Understanding Cloud Computing
Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve been hearing a lot about cloud computing. In fact, you might already be using some services or applications that utilize cloud technology without even knowing it. Let’s take a look at what the cloud is and why you should be migrating.
What Is Cloud Computing?
Cloud technology and services can come across complicated to the uninitiated. A home and small business owner can think of the cloud as an online facility to access data and even use some applications. The cloud is actually a fancy name for a large set of servers that take over tasks normally reserved for your local computer. Unlike a local network, the cloud can be accessed from anywhere, using almost any device, as long as you have an internet connection. These server farms can scale to whatever size is needed and offer excellent redundancy, meaning you won’t be offline if your computer develops a fault.
How Can My Business Benefit From The Cloud?
Okay, so now you know what it is, but why do you need it? Even if your small business can be run from a single computer, you can benefit from the cloud. The first major benefit is the ability to access and work on your data from anywhere, using a variety of devices. Just because you’re stuck on the train doesn’t mean you can’t log in and attach a file to an email or update a piece of vital customer information. Simple cloud-based programs such as Dropbox and Google Drive offer you the ability to access your data on the go. More and more businesses rely on some form of remote access and this is one of the areas that the cloud really shines.
But the cloud isn’t just about data access; a lot of companies that provide software aimed at small business now offer those same applications on a subscription basis through the cloud. Accounting, payroll, and even traditional office applications can be used without having to purchase them outright, which leads into one of the biggest benefits for any home or small business: cost. Utilizing cloud-based technologies offers a scalable solution without having to spend large amounts of money on hardware and software upfront. Because the grunt of your computing is done within the cloud, you now have the freedom to purchase almost any kind of computer you want, without worrying that you will need to upgrade at the next big software update.
As internet connectivity becomes faster and more stable, the advantages of utilizing the cloud for some, or all aspects of your business can be a cost-effective method to limit spending on your own hardware and software.
Security And Cloud Storage
Security is one of the big concerns for most people when they think about storing their data in the cloud, but you can put your mind to rest. Cloud-based services are run from high-security data centers that contain inbuilt backup and redundancy measures. The servers themselves can only be accessed by the appropriate people after passing on-site security approval.
In contrast, data kept on a local computer in the office can be accessed by anyone in the room, and it’s a lot easier for a thief to steal a home computer than it is to cart away a server rack.
Most, if not all, cloud-based providers offer strong, 128-bit encryption alongside strong password policies to ensure your data is not only safe but also only accessed by you. This is not only good for you but reassuring for any customers who are sensitive to any data of theirs.
You only really know how good your disaster recovery plan is when you really need it. Using the cloud can take the headache out of recovery and restoring data. Dropped laptop? No problem, your new one will have access to everything the old one did using cloud storage and backups.
What Are The Drawbacks?
While there are a number of possible drawbacks to using the cloud, the greatest comes in the form of your internet connection. If all your data is online, but you don’t have steady, quality access to the internet, you’re in trouble. If you need to work from remote locations or have spotty wireless internet, you’ll have to consider the impact carefully before taking the plunge into the cloud. Cloud providers themselves can also suffer from downtime. While it is rare, it is possible you might be without access to your data and applications for a period of time, so make sure you understand what kind of SLA the provider offers.
Like any decision you make, moving to a new technology requires forethought and planning if it’s going to be successful.
Not everyone in home and small businesses has the time to be an IT expert. Using the cloud to store your data or provide access to your payroll and accounting anywhere, anytime, can take a lot of the stress out of an important part of your business, leaving you time to be more productive. While you might not need to go fully cloud, the services on offer are worth looking into for any home or small business.