Mysteries of the Cloud: Reviewing The Great Tree Analogy

When it comes to the business software world, the Cloud seems to be a great mystery to many people. It’s one of the reasons we presented “Mysteries of the Cloud: Solved” during Cultivate’17.

Even some people in the industry confuse the basics of the Cloud. That’s not to say they don’t understand the Cloud — it’s just difficult for some people to explain something so complicated into something the lay person will understand.

However, we found an analogy that seemed to resonate with the audience at Cultivate’17. Even though the target audience were greenhouse growers, the analogy is generic enough for most people to understand.


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With that said, we now present to you Mysteries of the Cloud: The Great Tree Analogy:

The on-prem system: Owning your own tree

In this part of the analogy, we equate planting your own tree to purchasing an on-premises software system.

Mysteries of the Cloud tree window

Owning your own tree and taking care of it can be compared to having on-prem software instead of it hosted on the Cloud.

Imagine your favorite room sits in the southwest corner of your house. It has a huge window with perfect view of your yard. However, keeping the curtains open makes your room incredibly hot or overtaxes your air conditioner. You have the perfect solution: Plant a tree.

You take your green thumb down to the local Home Depot to pick just the right shade tree for the size of your lawn and the temperate zone for where you live. After driving your tree home, you carefully map out just the right location and start digging.

After you’ve carved out a hole three times as wide as the root ball, you place the tree so the best part faces your window. You return the soil to the rest of the hole, mounding it just right, and top it with the mulch you picked up at the store too. Then after a good watering, you run inside and look at how well your tree looks in your window.

While the heavy-duty work is finished after you plant the tree, there’s still work to be done to make sure it grows into the functionality you want as a thing of beauty and to help keep energy costs down. As time goes on, you continue to water and fertilize the tree so it continues to grow healthy. You trim branches that are too low or get damaged.

Even though it took time and effort, your tree becomes a beautiful permanent fixture of your property.  You enjoy sitting in your favorite room even more now there’s a lush canopy to look at and less heat coming through the windows.

The Cloud: Renting a digital tree

In this part of the analogy, we equate renting a digital tree to purchasing a Cloud-based software system.

Mysteries of the Cloud Rental Tree

In this analogy, the Cloud is where you can access a tree online that someone else takes care of.

Imagine your favorite room sits in the southwest corner of your house. It has a huge window with perfect view of your yard. However, keeping the curtains open makes your room incredibly hot or overtaxes your air conditioner. You have the perfect solution: Close the curtains and bring the outdoors inside.

Having no green thumb and a tech-savvy background, you search the internet and find a digital tree service. This (completely-made-up-for-this-analogy) company, Digital Trie*, offers to bring a tree to you with no muss and no fuss, with them doing all the work.

 * For you programmers, see what I did there?

Digital Trie owns and operates a tree farm. They have painstakingly planted and grown individual trees around their thousand acres of property so digital cameras could be set up to record each tree 24 hours a day, seven days a week. They do all the work to maintain their trees, and plant new ones as the need arises.

Subscribers to Digital Trie’s services can enjoy a beautiful tree anywhere on any connected device. There’s little-to-no up-front cost for the subscriber, and they only need to pay a monthly fee to have access to their tree. One tree’s feed can be shared multiple times over, or subscribers can pay an extra fee to be guaranteed access to their own private tree.

With little time and effort, your tree becomes a beautiful fixture any where you go. You enjoy sitting in your favorite room even more now there’s a lush canopy to look at on your smart TV or your tablet, and less heat coming through the windows.

The Cloud: Bringing the analogy to reality

In a nutshell, the difference between having an on-prem solution and a Cloud solution is who owns the software and the tools to use it. In the analogy, the tree is the software and the land where it’s located is the server on which it’s hosted. The time, money, effort, and knowledge put into maintaining the tree equates to the same when maintaining a server and the software.

Neither of these two ways of enjoying a tree is right or wrong. The same is true for having Cloud-based software as opposed to owning your own business system on site. There are pros and cons to both. It just depends on the needs of your organization.

But those pros and cons are for another day. I hope this analogy helps you see through one of the Mysteries of the Cloud.

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