve” with apps that integrate with this computing trend will likely make many of us millionaires (that’s right – $1 million!). Web 3.0 represents the dawn of a new age in which we can utilize the Internet to make our daily lives and businesses run more smoothly. In development since 1999, the possibilities revealed by this computing revolution are virtually endless. Cloud services allow companies to easily take advantage of opportunities as this new landscape unfolds.  

The School of Virtualization: The Benefits of Cloud Computing for K-12 Classrooms

Little cute girl As cloud computing grows, much of the focus has been centered on how it allows more sophisticated interaction between businesses and clients, along with more efficient internal productivity. The IT approach goes well beyond business productivity and application complexity, though. The system could potentially save lives: it allows medical researchers to process huge amounts of data affordably and quickly, as we covered in a previous piece. It also is changing the way in which we teach and learn. Savings & broad benefits for education and other sectors Last year, education technology site THE Journal conducted surveys of schools, as well as various other types of organizations, to gauge the growth of cloud computing. Its finding suggest that the strategy doesn’t just play a strong role in academia: it actually is more impactful in some ways than it is for the average economic sector. The publication reported that the technology would reach 25% of IT budgets for K-12 schools by this year and would make up more than a third of budgets by 2017. A CDW Government study revealed that the top use for the solution in K-12 environments is rather simple: storage, which represented 40% of use. Two other types of applications were close behind storage, though: collaborative and conferencing tools, at 36%, and office workflow applications, at 33%. The breakdown of the model’s adoption in childhood education is similar to that seen elsewhere in the for-profit, government, and nonprofit spheres: storage and conference/collaboration are generally the most widely used applications, as a 2013 report from CDN clarifies. Additional popular reasons it is used across all types of organizations include its raw processing power, along with operational and messaging tools. Those organizations that have deployed distributed virtualization solutions – among all organizations, not just education – had reduced their costs on applicable services by 13% in 2013, with that number expected to reach 17% this year and 25% in 2017. Education savings are actually better than the average at 20% projected for 2014, 27% projected for 2017. Benefits of the cloud for all fields are understood through analysis of the study’s survey responses, as indicated below. Note that the percentages exceed 100% because respondents were asked to check “all that apply”:
  1. Efficiency/productivity – 55%
  2. Mobile access for staff – 49%
  3. Creativity/innovation – 32%
  4. Reduced strain on tech department – 31%
  5. Research/development/deployment of new offerings – 24%.
Additional benefits of the cloud for education Pearson School Systems notes a number of ways that the cloud is especially helpful to the field of education. Pearson’s thoughts are applicable in part to general academic IT but also specifically to the classroom:
  • Real-time backup – The approach allows for real-time saving of materials so nothing is lost if a tool on an individual teacher’s device fails. Regardless of any problems that arise on one computer, documents are still intact and can be accessed from another device.
  • Storage – Teachers and students are able to store any types of files within the cloud. Due to the strategy’s elasticity and affordability, large files do not pose problems.
  • Access – Teachers and students can access files from anywhere – in the classroom, at home, or through mobile devices.
  • Collaboration – The model makes it easy for teachers to work together on projects and for students to work on group assignments. Anyone with access can revise documents, with the new version reflected simultaneously. This aspect allows for ideas to be enhanced by teamwork and for lesson plans to be built synergistically.
  • Paper and time reduction – As the IT system makes it easier to conduct tasks through the Internet, teachers no longer need to expend time and budget on printing and copying. Students can view and sometimes complete homework online, and they can access reading materials and other educational resources as well.
  • Homework – Specifically with regards to homework, teachers can detail projects and assignments using virtualized tools. Students can access task pages from anywhere and post their work in response. The work is easily saved and can be graded by the teacher thereafter. Assignments don’t need to be collected in class, saving time and making flu bugs less likely to spread.
Dr. Matthew Lynch addresses benefits of the cloud for schools as well in Education Week, covering some different terrain. He states the advantages of the cloud as follows:
  • Improved communication – Lynch notes that a portal such as Edline allows everyone involved in an academic setting access to classroom materials. Parents can check their children’s assignments and grades from any location, at any time. Teachers can make announcements to everyone involved in the class. It also allows all parties easy, organized, and reliable access to past and future assignments. If desired, forums can be created to enable direct interaction between parents, teachers, and/or students.
  • Disaster preparedness – One crucial component of any IT infrastructure is disaster planning. Schools amass data about students that helps determine paths forward for all involved. If the records of the school are compromised by any type of disaster, whether they are stored on file cabinets or on hard drives, all that student data could be lost. By virtualizing all that information, the school knows it will always be available within a system structured to allow many redundancies.
  • Centralization & ease – As indicated briefly above, one of the strongest attributes of this strategy is its ability to integrate various programs and sets of data. The approach doesn’t require an investment in hardware, and billing is based on use, making it a cost-effective and simple solution to deploy.
  • Recovery – With this model, crashes and loss of data are quickly becoming a thing of the past. The system operates smoothly despite any failures of specific hardware or software components. If data is lost at one location, getting a backup copy is fast and simple.
Cloud computing is gradually taking hold throughout the field of education, as evidenced by 25% of K-12 budgets. The benefits of this model are manifold, with efficiency seen as especially critical by IT executives. The model makes homework assignments more accessible; enhances disaster preparedness; and fosters communication between parents, teachers, and students.  

