These days, we hear a lot about the notion of “going off the grid.” For many businesses, though, getting on the grid is the better option. That is, when you’re referring to grid computing.

In the simplest terms, grid computing is the use of multiple computers, all functioning as one, to complete a task. Rather than relying on a single server to host a website, for example, in the grid computing model, different aspects of the site would be managed on different servers. In a sense, the individual computers on the grid come together to form a single “super computer,” with far more power and capability than any one machine could provide.

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The Advantages of Grid Service

Most businesses assume that they only have two options when it comes to web hosting: shared servers or private servers. With shared servers, businesses actually host their sites on the same servers as other businesses. It’s an affordable option, but generally comes with significant risks to security and functionality. For example, if hackers or traffic to one of the hosted sites increases attacks on the server dramatically, you could find that your site is slow or completely inaccessible.

On the other hand, you have a greater level of control over a privately hosted site. You can configure the security parameters to meet your needs, and troubleshoot more effectively, but that kind of control usually comes with a steep cost.

Grid service is a third, and often overlooked, option. Again, this type of service combines the resources of many machines — sometimes up to one hundred or more — to complete a task. In a sense, it combines the best aspects of both shared and private hosting, as you can allocate functions and resources between machines in order to ensure maximum functionality and security.

However, grid service isn’t just for those businesses that need web hosting. A busy enterprise that relies on a virtual data center can benefit from using a grid service like AppLogic in a number of ways. For example:

  • A grid prevents helps prevent downtime in the event that a server fails or go offline. In most cases, the load from the distressed server can be quickly transferred to another machine without human intervention — or anyone noticing any significant slowdowns.
  • A grid allows workers to use multiple applications at the same time without taxing server resources.
  • A grid allows for fluctuations in the amount of inbound and outbound traffic, without overloading the server or paying for unnecessary capabilities.
  • A grid allows for the addition or subtraction of servers as needed, without disrupting service.

In short, grid computing is a flexible option for those companies that cannot bear the expense of a complex infrastructure, but still need the same capabilities and functionality as a larger enterprise.

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Drawbacks to Grid Computing

Of course, nothing is perfect, and grid computing is no exception. There are some drawbacks to this model of network and data management, but most can be managed with good communication and a well-developed plan for managing the grid’s resources.

For example, some enterprises have found the process of managing application licenses to be challenging in the grid environment. Many app licenses are only valid for a certain number of machines, or in certain environments, and using them in a grid configuration constitutes a violation of the licensing agreement. However, many developers now recognize that businesses are using grid computing, and are creating license agreements that meet those unique needs.

Another common issue in grid computing is the need to recode certain apps to work properly in this environment. However, with the right management software, you can often configure apps to run across multiple servers without making any changes to the code.

Additional objections to grid computing are usually concerns about bandwidth speed, memory usage and the syncing of multiple machines, but again, with the proper infrastructure and management in place, those issues can be overcome quite easily.

Businesses of all sizes can benefit from shifting to a grid computing model. Not only does the grid allow for a more effective use of resources, it is often more cost effective than managing a single dedicated server. It’s almost impossible to outgrow a grid model, and you’ll avoid costly downtime and other risks. In fact, for most businesses, grid computing provides the ideal mix of functionality, affordability and scalability — a winning combination that other configurations cannot beat.