The Data Centre Arms Race

This trilogy of articles looks at the development of bigger and better data centres across the world. It considers what is driving this construction boom, some of the challenges it faces and examples of how it is being implemented.

For a number of years the buzz word in the IT industry has been “cloud”. The word represents a shift in way all of us access and carry out our computing needs with an increased reliance on the internet. The term has even crossed into mainstream parlance thanks to services such as Apple’s iCloud.

The idea behind cloud computing is that users can access computing resources, such as applications or storage space, on remote computers, via the internet rather than on local individual machines. The advantages are plentiful as consumers can access just the services they need as and when they need them (akin to traditional utilities) and from a multitude of devices and locations.

Many of us use explicitly labelled cloud services but the majority of those used, particularly in the private market, don’t necessarily prompt the same recognition. For example, the massively popular social media tools, Twitter and Facebook, allow us to share communications and media by storing it on remote servers where it can be accessed by anyone with whom we wish to share it via the internet, i.e., through the cloud.

In a sense, cloud computing is a natural evolution of the concept of the world wide web, which was intended to provide a network of shared documents, however with the wide availability of higher bandwidth internet connections and the adoption of Web 2.0, including the idea of user generated content, the old simple documents have evolved into complex web based applications and rich media.

The flexibility, scalability and cost effectiveness of cloud computing offers considerable benefits for both private and enterprise consumers compared to ‘traditional’ one-off installations on individual devices and therefore adoption rates continue to rise. The concepts can appear fairly ephemeral to the consumer, as they access all of their computing resource via the internet but, ultimately, all of that digital information does need to be stored somewhere. As the services get more and more popular, so social network providers, cloud storage providers, cloud application providers and IaaS (Infrastructure as a Service) providers need to find more and more physical capacity and recent years have therefore seen what has been described by some as a data centre arms race to build more and bigger data centre facilities.

The struggle therefore for data centre providers is to build bigger, to reach the capacity they need, but at the same time, minimise the power that they consume and the impact that they have on the surrounding environment. Power consumption is measured by a PUE (Power Usage Effectiveness) score which indicates the energy consumed by supporting infrastructure (mainly heat management) versus that required to power the core servers. The industry benchmark is a PUE score of 2.0 which represents one unit of power consumed on infrastructure for every one on servers, whilst the ultimate efficiency would be a PUE of 1. Not only does a more efficient facility prove greener and more sustainable but, for the provider, it minimises cost and increases the scope for raising capacity. Consequently data centre constructors are increasingly looking to new and innovative ways to bring this score below 2 and as close to 1 as possible.

The Data Centre Arms Race

The final part of this trilogy looking into the growth of data centre facilities around the world focuses on the existing power house of data centre construction, North America, in particular the US, and the emerging contenders within Asia.

US

There are currently thought to be five centres that are as large or larger than that in Newport, Wales and four of them are to be found in the US. The smallest of these is the NAP of the Americas data centre, located within the urban sprawl of Miami in Florida. Matching the Newport facility for floor space at 750,000 square feet, it is not only a key installation for both the US military and global DNS infrastructure, but is a vital hub for IT Operations in the south east of the US and Latin America beyond.

The next up the chain is the home of Twitter’s servers amongst others – the QTS Metro Data Centre in Atlanta Georgia – with a square footage of 990,000. The building which originated as a Sears distribution centre and, like many of the other contenders, was repurposed into a data centre, now houses its own substation to support its vast power consumption.

The single largest data centre building in the world is the Lakeside Technology Center. The only centre over one million square feet at 1.1m, it can be found in another re-purposed ex-Sears building, this time in Chicago (a city also home to Microsoft’s largest facility at 700k sq.ft). The size of this facility can be illustrated by the fact that, within the Chicago area, the it consumes more power than any other facility excluding the city’s airport, being fed with 100MW of energy. This consumption is tempered however by the innovative use of a shared 8.5million gallon reservoir of chilled brine. In common with most of those reported here the facility is multi-tenant, offering colocation and business hosting to an array of clients. It is housed within a building, complete with gothic architecture, that Sears once used for its printing presses.

