What is the cloud and does my business need it?
Yes, but what is cloud computing?
Ask that question to five people and you’ll be guaranteed to get five different answers! However, in essence, cloud computing is just an expansion of IT and computing capabilities made possible by harnessing the powers of shared computers and resources that are available across the Internet.
OK, but I still don’t get what that means…What that techie explanation means is that by joining the forces of lots of computers in lots of places together, services can be delivered to you faster than ever before and, because the heavy workload usually processed by a single computer in a single location is processed at the same time by LOTS of computers located all over the globe.
That means you get access to the “stuff” on those computers faster – and from virtually anywhere.
These shared resources aren’t located in one spot, but ‘somewhere’ out there – in the cloud – rather than in your home or office, hence the term, cloud computing.
One of the most popular examples of a cloud-based service is Dropbox which lets people share and send files to anyone over the Internet instantly.
If you’re a wedding dress designer who has a new collection out, rather than emailing a huge zip file containing all your dresses to 20 suppliers individually, you can simply upload a single large file to to your Dropbox folder, which is basically a bit of hard drive space ‘in the cloud’. Then, all you do is share the link to that folder with the 20 suppliers, all of whom can simply download a copy of the single file.
The 20 suppliers can download it whenever they want, from wherever they want, to whichever device they wish to view it on – and you just have to upload it to a single spot – ONCE!
In today’s fast-paced world we all want rapid access to computing power, data and information combined with ability to easily access that data from different locations. We also want to be able to do this with as little cost and expense as possible.
Cloud computing makes this a reality. So the term cloud computing relates to on-demand delivery of computing resources via the Internet.
Some cloud services are free and others work on a pay-as-you-use model. If you’re using services such as Google Docs or Microsoft’s SkyDrive, you’re already using cloud-based services.
Flexibility is perhaps the key benefit of cloud computing. If you are a business using a paid model, you pay for the service that you need when you need it. You don’t have to fork out thousands of dollars for software and services that may sit idle. Cloud computing enables you to pay for what you need and scale up when you need more. If the project fails simply end your pay-as-you-go agreement.
Accessibility is another huge benefit. By definition cloud-based apps are instantly accessible from just about anywhere. You can also access your services using different devices – and access the same information in real-time. So, for example, if you have a cloud-based Amazon Kindle account, which lets you buy digital books, and you read to the latest Game of Thrones novel on your iPhone Kindle app, then log into your iPad or Kindle device, you will find your book automatically opens on the same page you were reading on your iPhone, because it’s all synched instantly ‘over the cloud’.
Cost savings is another big saving. After all, less capital outlay and less administration on hardware and software can save a business a great deal of money.
While we do love The Cloud, there are things to be wary of. It’s not all sunshine and roses. After all, by using cloud services, your data and applications reside in the hands of a third party and such a scenario carries plenty of risks, among them:
• Security: Though these services are secure, you don’t know where they are actually stored or who has access to them, do you?
Also, if you’re logged into, say, a cloud account on all your devices, what happens if one of those devices is hacked or lost or stolen? Suddenly, a third-party may have access to your private files, data, photos etc? Obviously this risk varies depending on the service you choose, but it is definitely something to consider.
• Less control over the data: Again, you may have access from anywhere, but you don’t control where they are located, who has access to them or the environment they reside in.