It seems like every day, you hear about something else being moved to the cloud. So much has gone completely digital recently – from smartphone apps to PC software – and whether you know it or not, you’re probably already involved in the cloud on a daily basis.
So what is the cloud? How does it work? Here’s everything you need to know about cloud computing:
What is the Cloud? The cloud is not a thing or a physical place. Rather, it’s a network, kind of like the Internet, of different servers that run applications or deliver a computing service. Unbeknownst to you, the cloud is likely making your life easier every day: providing the social media feeds you check every few hours, or letting you access your emails as they’re delivered to your inbox.
The short version: The cloud is any storage that is not on a device or computer.
What comes from the Cloud? An example of a service delivered through the cloud would be Google Docs. In order to use Google Docs, you don’t have to purchase or install any software to your computer. All you have to do is create a free account through Google, and start creating documents via the Internet. You can then access these documents and files from any Internet-connected device or computer. They’re stored on a Google Docs server, rather than on your computer’s hard drive.
An example of an application stored – or hosted – on the cloud is Facebook. Taking a photo on your phone stores it to your phone’s hard drive. However, if you then share that photo on Facebook by uploading it, it is copied to a remote server, and stored in the cloud. You, and others, have access to it via the social media app.
What are the advantages of using the Cloud? It’s self-service, and you only pay for what you use. Whether you’re a startup of one or a team of 30 people, your business may only need specific things. Using a cloud service allows you just as much as you need, which saves you time, money and the stress of having to deal with extra hardware or software you don’t need. These customizable solutions allow you to build a service based on your specific needs and keep your data safe and secure by using multi-factor authentication.
Additionally, working on the cloud lets you and your company be agile and efficient. Need to grow quickly? The cloud will let you scale up in a way that works for your business. In the same way, you can scale down if you need to. The cloud is flexible, in addition to being easily adopted.
Any Disadvantages? Using applications and services from the cloud is like renting an apartment rather than buying a home. Depending on what you’re using and how much you’re paying, there’s the potential for it to end up being more expensive in the long run. Do your research before you start using any cloud applications for your business.
As with all aspects of the Internet, there is always a chance you’ll have some down time. Sometimes there’s nothing you can do about service outages, but to keep applications and services running smoothly on your end, you’ll need to have a high-speed broadband connection. This kind of dependency can be bad news
There’s also the matter of security. A lot of people are concerned with Internet security these days, and the cloud can be a source of suspicion. The cloud is great for storing nonsensitive documents and information, but it’s unlikely you’ll want to keep any top secret or proprietary information in a free cloud service or application. For encrypted information on a small scale, upgrade to paid storage on something like Google Drive. Just be aware that your information is still accessible from anywhere on the Internet, and there are security risks associated with that.
The Bottom Line You’re already using the cloud every day. It’s not a huge jump to move from your hardware and software systems into using the cloud on a larger scale, but take it slow. Because of the cloud’s flexibility, it can wait until you’re ready for it. You don’t have to jump in with both feet, but if you do, make sure you know all you can about what you’re going to be using.