Although not a single building the US’s largest data centre complex can be found in Las Vegas, Nevada with the expansion of the SuperNap 7 facility. The project currently has over 2m square feet of floor space and continues to grow. In total, this behemoth requires an energy capacity of a whopping 500 MVA.

Asia

If you were to believe the headline figures, Hebei Province in China is home to a data centre which would blow all of the world’s other largest facilities out of the water. The centre being built as a cloud computing city by American IT firm IBM in conjunction with Chinese company Range, claims to have a gigantic 6.2 million square feet of floor space; nearly six times the Lakeside facility in the US. However, in actuality a large proportion of this space will be used for other purposes, such as office space, and the true footage of the data centre itself is considered to be in the region of 300,000 to 650,000.

Instead the largest data centre on the continent is considered to be the Tulip Data City facility in Bangalore, India with a floor space of around 900,000 square feet. In common with the Hebei Province centre above it has been built with IBM and also offers 80,000 of office space for customers. Although, due to its scale, it consumers 40 MVA of electricity, it can still classify itself as being a green facility as, at 1.9 PUE, it sneaks under the industry standard of 2.0 PUE.

As mentioned previously the challenge facing the data centre industry is to build big and to build green. Cloud computing and other new technologies are creating the demand for extra data centre capacity but this capacity can only be achieved in a sustainable and cost effective manner by finding smarter ways to manage the environments, primarily the temperatures, in which servers run to reduce their vast power consumption. However, with innovation such as the use of hot and cold aisles, thermal energy stores and the use of environmental resources, including external air and water, companies are opening up the possibilities for larger scale green data centre development.

Automated Telephone Systems Allow Call Centres to Provide Reliable Services

If one thinks about it, one is liable to get a headache. The ability of computers to talk to and understand responses from callers seems a little too futuristic to be believable, but it is a reality today that has made the efficiency of call centres and the services they provide higher than could have been imagined 20 years ago. The fact is that automated telephone systems have advanced far beyond a simple recorded message, so much so that, in some cases, natural conversations can effectively take place.

The technology used is very sophisticated and very intricate, with the precision of voice xml used to provide an efficient interactive experience for callers. Of course, a core component in such services is the speech recognition software that is utilised by centres, with its ability to turn the spoken word into text a factor that allows the computer programming to work so effectively.

Obviously, it is a computer system that manages the response units in a centre and directs the conversations between callers and the computer voice. There can be a bank of thousands of possible dialogues based on the possible responses that a caller might have to a prompt. Therefore, these computers need to have clear and concise programmes with which to run the systems.

VXML the chosen format for these interactive voice dialogues. The voice browser that is part of automated systems is designed to read VXML, initiating the exchange with the caller, understanding responses, providing options and distributing calls towards the correct destination.

This format is the standard used by all automated systems, with a vast range of services covered by it. Information can be attained, from flight tracking and order inquiries to driving directions and audio news magazines, while the precise nature of the programme instructions means that functions can switch from speech synthesis to dialog management to audio playback and a host of others.

It is a highly technical area, but in essence the VXML format allows for clear programming for a call centre computer to follow, enhancing the services provided and ensuring the minimum possible confusion between technology and human when interaction actually begins. The quality of the computerised voice is remarkable too, with the stereotypical monotone robot voice now a dated feature. Modern systems create a more natural tone in order to achieve a more personable service for callers.

Technology that can recognise the spoken word first came to public attention in the mid 1960s, but it has only been in the last couple of decades, with the advancement of interactive technologies, that has seen it applied in any truly practical way. The fact that call centres must deal with the spoken word all day means that this technology is perfectly suited to the sector. But while earlier versions could log the voice pattern of one voice, as used in security systems, the technology used in call centres is capable of recognising arbitrary voices.

What this means is that random voices can be understood, not just the voice of a specified person, and with the wide range of voice tones, accents and pronunciations even within the English language, that is a major development. So, regardless of whether a caller is from Edinburgh, London, Dublin, Sydney or New York, the system can understand the responses that the caller may give when prompted by the interactive system. The technology is used in voice dialing, call routing, domotic appliance control and in processing speech to text, amongst several other functions.