BYOD – “Bring Your Own Device” – Now in Use by Most Companies, But Focus and Trust Present Major Challenges

Bring Your Own Device According to a survey conducted by IT interactive app company Spiceworks, adoption of cloud computing is expanding rapidly in the business world. From December 2013 to June 2014, the number of SMB’s (small to medium businesses) using this form of hosting is projected to rise from 60% to 66%. Companies using server virtualization (a vast portion of which is now based in the cloud) will increase proportionally from 72% to 80%. Internet infrastructure news site CircleID recently covered seven ongoing trends in this type of computing. Among them were the adoption of technologies and services such as hybrid models, platform-as-a-service (PaaS), big data analytics (incorporating predictive analytics and predictive modeling), and “bring your own device” policies. BYOD is a particularly compelling topic because, as John Grady of CircleID mentions, consumer electronics have shifted tremendously from PCs to mobile devices over the last few years. IT departments can benefit from the rise of mobile devices by integrating personal cloud services with any business apps based on the same approach. BYOD & MDM Business use of the new IT strategy typically falls under the umbrella of a secure environment incorporating personal cell phones and tablets, controlled by mobile device management (MDM) software. ITworld defines MDM as “the ability to secure, manage, monitor and support mobile devices.” MDM software is essentially an organized platform to streamline administration and enhance security of freer device access, including the following techniques:
  • ensures that all personal mobile systems used in the business’s network are only accessible with a password;
  • wireless use of applications, often with data stored in the cloud;
  • capability to delete all data on a phone or tablet in the case of theft.
Companies believe BYOD is now mandatory Dell Quest surveyed IT executives around the world for a report released in 2013. The research revealed that 7 out of every 10 companies have found that broader acceptance of cell phones and tablets benefits the efficiency of workflow and productivity, while 6 out of 10 feel that the applicable policies are necessary to stay competitive in the marketplace. Almost 1500 tech infrastructure directors from enterprises in Asia, Europe, Australia, and the United States (10 countries total) were surveyed. The survey focused on two different types of bring-your-own-device schemes, one that is centered on equipment (device-centric) and one that is centered on employees (user-centric). Dividing strategies into these two different approaches intended to reveal why some implementations are more successful than others. The approaches were based on survey responses to determine the centerpiece of the management strategy. Roger Bjork, a Dell executive behind the study, noted that the user-centric approach results in the highest degree of success, in the following forms:
  • less roadblocks encountered;
  • more gains in productivity;
  • development of a more streamlined environment; and
  • generation of a competitive edge.
Bjork specifically stressed the issue of competition regarding companies with a BYOD strategy that was device-centric or nonexistent. He argued that those organizations are exposing themselves to “the risk of being left behind from a competitive standpoint.” The Dell study found that bring-your-own-device is the most advantageous to companies that have been developing the policy over several years. Long-running programs were, in a sense, running on autopilot, with early adopters encountering less hurdles. In fact, 25% of companies with fully developed policies hadn’t experienced any systemic problems over the last year. User focus & other results of study Additional benefits of centering the policy on users include the following:
  • more reliable data administration;
  • stronger client satisfaction; and
  • enhanced security.
For those companies placing the emphasis on users rather than devices, 74% reported that implementation had generated higher productivity. Similarly, 70% of those organizations said that it has enabled their employees to respond faster to customer requests. The study garnered a general sense of the company’s perspective toward this approach – both general adoption and the user versus device philosophy – through a simple question of the purpose of “bring your own device.” 11% of respondents believed that broad accessibility to company systems is primarily a matter of employees wanting to be able to use their cell phones. Companies describing this strategy in that manner were significantly less likely to have adopted it as a policy. Meanwhile, one-third of those who answered the survey agreed with a more complex definition – that it’s not just about the desires of employees but “the degree to which organizations empower them to achieve maximum productivity.” The user-centric approach was strongest in Singapore, followed by the United Kingdom Australia, and France; it was the weakest in the United States. Although the US and China did not have high marks for the user-focused model, they did have great general support for the policy. Active encouragement of the concept was most prevalent in the United States, China, and Australia, while the lowest three countries for general promotion of “bring your own device” were France, Germany, and the United Kingdom. BYOD & the issue of trust Forbes reported in February on one element that is necessary for a successful bring-your-own-device policy: trust. As David Amerland suggests, the strategy should be a match made in heaven, bolstered by great timing, when we look at the three primary elements:
  • The climate – IT has been “consumerized.” In other words, personal devices are often more powerful than what a company would want to purchase on the behalf of employees;
  • The employee – Workforces are becoming more mobile, and employee shifts are becoming less strictly defined than the standard 9 to 5. Satisfaction of employees and loyalty to the employer are enhanced by greater access flexibility.
  • The business – The company itself can take advantage of reduced overhead (not having to purchase cell phones and tablets for employees), better attainment of targets, and higher all-around productivity.
In order to integrate trust into this IT model, an organization should ensure that its parameters are as transparent as possible. Trust can yield strong gains in productivity and becomes pivotal in an environment of persona convergence, in which personal and business data inevitably become intermingled. BYOD is on the rise, with 3 out of 5 IT decision-makers now considering it a critical component in the competitive business world. A policy that focuses on users rather than devices yields the best possible results. Companies enhance productivity and reduce costs by establishing a more open-access environment, based on trust and powered by the cloud.  

