Few 21st century concepts have even been more confusing than that of “the cloud”, that mysterious technology thingy that is supposedly helping us to protect our data, run our organizations more efficiently, and better serve our customers. Mention the cloud to most ordinary folks and they just shake their heads. They know they need cloud services and that the cloud on their phone, tablet, or computer works to their advantage, but a large percentage of users have no idea how to explain “the cloud” if asked to do so.
What’s NOT the cloud?
When trying to understand the term, it’s often better to start with an explanation of what’s NOT part of that which is referred to as “the cloud”.
Quite simply, things like software that is run from a local hard-drive and is stored there are not in the cloud. That’s because one of the requirements of cloud computing is that the software be run over the internet and that the software’s infrastructure be delivered through the internet.
Another requirement for something to be considered a cloud service is that data must be uploaded to it. That can get confusing. For example, Facebook and Twitter are considered a cloud service because you constantly upload photos, comments, etc. to those sites; however, the very popular Amazon is not a cloud service because you DO NOT upload data to that e-commerce site.
What IS the cloud?
So, now it’s time to understand what “the cloud” really is and why cloud services are advantageous for a number of reasons. We like this often-used definition:
Cloud computing is a model for sharing resources and enabling on-demand access to things like data storage, software, and processing.
Some companies use what is known as a “private” cloud. That means the infrastructure, platform, and software exist and are designed for only one company. The end user runs their own data center and does their own maintenance. This is often the preferred cloud for businesses or agencies with highly-sensitive data as it is viewed as more secure than public clouds. However, not much of a cost savings is realized when this is the route taken.
Public clouds, on the other hand, are available to anyone who wants to use or purchase them. Many are free or are sold on-demand, which means that the user pays for only the storage they consume. This is where the huge savings is often realized because it means that companies don’t have to purchase anything, nor do they need to have one or more people on staff to maintain or manage any hardware that is on their premises. Instead, the cloud service provider does that.
In addition, all the employees of a company can use the same application no matter where they are located, just as long as they can access the internet. And despite concerns about security versus that of the private cloud, most suppliers of cloud services can prove that their platform is just as secure, as long as proper protocol is followed.
Why use cloud services?
Aside from cost savings and mobility, there are plenty of other reasons to use cloud services. These include:
- Security – Yup, we can’t stress this enough. Truth is that the cloud monitors security way better than an in-house system, largely because IT employees charged with monitoring security are spending their time on a variety of concerns, not only whether or not data is susceptible to hackers or internal perpetrators.
- Insight – With many cloud-based storage services, users can easily employ analytics that let them access a quick overall picture of their business. It’s also easy to build customized reports and, from those reports, draft plans of action that will allow employees to better meet organizational goals.
- Easy collaboration – In companies both large and small, it sometimes seems that the old adage applies and “one hand doesn’t know what the other is doing.” That means your team isn’t working as a team. But that’s all made easier with cloud services, where members can view and share information easily and securely.
- QC – Because everyone is accessing the same information, all stored in one place and in a single format, quality control is at its best with cloud services. Data is consistent, there’s less room for human error, and it’s easy to view updates or changes.
- Disaster recovery – It’s impossible to predict disasters and when something might happen that results in the loss of data, but with cloud-based disaster recovery, downtime is often reduced to a minimum and problems can sometimes be solved in just a handful of hours or certainly within the business day. That means minimal dollars lost as well.
Interested in learning more about cloud services and your options for using these services. Contact us for a free consultation and let us help you build business solutions that are right for your company.