However, when used in unison with an automated telephone service, the result is a near seamless, conservation between computer and caller. The words spoken by the caller are translated into text, which is then matched with the specific voicexml formatted response. That response is then played by the computer through a humanised voice, and the subsequent caller response is similarly translated.

Of course, this system is only applicable where a self service ability exists, such as when a simple option needs to be selected or a list of transactions to be detailed. While speech recognition software can be used to initially determine whether a caller needs to speak to a call centre agent or not, it is not necessary when an agent is speaking directly to the caller.

CNC Machining Centres

CNC machining centres (Computer Numerical Control) have been around for a very long time now and they have become the workhorse in many manufacturing environments. Capable of exchanging a wide variety of tools through the use of automatic tool changers, and controlled by precision ball screws driving all of the axes of the machine, these machine tools are capable of performing highly complex work very quickly as compared to manual machine operation.

Machining centres, not to be confused with other types of CNC equipment such as grinders or lathes, are available in horizontal and vertical spindle styles. Typically horizontal style machining centres will be provided with a rotary 4’TH axis table (either positional or in more complex cases with a full rotary axis) whereas vertical machining centres will often have the 4’TH axis feature as an option.

Generally designed to perform milling, drilling, boring, and tapping functions to form raw materials such as steel or aluminum into finished parts, machining centres can be found in a variety of sizes from as small as a drill press up to very large boring machine styles. These machine tools have complex computer consoles that are programmable and once programmed these machines will run from start to finish without any operator intervention.

With the high levels of computing power available on these machining centres today, these machine tools are capable of producing a very wide variety of parts from components pieces to very large dies for stamping or molding. Very complex physical features such as a spiral spline, very complex mold contours and cavities, thread milling, back boring, and a whole host of other operations can be performed with some programming creativity.

Capable of machining with continuous motion along the cutter path, intricate and complex surfaces can be machined that would be close to impossible to make using manual equipment with a manual rotary table, indexer, or sine block. Positional accuracy inherent within the machine tool itself allows highly accurate positioning and blending of complex surfaces that would not be available without huge difficulty and special tools in a manual machining environment. Therefore, these types of machine tools lend themselves to performing proto-typing work as well as production work.

Programmable spindle speeds and the ability to easily vary the spindle speed for the cutting tool is also another important factor that is built into CNC machining centres. Spindle speed adjustment is quickly made through the program so the best speeds and feeds for a given cutting tool are easily maintained within a constant surface speed recommended for the cutting tool in the spindle.

Most CNC machining centres are also equipped with flood, mist, or through the spindle coolant features that allow the cutting tool to receive much needed coolant for maintaining the proper temperature for the cutting tool while in the cut. Tool wear as a result of too much heat can be disastrous to the overall life of the cutting tool and on the resulting surface finish produced on the machined part.

Because of the inherent reliability, consistency, and repeatability, CNC machining centres are often run on the plant floor as a group of machines operated by a single machine operator that loads and unloads parts while checking on the finished quality of the part coming off the machine. Advanced machine tools are available that have automatic part loaders, unloaders, and inspection probes that can further reduce the need for a machine operator to intervene in the machining process thereby creating an unattended machining environment.

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Why Prefer Onsite Computer Repair

Technology has become the world to us these days. It’s what we turn to for everything. And it can be extremely frustrating when the things we’re heavily dependent on, stop working all of a sudden. Whether you’re a student trying to finish an assignment on time or the head of the household trying to order groceries online because you’re busy, when technology fails us we get irritable. So what do you do? Unplug your PC, carry it all the way to the nearest computer repair centre in the midst of your busy schedule? And how do you know that the nearest computer repair centre is reliable and efficient? The answer to these questions is onsite computer repair.

It basically means that instead of you having to travel great lengths to find the best computer repair centre, you can call a technician to come and fix your broken computer and get it fixed within a span of 1-2 hours, where as a computer centre might have kept your computer for longer.

How do you decide whether to take your computer down to the repair centre or call for an onsite repair service?