Mobility in the Cloud – Working From Anywhere

Cloud Computing allows you to access your work, data and applications from anywhere, anytime.

Work from the Beach with the Cloud

Work from the Beach with the Cloud

Imagine working from a beach chair 2,000 miles from your home office, without your personal computer. Envision replying to emails, updating your blog or creating presentations all while sipping on a coconut filled drink with a little pink umbrella. Sounds impossible without your personal computer, right? Well, it isn’t. In today’s Internet-centric world, accomplishing work from the beach or the Borneo jungles is easily done by accessing the Cloud!

That’s because Cloud Computing allows you to work from anywhere, anytime as long as you have an Internet connection. With a VPS Cloud server, your files are saved virtually on the Cloud instead of on your hard drive effectively untethering you from a single physical computer. As long as you have access to a Wi-Fi connection, you can access your files from virtually anywhere.

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The Cloud: Agility and Flexibility

Cloud Computing Is Great For Finances and Agility

Cloud Computing Is Great For Finances and Agility

Here’s the thing – for the longest time the marketplace has been told that the Cloud is all about excellent price structures. Regardless of it’s storage, mobile synchronization, data security and low carbon footprint, the marketplace has been sold on how inexpensive the Cloud is for businesses of all sizes. From Amazon Cloud Services, to Google Cloud Solutions to our very own Solar VPS Cloud offerings, the marketplace at large has been sold on how cheap Cloud computing solutions are. Now, while this is the case – Cloud web hosting, Cloud storage and Cloud computing are very affordable – time and time again case studies show that the highest selling point of Cloud Computing solutions isn’t the price – it’s the agility. For the vast majority of corporate consumers, the major selling point of Cloud Computing solutions isn’t it’s cost comparison internal IT solutions, but how quickly Cloud solutions can be deployed, re-deployed, scaled and fitted to custom sized needs. It’s about agility.

But what do we mean by this?

Cloud Agility and Flexibility

Cloud Flexibility is Key to Corporate Cloud Adoption

Cloud Flexibility is Key to Corporate Cloud Adoption

Without beating around the Cloud too much, corporations and personal consumers are coming around to Cloud computing services because of how fast they can be deployed, rolled back and scaled to meet needs. For companies who need their solutions to be deployed and running at a moment’s notice, studies conducted by the IT research firm CDW and the Sand Hill Group both confirm the major factor in Cloud adoption in corporate America is quickness and scalability. As noted by Stephen Brat, GM of Cloud Solutions of CDW:

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The Growing Cloud

Numerous industries have already realized the benefits provided by Cloud Computing. That’s why tons of companies have already started adopting and integrating the technology into their businesses. While most of know the various uses for Cloud Computing, you may find some below you haven’t thought of yet.

Data Storage

Cloud Storage

Cloud Storage

Odd as it may sound, it’s still common for business to maintain their electronic data on in-house servers. Cloud Computing allows businesses to store their data remotely in a secure datacenter located the world away. While some companies choose to house their servers in their kitchen (I recently visited a company whose sandwiches were made next to their internal email server) Cloud Computing unshackles companies from their internal servers – in the process freeing up physical space and freeing up OPEX and CAPEX expenditures.

Cloud Computing solutions create an environment where employees can work together by having immediate access to the same information regardless of their location. Not only does Cloud storage save your business money on expensive software (CAPEX), it also saves space on the hard drive of each employee’s computer. Why would anyone outsource their electronic data storage? It’s simple, not only are the benefits of remote data storage plentiful, it’s extremely affordable, too.

As previously mentioned, the Cloud allows companies to take their internal servers off their books. This means companies no longer have to shell out upwards of $50,000 every few years to maintain and replace their internal server housing their email and phone needs. As automatic software updates save companies on CAPEX, no server equipment maintenance/replacement saves companies tons of dough on OPEX.

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