When computer experts — and increasingly, ordinary computer users — talk about the “cloud,” they’re not talking about the scientifically-described “visible mass of minute liquid droplets, frozen crystals, or particles suspended in the atmosphere.” Move over, fluffy liquid droplets in the sky. It’s a new, digital world. The new cloud on the horizon is cloud computing.
If you’re still cloudy on the meaning of the cloud, it’s simply the delivery of computing services over the internet. It takes the hardware and software that both wowed us and perplexed us over the years, and puts it at our online convenience.
There is a multitude of advantages to cloud computing. Here are just a few.
Freedom from equipment!
Cloud computing doesn’t mean that physical servers and other hardware and software aren’t being used and shared by you, your associates, clients and employees. But these things are now out of our reach, physically speaking, being handled by the data centre a cloud service provider (CSP). That’s a bit scary for some, which is why cloud computing hasn’t caught on more quickly. But your on-site physical equipment can be frightening, too. It breaks, catches fire, or “crashes,” as computers are prone to do. And it needs to be maintained and protected.
Still feeling attached to all your computing equipment? Think about this. Scant years ago, we were checking our “answering machine” for messages. Today, we access our voice mail and a host of digital services “in the cloud” without a thought to the technical equipment used to get them to us: the servers, the databases, the networking, and all that mysterious digital delivery and storage stuff. Just as digital voicemail, stored by your phone service provider, delivers voice messages, cloud computing offers a comprehensive array of digital services.
Among other things, computing in the cloud removes the encumbrances of an array of on-site equipment so you can focus on only the services you need. One of those “other things,” is a critical aspect of cloud computing: safe and convenient data sharing. This leads to the next item on our advantage list.
Remember when USB drives were all the rage for file-sharing? Now that employees, clients and colleagues can share data and collaborate on projects in real-time in the cloud, the use of USB drives — which we once viewed as convenient — seems pretty archaic. The “convenience” of passing around a thumb has been far surpassed by the share-anywhere, share-now convenience of the cloud.
But more even more important than convenience is the security provided by the cloud’s high level of encryption and multi-factor authentication. Sound like a fancy tech-talking sales pitch? Okay, describe and demystify those words “encryption” and “authentication.” They’re “hundred-dollar words” that are actually multi-billion dollar words– and they’re at the heart of cloud computing security.
Without getting overly technical, encryption involves the process of transforming data so that it’s unreadable by anyone who doesn’t have a decryption key.
Authentication is used by a server when it needs to know who precisely is accessing their information or site, and by a client when the client needs to know that the server is who it claims to be. In authentication, the user or computer is required to prove its identity to the server or client. In short, it asks the questions “who are you?” and “are you really who you say you are?” and verifies the answers, usually by way of a username and password.
CSP data centres are staffed with highly skilled IT professionals who take security threats seriously and who make it their job to develop and utilize the latest encryption and authentication and other security measures expose all potential risks.
Razor wire. (Even more security.)
While cloud-computing is convenient and secure, it’s not magic. The “mission control” centre of each CSP has real computers, services and IT equipment to maintain and keep secure. While nothing is completely “bulletproof” in the world of computing, CSP data centres have some daunting physical obstacles for would-be intruders to contend with.
High fences, razor wire, concrete barriers, guard patrols (perhaps accompanied menacing guard dogs), and security cameras provide some severe obstacles to unauthorized visitors. By contrast, what’s the traditional way to protect IT equipment and sensitive data in a typical office? A locked door. That’s a long way from the fortress-like compounds of CSPs.
And what could be more crucial than a heavily-secured CSP data centre? Try the sharp-as-razor-wire IT professionals who work there. If that’s not enough, CSPs undergo yearly audits to protect against flaws in their security systems.
When you think about it — and we hope you do, seriously — cloud computing is one tough “little” cloud. Okay, it’s big, actually. Very big, and vitally important for businesses and organizations of all sizes. Call Tethered Computer Services now at (604)-595-1605, and we’ll help you customize the cloud to serve your business or organization securely, effectively and reliably. You can also email us at firstname.lastname@example.org for a free consultation on building a customized, flexible, secure, efficient cloud platform that will grow with your organization.