To decide this you should be aware of the intensity of the problem. For instance, if it’s a mechanical problem like printer problems or wireless setup or any other network issues, then you definitely have to call for a technician to come to your office/home because the set up needs to be done for the particular site. If it’s an issue where a device or a part of the computer has failed and needs replacement, then your techie might have to carry the equipment to his workshop.

Another factor you need to consider is whether or not you can afford those techies who charge by the hour. Paying by the hour can get expensive depending upon the problem and it may probably cost you much lesser to drop it off at a computer centre. Computer centers have better resources to complete your repairs and have a better storefront presence.

But then again, there is a bit of an edge that mobile computer repair services gain over computer centers. When you leave your PC, unattended, at a local computer repair store, there is always a risk of your personal data being leaked or misused. By having a technician come over to your workplace or home, you can ensure that none of your personal files face any risk of being leaked from your computer.

Ultimately it boils down to two things: The kind of problem you’re facing with your computer and the kind of time you have. Even for choosing the right computer repair centre, it boils down to one thing: trust.

When Choosing the Right Media Centre Computer

Like desktop computers, there are a wide range of choices when it comes to buying a media centre computer. In essence they a built the same way and share the same components as desktop computers, but they fulfil a different role. The ideal media centre must have tons of hard drive space to store all your favourite content, must have a Blu ray drive and decent visual output and mustn’t look out-of-place under your TV. Here are a few things to look out for when looking to buy or to build

1. The case

When choosing your case, you need to ask your self just one question, would this look out-of-place in my lounge. The media centre traditionally sits under the tv with the DVD player, sky box and games console, so having a big beige box as a computer may spoil the image. There are plenty of different options on the market at the moment, with designs ranging from small black boxes to sleek brushed aluminium units.

2. Large hard drive

One of the great things about having a computer is the fact that you can have massive amounts of storage. What’s better than begin able to record all of your favourite TV program’s, movies and music without worrying about running out of space. The perfect media centre needs to come with about 1 terra byte of hard disk space, which equates to about 500 hours of recorded TV or 200 high-definition movies.

3. Decent visual output

One thing to look out for when choosing a media centre computer is a decent audio and visual outputs. Most motherboards now come with HDMI output to use with your HD tv or monitor, letting you view all of your media in full HD quality. A motherboard with HDMI output paired up with a decent blu ray drive can let you experience breath-taking visuals from the comfort of your home.

4. Software

Most new of the new Windows operating systems come with Windows media centre (WMC) which is ideal software for a media centre computer. WMC can let you watch, play and record all of your favourite content all in one place. With a simple and easy to use navigation, WMC can be used with a basic remote controller connected your pc. I would recommend using Windows 7 Home Premium for all new build media centres.

5.Blu ray drive

One of the most important components is the Blu ray drive. Now a must have in new media centres, it allows you to play back high-definition blu ray movies from your pc. It’s also surprising cheap compared to a stand-alone Blu ray player, costing roughly £100.

6. TV card

To enable your computer to record and watch live TV you will require a TV card. TV cards slot straight into the motherboard of the computer and allows you to watch terrestrial, Free view channels and even satellite on certain models. They cost relatively little and be bought for about £30

To conclude there are many aspects that make up a good media centre computer. Focusing on the 5 main points above can ensure you that you get a decent all-round computer, guaranteed not to disappoint.

The Thriving Enterprise

A call centre is a centralised workcentre, of a business enterprise engaged in telemarketing services, that answers incoming telephone calls from customers or that makes outgoing telephone calls to customers. Call centres are generally set up with [powerful computer systems that most typically include a computer, a telephone set (or headset) hooked into a large telecom switch and one or more supervisor stations. It has been proved beyond doubt that a single large call centre is more effective at answering calls than several smaller centres. The issues in a call centre are generally statistical in nature and is centred around the probability that an arriving call will be answered by an available and appropriately trained person. The real challenge here is the task of forecasting the call arrival rates and then scheduling the number of staff required on duty at particular times of the day. The centralised office concept attempts to rationalise the company’s operations and reduce costs, while at the same time a unified, glossy front office is presented to the outside world. The call centre option works beautifully for large companies with a large, distributed customer base.

