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A Small Cloud BuilderThe first part of this series provided some basic information about cloud computing. This time, we'll look at some sample cloud products / services.

 

Storage

Box.netBox.net is a cloud service that provides on line access to all your files and content. Essentially, box.net is a solution for cloud data storage.   Box.net can not only store files and data, it has other services including document management, project management, plus  FTP and other file transfers.

Box.net has a free personal option for 1GB of online storage.   To store 10GB of data is $9.99/month, and 15GB is $19.99/month.  Businesses can take a 14 day free spin for up to 3 users and 45GB of data.   After that, products include a $15/mo/user product for storing up to 15GB of data per user.  There is also an Enterprise product with unlimited storage, but you’ll have to talk to a salesperson for pricing.

 

http://images.apple.com/mobileme/images/overview_hero_mobileme_20100622.pngApple’s MobileMe service is a cloud computing product as well.   One of its key features is to store your email, contacts, and calendar and sync them to your iPhone, PC, and iPad.  MobileMe also provides on-line file storage and  sharing with iDisk.  Other services include photo storage and sharing, as well as a locator feature to find a lost iPhone or iPad.

With MobileMe, all your files are stored in the cloud, so there is no hardware for you to worry about.  There is a free 60 day trial that Apple hopes will get you hooked on the product.  After 60 days, MobileMe will run you $99/year.

Cloud Applications

A subset of cloud computing is SaaS, or software as a service.   Instead of purchasing software licenses and installing it on PCs in your home or business network, there are providers that enable you to use their software over the Internet.

 

One of the most common providers of online software that you may not even consider a cloud provider is Google.  In addition to providing free email for single users (gmail), Google hosts email services for companies worldwide.  Cloud software services include Google Apps, Google Docs, Google Sites, and Google App Engine.

Of course, Google has a bunch of free software and applications for personal use as you can see listed here.   We all know that Google isn’t providing all these free services out of the kindness of their heart.  Google is able to determine your product likes and dislikes through the use of their free software.  Google then uses this information to sell services to advertisers allowing companies to target their marketing at customers who are more likely to buy their products.

The GoogleApps suite for business provides email, calendaring, documents and other software for $50 per user per year.  Using Google Apps eliminates the need for installing and maintaining office applications like Outlook, Excel, Power Point and Word, and provides on line storage for emails and files.

GoogleApps also includes Google Sites for simplified Intranet Web pages as well as video hosting and streaming.  Google App Engine is an additional service where Google will host your company’s web based applications for $8 per user per month.

 

Salesforce.com provides cloud Customer Relationship Management  (CRM) software solutions.  Businesses spend thousands, even millions of dollars on CRM software solutions.  For the small business wanting to get started without the overhead of the servers and software needed to grow the business, Salesforce.com offers on line software solutions with the same capabilities.

I’m a big fan of free, and Salesforce.com offers a free 30 day trial of their most popular CRM application.   This application, called Sales Cloud 2, has a huge amount of features, including a customer database, sales lead tools, workflow, integration to desktop applications (like Office),  search tools, reporting, and access to other cloud applications.  Sales Cloud 2 is priced at $5 to $250 per user per month depending on the features selected.

Another Salesforce.com product is Service Cloud 2.  This application, which also has a free 30 day trial, provides a cloud based customer service software solution.  Included are customer trouble reporting and management tools, integration to social media sites like Twitter and Facebook, and numerous other services to care for your customers.  Service Cloud 2 is priced at $65 to $265 per user per month, also depending on the features selected.

 

37signals37signals is another cloud software provider.   37signals provides web based software called Basecamp for project and collaboration, Highrise for contact management, Backpack for online file sharing, and Campfire for chat and team communication.

37Signals is all web based, so its software will work on PCs, Macs, and Linux.   It’s also flexible from a pricing standpoint, running from $12 per month to $149 per month, with no contracts or commitments.  Of interest, the “sole investor” in 37Signals is Jeff Bezos of Amazon.com.  I’m going to touch on Amazon.com Public Cloud solutions next.


Public Cloud Providers

 

Amazon Web ServicesAmazon.com, the online book seller is also one of the biggest public cloud providers.   Amazon has an incredible array of cloud computing services, which they call Amazon Web Services (AWS).  

AWS products include Computing Services (EC2), Content Delivery, Databases, E-Commerce (FWS), Messaging (SQS), Monitoring, Private Cloud, Payment Services (FPS), Storage (S3), Support, Web Servers, and Workforce solutions.

Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud, EC2 for short, fascinates me.  EC2 is a great tool for developers as well as businesses, and incredibly flexible.  It allows you to fire up a Linux or Windows server in the cloud, test various software or solutions, turn it all off, and only pay for what you used.  A basic Linux server starts at $.085 per hour and a Windows server at $.12 per hour.

