Consumers often use cloud computing for common activities on the internet like accessing internet-based email, visiting websites like Facebook, and using file sharing sites like Dropbox. Cloud services as part of a plan for managed IT services are also becoming a popular option for businesses.
But, what is the cloud and how does it differ from something like a dedicated server? Should a business reach a certain size before utilizing the cloud? Is the cloud a secure option for businesses that deal with sensitive material?
The Cloud is Like the Internet
The internet is a huge network of servers that stretches like a web across the planet, which is why it’s referred to as the “world wide web.” You can imagine a cloud environment in the same way. When you turn on your computer and access the cloud, your computer communicates with a network of servers.
Depending on your reason for accessing the cloud, you might connect with a different set of equipment. For example, some servers are designed to hold large amounts of data. Other servers are meant to run applications and need significant computing power.
Interestingly, the concept of the cloud dates back almost 60 years ago when computers were the size of rooms, and they were incredibly expensive. Most businesses couldn’t afford a single computer, and the businesses that could buy one would almost never purchase another for other employees.
To increase the number of employees who could benefit from using a computer, companies allowed employees to share time on the computer. That basic concept influenced the cloud today with a network of computers accessible by a number of users. The first true cloud environments were developed in the 1990s, and their potency grew alongside the growth of the internet.
How is the Cloud Changing Business?
One of the most recent developments in the world of cloud computing is the switch by some major companies to subscription-based applications rather than sales of programs for use on computers in the home or business.
For example, Microsoft launched a service for its popular “MS Office” products that would allow users to access files from the cloud rather than storing them on their own computers. By using Microsoft’s cloud, users would be able to access their files from anywhere on any device and use Microsoft’s programs on their computers.
In addition, software company Adobe recently made a change to its Creative Suite where users were required to purchase a subscription to use programs like Photoshop and InDesign. The company decided that it would use cloud technology to offer its services.
The cloud employed by Microsoft to store people’s files is a different type of cloud environment from the one employed by Adobe where users can employ the cloud to access and operate programs instead of just accessing the cloud to download or upload files.
Technology experts believe that future internet denizens and business owners will rely completely on cloud computing for virtually every facet of computer activities from the storage of data to accessing programs run via the cloud.
Why Switch to the Cloud as a Business?
As a buzzword in today’s information technology environment, advertisements and articles about cloud technology pepper the airwaves, but those brief advertisements don’t always explain how the cloud works or the reasons why it may benefit a business to begin using an IT service that features cloud technology.
One of the primary motivations of modern companies to switch to cloud computing is the cost reduction associated with future expansion. Business equipment for telecommunications, networking, and information technology eventually reaches a point of obsolescence, which means replacements are necessary for future use and expansion.
When a business chooses to work with a cloud company, the onus of upgrading and maintaining equipment is the responsibility of the cloud service provider and is rolled into the cost of services. In addition to saving money on upgraded equipment, the company won’t need to expend resources researching equipment to buy or employing the technicians to handle the upgrades.
Is Cloud Computing for Small Businesses?
Technology decisions made by small businesses require research and confidence that a particular choice is going to offer increased functionality at a price that fits into a limited budget. Cloud computing is already a very popular feature at the enterprise level where hundreds or even thousands of people are accessing the cloud.
Businesses of any size can benefit from cloud computing. Consider that most individuals who use smartphones, as well as the majority of internet users, already access cloud-based programs and systems every day. Accessing web-based email systems like Gmail and Yahoo’s email system requires accessing the cloud.
As far as small businesses are concerned, using the cloud can help reduce costs early in a company’s existence since cloud services from Vergent can be combined with other technology needs like business phone systems and general IT services. Utilizing such services can reduce the initial investment in the technology required for a small business. The business can then allocate those resources to product development or expansion.
Interestingly, this same concept applies to large businesses that must assign a large portion of the budget to IT support, technology upgrades, and personnel dedicated to the company’s communications and data needs. A cloud environment offers financial benefits for small businesses, as well as multinational businesses where employees may access company data from several offices across the country or world.
Is the Cloud Secure?
One of the first questions most people have is whether the cloud is secure. There has been a long-held belief that traditional IT environments are the most secure option, but that’s only the case when data is completely cut off from the internet. How often do businesses operate today without connecting to the internet?
Whether your data is stored in the cloud, on a dedicated server, or on local hard drives, the internet is a common factor for each of these methods of data and software storage. Cyber attacks are something that every business and individual must consider, but on-site environments are equal to cloud environments as far as their attractiveness to hackers.
The cloud is a technology that should be on everyone’s radar from the smallest companies operating out of someone’s home office to the largest companies where thousands of people are accessing the organization’s data.