Apart from providing vital infrastructures, the main challenge of the Call Centres , is handling the large numbers of workers. Generally the staff work in shifts to suit the time-zone of the countries like UK,USA etc. The entire team can be managed and controlled by a relatively small number of managers and support staff. They are often supported by computer technology that manages, measures and monitors the performance and activities of the workers.Establishment costs are the most significant expense of a call centre operation and even minor deviations from the budgeted path can have significant cost overruns. Here the level of computer and software support are critical in that any time-lag in the monitoring could result in major losses to the company by way of low staff productivity and mishandling of calls.

Call centres are today benefited by new revolutionary technology tools like automatic call distribution (ACD), interactive voice response (IVR), computer telephony integration (CTI) etc which allow the actions of the computer to be synchronised with what is happening on the phone. In addition, early customer relationship management (CRM) technologies have been heavily deployed in call centres. The latest internet technologies allow virtual call centres to be established across a company’s telecommunications network without physically putting all the people in one office. Similarly telecommunication technologies like Call switching, call monitoring, recording and evaluation of staff response time to customer calls etc are available off-the-shelf for call centre operations.

Typically at a Call Center, the calls are often divided into outbound and inbound. Inbound calls are calls that are initiated by the customer to obtain information, report a malfunction or ask for help. This is substantially different from outbound calls where the agent initiates the call to a customer mostly with the aim to sell a product or a service to that customer. Owing to the highly technological nature of the operations in such offices, the close monitoring of staff activities is easy and widespread.

It is heartening to note that a recent survey by an UK consultancy firm has found that call centres in India are much professionally managed than their counterparts elsewhere in the world. This is possible due to the fact that the typical employee in an Indian call centre is a graduate. Call Centre training centres have mushroomed and professional training is today available for the career option of a call centre executive. The staff of the call center is often organized in tiers, with the first tier being largely unskilled workers who are trained to resolve issues using a simple script. If the first tier is unable to resolve an issue the issue is escalated to a more highly skilled second tier. In some cases, there may be third or higher tiers of support. It is often argued that the kind of close monitoring of Call Centre staff and the measurement of performance can lead to deficient customer service, apart from infringing on the privacy of the call centre staff.

Benefits of Data Centre Co-Location

Introduction

Data centres fall strictly in the business to business arena so the term data centre is therefore alien to the majority of the general public. Data centres are effectively large computer rooms or facilities dedicated to the accommodation of computer and networking hardware and associated telecommunications equipment. Data centres provide guaranteed regulated power supplies, hardware and network security and internet connectivity. They are usually located separately from the main business headquarters and can be owned by the business itself or by a 3rd party specialist service provider. Co-location and co-location hosting are terms used to describe the location of equipment for multiple clients within the same data centre. The huge growth in the demand for co-location services over the last couple of decades has been fuelled by the increasing reliance of businesses on mission critical IT systems.

Here are eight of the most compelling reasons for a business to outsource the housing and management of its computing facilities.

1. Cost savings
In house computer hardware often occupies precious space in prime office locations with rents at £50 per square foot per annum being commonplace in London. Locating computing facilities remotely allows this prime space to be better used. If office space is a constraint, then re-locating computer facilities may even allow the deferment of a whole office relocation. The cost of computing facilities extends far beyond the cost of the rent of course and may include a substantial energy bill for air conditioning, additional staffing to maintain the facilities and so on. Access to 3rd party data centre expertise may also provide the catalyst for server consolidation, enabling a reduction in the overall investment in computing hardware. It may also be possible to negotiate lower insurance premiums for business interruption policies as insurers encourage and treat favourably those businesses that take more responsibility for managing their own risk.

2. Budgeting and planning
Closely related to the benefit of cost reductions, yet a distinct benefit, is the advantage of predictability of costs that automatically ensues from contracting fixed cost 3rd party services over a period lasting typically several years. This removes all the risks of having to meet unforeseen costs and removes the headache of financial planning for the IT department.

