What Is Cloud Computing and Is It Right For Your Business?

All of the business literature is abuzz these days about Cloud Computing. Many executives are not sure they completely understand what is meant by Cloud Computing and in many cases CIO’s are not sure what is meant by the term. However, many feel that it is the answer to all of their information technology woes. Oh if it were only that simple!

Let’s start by defining the term Cloud Computing. In its most general form it means any scenario in which computer resources outside the company are used to provide software and/or hardware systems for the company. So the ultimate in Cloud Computing would be a scenario in which the company engaged an information technology hosting company to provide all hardware and software needs for the company on a monthly or annual fee basis. This is the opposite end of the classic spectrum in which all computer hardware, software and technical expertise is owned by the company.

Cloud computing or hosting has been available in one form or another for 30 years. The big difference now is communications via the internet and the ease of current platforms that provides for multiple outsource options. In most cases the justification for the move to cloud computing is reduced cost. However, in the majority of situations the reduced cost is primarily a lower cost of entry. Over the long term the cost of outsourced hosting is often more expensive than in-house hosting. Having said that, there are excellent reasons for outsourcing or using cloud computing. What is important is to understand the various options for outsourcing and the advantages/disadvantages to the company for the option being considered.

Some of the key options for using cloud computing are the following:

1. Website Hosting – many don’t think of this as cloud computing or outsourcing but it is the simplest form of cloud computing. There are still some companies that host their own websites. This results in significant bandwidth and server capacity requirements for the company. The infrastructure required to support hosted websites is very expensive and today web hosting is incredibly inexpensive. Most web hosting companies provide hosting services for less than $100 per month.

2. Microsoft Exchange Server hosting – the larger the company and the more email addresses, the more expensive this type of hosting. However, for smaller companies outsourcing Exchange Server is a very good option. The outsource company takes all the responsibility for maintaining the Exchange software and will provide bandwidth and server capacity on demand. The only gotcha in this cloud computing option is that the company must have bandwidth to support all email transactions.

3. Hosting particular applications such as CRM (Customer Relationship Management), ERP or other key operating applications. This use of cloud computing should be evaluated closely. Since the pricing for these types of applications are generally based on per user per month, this model can become expensive very rapidly especially as the number of users increases. In addition, operating applications generally need to integrate with other applications frequently in real time. This can create communication problems when the applications are hosted in different locations. Prior to making a decision to host operating applications in the cloud, key questions such as – who will be using the application, how it will be used and what options are available to move the system in-house – need to be evaluated.

4. Hosting of corporate owned applications on cloud servers – This option provides the ability for the company to own their applications and have technical support provided a professional IT infrastructure team. This is another excellent cloud computing option, which needs to be evaluated before a final decision is made. If all the applications for the company are hosted on the cloud servers then the primary area of concern is the communication bandwidth between the hosting location and the company. However, is limited applications are hosted on the outsourced servers and other applications are hosted internally or on other cloud servers, then the issues identified in option 3 come into play.

Cloud computing options definitely have a place and should always be evaluated as part of a system decision making process. However, it should not be seen as a panacea or a solution to every IT issue. Business executives should have professional IT evaluation either from internal IT personnel or external IT experts prior to making IT outsource decisions.

The Church and Technology

How can the Christian Church reach out with the technology available?

Twenty years ago, the Internet was still considered new technology. Only a minority of people had access to the Internet. Today, most households have at least one computer, and the majority of people today use a computer to gather information. There are some of the older generation that still have not ventured onto a computer, but for the most part, most people have and can use a computer to do a basic search. My father in law, whose is 84 years old at the date of this writing, can use a computer.

With the new smart phones and tablets with cellular connections, Internet use has become as much of a needed utility as a telephone. Having said that, the way we gain information has changed compared to twenty years ago. In that era, pay telephones were rampant, and for the most part, you could usually find a telephone book to look up anything you needed, from a doctor, to a store, and even your local place of worship. Personally, I have not picked up a phone book to look up anything in quite a long time. Instead, we use search engines like Google, Bing, or online directories like Yelp, combined maybe with some other website that has the information we need. A lot of the Christian radio stations have a directory online listing local churches.

So, what does this have to do with the church? Most churches now realize that they at least need a website. A lot of the church websites out there offer little more than the address and phone number of the church, with maybe a few photos. Some of these websites are built by someone (well meaning) in the congregation. They may not have any idea of how to do anything more than just use some cheap resource online to build an automatic click and build website, without needing much in the way of technical experience. A website can offer so much more, and have the ability to reach out to the lost. We are commanded to take up the Great Commission, to win as many souls as possible. See Matthew 28:16-20 regarding the Great Commission. Your church can offer live video feeds of your services. You can offer audio podcasts of your sermons. You can have a calendar of events showing on your website. All of these tools can be used to reach the lost, while keeping your flock up to date with a valid method of communication, and keeping your home bound members fed with the message.

