The cloud is getting a lot of attention these days, and site designers and the public are still trying to get a handle around what it is all about, benefits of it and how they can be part of it.
Basically, it’s the ether for the Internet – a place where files can be stored remotely and easily accessed by anyone. Entire sites can be created and “live” in the cloud and everyone can be able to reach them.
We’re early in potential uses of the cloud, but experts see a day when no one has physical hard drives, and uses the cloud for everything like storing web pages and photos to finding music files. One company that looks like it can help move us forward to this type of future is Drupal, an open-source content management system. People familiar with Drupal knows that it already offers a variety of great tricks to design, execute and maintain a site or sites by making and offering hundreds of modules.
Experts tell us that one of the current flaws of early cloud applications is possible slowness or even fragmentation if there is a sudden uptick in activity on a particular site. This could come from an unexpected, unanticipated boost in visits for some reason that exceed the boundaries of the site.
Drupal has a set of tools and features available to help site designers handle sudden spikes in traffic and allows servers to accommodate possible degradation to meet the increased demand. These tools can include caching and other web services and are available through places like Amazon and Rackspace to help manage pages and applications and be ready for quickly increasing or decreasing traffic.
This type of behavior is called elasticity, basically allowing your load to be ramped up or ramped down as needed.
Another boon of Drupal’s relationship to the cloud is that users have designed modules already and made them available, so web designers wanting to work with Drupal don’t have to begin from scratch. These pre-built tools are available through a variety of sites. Utilizing these pre-built construction tools such as Quant, a Drupal module that helps you track site users, and Google Analytics, a module that interacts with the Google product with the same name, both significantly increase the development time of a particular project and helps shrink the “how long before this site is ready to go live?” question. Both are very good things in the development world.
Another question many users and developers have about jumping full-scale into cloud computing is how secure everything is. Users may not want their data sent outward and stored in space that potentially anyone can access, and likewise, designers don’t want to go through an extra complicated process to access specific data. Site designers also may not want to add extra layers of security.
With Drupal’s options, some built-in defenses are available for developers wanting to prevent SQL injections, cross-site scripting, session hijacking and other common sneaky offensive tactics growing in popularity. These security features can be easily attached to the framework of your site. Again, not having to start from scratch and develop these as you develop your pages saves everyone a huge amount of programming time and much peace of mind.
Drupal is also very easy to integrate with other open-source components like Apache SOLR and memached. This offers even more valuable connectivity tools and helps organize the available information. Working with SOLR also helps create a search function, a feature that is almost a requirement on just about every site these days.