3. Resilience
Data centres have redundancy built-in to their hardware and telecommunications infrastructure so, in the event of failure of any component of hardware or service such as power failure, back up systems can provide virtually a 100% up time guarantee. Examples of resources increasing resilience are uninterruptible power supplies, dual power feeds, virtual server hosting and automated back up procedures. Many service providers have contractual arrangements with other data centres, so under extreme circumstances, data centres can be switched which is another example of built-in redundancy.

4. Performance
As with any specialist service, data centres are very narrowly focussed on their service and are likely to have invested far more in their facilities, hardware and expertise (or intellectual capital) than most small and medium-sized businesses could afford and therefore are able to provide a higher capability than businesses could develop themselves. Service arrangements with data centres are invariably also governed by an SLA (service level agreement) which binds the co-location service provider to maintain minimum standards of service on pain of penalties.

5. Scalability and flexibility
As the requirements of a business change, so too can the resources used to satisfy those requirements, without the client having to reinvest every time either to keep up with the latest technology or to satisfy the demands of an expanding business.

6. Support
Data centres have help desks manned, in accordance with the SLA, by experts available at all times which means that you will not find yourself without support every time your IT manager is on leave.

7. Enable management to focus on core competencies
For any business to success in today’s fiercely competitive world, resources must be managed and directed so they are used most effectively in the pursuit of the organisation’s goals. This means that as much of the organisation’s management and human resources should be directed at the core business activities. Outsourcing the management of the IT infrastructure removes one more unnecessary distraction.

8. Business continuity planning
Data centres mean not having all your business eggs in one basket and therefore are an inherently effective component of any risk management strategy and disaster recovery plan. Physical advantages of co-location include higher protection in the form of air-conditioning systems in the server rooms, individually lockable server racks, fire suppression systems, surveillance cameras, anti-intruder systems and back up hardware. Network security should be addressed by the latest firewall technology and back up procedures.

History of the Data Centre

The Beginning of the Computer Era – A Dedicated Room

While the data centre as we know it was perfected during the dot com boom of the late 1990s, data centres actually have their roots in the earliest beginnings of the computer era. Early computer systems, which were huge, room-sized machines, required a lot of space and a controlled environment. The complexity of operating and maintaining these machines also led to the practice of secluding them in dedicated rooms.

Computer security became a consideration during this era. These early computers were incredibly expensive, and many of them were used for military purposes or important civilian business ventures. A dedicated room allowed businesses and organizations to control access to the machine.

Another factor influencing the trend toward separate computer rooms was the need to keep systems cool. Early computer systems used a great deal of power and were prone to overheating. Dedicated rooms could be climate controlled to compensate for the tendency to overheat.

These early computers required a multitude of component-connecting cables, and these cables needed to be organized. This led to the creation of some of the data center standards we know today. Racks were devised to mount equipment, and cable trays were created. Also, floors were elevated to accommodate these early computers.

The Advent of Microcomputers

During the 1980s, the computer industry experienced the boom of the microcomputer era. In the excitement accompanying this boom, computers were installed everywhere, and little thought was given to the specific environmental and operating requirements of the machines.

Organization of information was difficult to achieve, and lost data became a major concern. Information technology teams were developed to maintain and install these early microcomputers, but clearly, the industry needed a solution.

The “Data Center” is Created

Soon the complexity of information technology systems demanded a more controlled environment for IT systems. In the 1990s, client-server networking became an established standard. The servers for these systems began to find a home in the old dedicated computer rooms left from the early computers.

In addition to putting servers in a dedicated room, this time period saw the invention of the hierarchical design. This design came about through the easy accessibility of inexpensive networking equipment and industry standards for network cabling.

The term “data center” first gained popularity during this era. Data centres referenced rooms which were specially designed to house computers and were dedicated to that purpose.

The Internet Data Centre

As the dot com bubble grew, companies began to understand the importance of having an Internet presence. Establishing this presence required that companies have fast and reliable Internet connectivity. They also had to have the capability to operate 24 hours a day in order to deploy new systems.