Besides the website, you can have software that is cloud based, to help you run your church or ministry. There are many good ones out there, and they are free in costs. Some of these can be found on open source websites. You just need someone that can recognize what the system requirements are, to install it for you, and make any code adjustments to make it work with your particular situation.

Do you want to print your own church directory, with photos of your members? Do you want a good accounting program? Do you have a church library, and want to automate the check in and out process? Do you have a nursery or children’s program where you would like to print out bar codes on ID badges for check in and out? Maybe, with the string of church burglaries in some locations around the country, you’d like to install a security camera system? Do you want to expand your current phone system from one phone line to several, and have the same set up as a large corporation? Do you want the ability to automatically call out on your phone system with a prayer chain? E-mail out newsletters automatically?

All of these things can be done with fairly inexpensive equipment, and not have to purchase any software. You only need to have someone that knows how to put these things in place. I will be coming out with more articles on how to save money with technology in the church in the near future. Thank you for reading, and may God bless you.

Keith Hodges is a Christian serving God with his talents of working in technology needs for the church. Mr. Hodges is in the process of starting a faith based ministry to go to churches to institute technology in the church, while also training staff along with members of the church on maintaining the new technology. He will do this while being paid only by donations and love offerings. Keith has worked in many different industries over the years while also working in Internet Technologies. You can contact him through the contact form on his website at

Classification of Different Types of Computers And Accessories

Most commonly used computers are the microcomputers based on single chip microprocessor technology like the Personal Computer or PC commonly known as Desktop, Laptop and Palmtop computer. These three types are very prominently used nowadays by people of all fields and classes to meet their suitable requirements with laptops and palmtop computers being in vogue vis a vis desktops.

* PC or Desktop: Desktop computers are the most suitable type of computers for use in offices, schools and other work places in performing different operations like documentation, accounting and internet browsing, etc. It consists of a desktop display known as Monitor with a key board placed on table top and a case containing mother board with processing unit known as CPU normally placed under the table. Desktops are generally cheaper than laptops and palmtop computers.

* Laptop: Laptops are slim and light weighted as compared to desktops. They can be easily placed on the lap to work conveniently. Laptop mother boards have built in wireless technology. Therefore they can be easily carried and run on rechargeable battery. Unlike desktops, laptops do not require any extra space for storage.

* PalmTop: It is very small in size and can be placed on the palm. Palmtops make use of an electronic pen known as stylus in place of key board for operating. Data feeding is done through hand written messages using this pen. A palmtop is also known as PDA (Personal Digital Assistant). It is also known as hand held or pocket computer. But a palmtop can perform limited functions and is mostly used as a phone book, diary or note book and for sending and receiving mails and playing games.

Classification Based on Operations

Besides the above 3 basic classifications, there are other classifications according to principles of operation or according to size and performance. Based on principles of operation, there are following three types:

* Analog: Analog computer works on range of values which keep varying continuously and give approximate results of the computations. These computers are used for calculating temperature, pressure, voltage and speed.

* Digital: Digital computers operate on digital data using binary number system. Widely used in engineering and technology fields, they are more accurate and give faster results.

* Hybrid: Hybrid computers operate on a combined version of analog and digital features. These computers are mostly used for specialized tasks like automatic operations of machines and monitoring of complicated physical processes.

Other Classifications

Based on their size, capacity and performance computers can be classified into super computers, mainframe computers, minicomputers and microcomputers.

* Super Computer: A large computer in terms of processing capacity, it can process hundreds of millions of instructions at a single moment. It is highly expensive and is useful for nuclear technology, scientific research, geological surveys and weather reports.

* Mainframe: Mainframe computer is a computer with a large CPU for processing all operations linked with many hundreds of other computers in its frame work. They are also capable of efficiently monitoring hundreds of millions of transactions concurrently. They are widely used in banks, railways and airlines.

* Mini Computer: A minicomputer is smaller than mainframe computer in operations and less expensive. But it can support more than 100 users at a single time.

* Micro Computer: A microcomputer is based on one single microprocessor chip for its operations. Desktop PC, Laptop and palmtop computer are microcomputers. Other microcomputers include note books, tablets, game computers, smart books and smart phones, etc.