For example, I tested setting up a basic Linux server that could host a Web Page.  I played around with it for a day before deleting it, and the whole experiment cost $1.54.  For those of us that like to toy around with various technologies, this is a pretty cheap way to do so, and eliminates the need for that pile of computers in your basement!

Amazon Simple Storage Service, S3 for short, is an online storage service.  Pricing seems pretty cheap, starting at $.15 per GB/month.   An entire TeraByte (TB) of data calculates to $150/month. 

One issue with S3 and large amounts of storage is how do you get your TB of data in and out of the Cloud?  Amazon has a solution for this with their Import/Export service.  This service allows for secure shipping of a USB or SATA drive to Amazon to copy your data into the cloud.  Note, you can and should encrypt your data prior to shipping to keep it secure.  Amazon will then return your device once the data has been copied onto the cloud.

Microsoft is also in the Public Cloud Computing game with its Azure services and products.   Like Amazon, Microsoft offers a wide array of cloud products, including Computing Services, SQL Database, Storage, Web Server services.   Microsoft’s AppFabric is a tool for connecting computing services, databases, and applications from your network, between networks, and over the Internet.

Microsoft’s computing services are just pennies per hour, similar to Amazon’s.   A simple Windows server on Microsoft’s cloud is $.12 per hour.  Storage, as with Amazon is $.15 per GB/month.   Microsoft has a promotion going until October 31, 2010 where you can try Azure services for free.  The promotion is limited, you only get 25 hours of computing services and 500MB of storage, but there is nothing wrong with trying something for free before you buy.

 

Dedicated Server, Managed Hosting & Web Hosting from RackspaceRackspace is another well known public cloud computing supplier.   Rackspace has been in the hosting business since 1998 and has 9 data centers throughout the world.  Having experience hosting other companies’ servers and equipment, it is a natural for Rackspace to get into the Cloud Computing business.

Rackspace’s cloud products include Cloud Servers, Cloud Files and Cloud Sites, which are cloud computing, storage, and web server solutions.  Rackspace, like Amazon, provides both Linux and Windows computing services.

Entry level pricing on Rackspace is simple.  Cloud Servers start at $.015 per hour or $10.95/month.  Cloud File pricing is the same as Amazon and Microsoft at is $.15 per GB/month.  Cloud Sites for running a Web Server in the Cloud starts at $149/month.

Cloud Appliances

If you're not comfortable with your data sitting on someone else's server (and many people aren't), there are alternatives.

http://www.pogoplug.com/images/logo.pngPogoPlug is another way for a small network to use the Internet to expand their computing capabilities.  For small networks, pogoplug offers a means to access files anywhere, both locally and over the Internet.

The Pogoplug solution is both physical and a cloud solution.  You connect one or more USB drives to the physical Pogoplug device.  The Pogoplug software allows you to access the files from anywhere in the cloud, either on your network or over the Internet, with either a PC or a PDA.  Unlike the MobileMe product, the Pogoplug will work on both Windows and Macs. 

Pogoplug has two devices, one intended for personal use, the other for a small business.  Both are basic Ethernet devices with USB connectors.  The personal Pogoplug device is $129, reviewed here, and there are no monthly fees.   You have to add the USB hard drive, but there are no costs after that.

For $229, Pogoplug offers a small business product that will support up to four USB hard drives.  The Pogoplug Biz adds features such as network printing, local and internet based, as well as multi-user sharing and security, and the ability to back up data from one Pogoplug to another.

Ctera is another solution for personal or small business file storage.  But after starting out selling directly to retail users, Ctera has moved to selling only through service providers and resellers.

Similar to Pogoplug, Ctera has a personal product (CloudPlug) that enables connecting a USB drive to their device, which then enables network file access over a LAN or the Internet.  Check out our review of the CloudPlug here.

For business, there is the Ctera C200, reviewed here, which is a dual drive NAS as well as device for sharing files from a USB drive over a LAN or the Internet.  Ctera also has a product that enables service providers to provide cloud storage to subscribers. 

Ctera prices the CloudPlug at approximately $200 and the C200 at $371.  For both products, Ctera offers on line backup services for  your files, providing cloud storage redundancy in case the local device were to fail.

TonidoPlug is a small Linux server that also provides file access over a LAN or Internet.  Like the PogoPlug and Ctera C200, it is a physical device and requires supplying and connecting a USB drive for storage.

As with the other devices, TonidoPlug makes your files available anywhere you can get a network connection.  It also has some neat applications that enable on line access to your contacts and calendar, a private blog/journal tool, and sharing of files, music, and photos.  We covered it in more detail here.

The TonidoPlug device runs $99.  Again, you supply the USB hard drive, but there are no recurring fees.