Soon, these new requirements resulted in the construction of extremely large data facilities. These facilities, called “Internet data centres” were responsible for the operation of computer systems within a company and the deployment of new systems. These large data centres revolutionized technologies and operating practices within the industry.

However, not all companies could afford to operate a huge Internet data centre. The physical space, equipment requirements, and highly-trained staff made these large data centres extremely expensive and sometimes impractical.

Now – Private Data Centres, Improved Standards

Private data centres were born out of this need for an affordable Internet data centre solution. Today’s private data centres allow small businesses to have access to the benefits of the large Internet data centres without the expense of upkeep and the sacrifice of valuable physical space.

These days, operating and constructing data centres is a widely-recognized industry. New standards for documentation and system requirements add a high level of consistency to data centre design. Disaster recovery plans and operational availability metrics ensure the reliability of today’s data centre systems.

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How the Cloud Is Fundamental to Smart Mobile Computing

A large number of the apps that we all use on our mobile phones and tablets incorporate a variation of cloud computing in some sense, because many of them fundamentally rely on the idea that they are providing us with a packaged-up experience of what are essentially web applications. This approach to mobile apps allows the user to access an array of content and functions which they could not physically store on their mobile device. Therefore, cloud computing on mobile devices has fairly specific benefits for mobile users in comparison to users of PCs to the extent that cloud computing is core to the development of computing itself on such ‘smart’ devices, particularly since the launch of 3G networks and the ability to transfer data that that offers. What’s more, with the advent of the higher bandwidths of 4G upon us, the concept of maximising mobile data and processes within the cloud – and minimising the amount stored on individual devices – is only set to carry on expanding.

The list of the categories and types of applications that use and/or rely on cloud computing is extensive to say the least but the following looks at some of the primary examples of how the cloud has revolutionised our mobile lives.

Email

Beyond business use, the vast majority of email users access their email from webmail services – that is, email services where the information (the emails and contacts etc) is stored on the remote servers of the email provider. Most users simply log on to this service; others synchronise a desktop client with it whilst a few may opt to download their data fully to their desktop. However, the data essentially originates, and for the most part is stored, in the cloud. Therefore, such services are primed for use across multiple devices and locations, including mobile use. Mobile operating systems come with built in email clients which allow users to synchronise their email so that they can work with it on their mobile/tablet and any changes they make will be synchronised with the service provider’s servers and, consequently, any other devices that access that email account (and vice versa). In other words, users can for example draft an email on their phone on the way in to work then finish and send it from their desktop once they are in work.

Contacts/Address Books

With the use of email becoming so popular on mobile devices many email services allow users to synchronise their email contacts with their mobile too so that their email and phone and social contacts can be unified in one place with the underlying data being stored in the cloud. If they update the details on one contact record the update will appear on all of their other synced devices when they view that record.

Unified Communications & Social Networking

Mobile computing is at the forefront of both the social networking revolution and a communications revolution called unified communications (UC) – the idea that multiple channels of internet based communication such as email, voice over the internet (VoIP) and video conferencing, are integrated into one service. Both social networking and UC fundamentally rely on the use of the cloud to store data and communications and the internet to transfer them so that they are accessible across devices and locations.

Instant messaging (IM) is an integral facet of both and in many cases can be purely cloud based so that conversations can be continued across different devices and on the move as an alternative to more traditional mediums such as email and text messaging – the latter of which is particularly restricted to individual devices. Apple, for example have even integrated instant messaging into their default text messaging app so that messages are sent as IMs when sent between two iPhones. On the other hand, a prime example of UC within the personal space is Skype, a multi channel communications service which provides access to your account from any device and will sync conversations across each.

Social networking services such as Facebook, Google + and Twitter are an often overlooked but powerful example of cloud computing as all of the information you share on them is stored and accessed via the cloud including communications, recommendations and shared media (photos, videos etc). As such, they have become one of the primary communication platforms for users of mobile devices as they are able to share their experiences with their friends and see what they are up to whilst they are on the move. For many people, mobiles have, thanks to cloud computing become the primary way of accessing their social networks because of the ease and flexibility with which they can be used.