So most of us have heard about “the cloud.” It’s all over the Internet, TV commercials, and those IT guys at the office can’t stop talking about it. But what is the cloud and how can your business benefit?
Taken to the most basic level, “the cloud” is simply another word for the Internet. When people in IT create a network diagram, they use a picture of a cloud to represent the Internet. Over the last few years the term “cloud” has evolved into the buzz word as we know it today.
But what is all of this talk about cloud computing? When people use the term “cloud,” they are most often referring to cloud computing. This term refers to using an application over the Internet, via a web browser. An example would be using Google documents. I don’t have to physically install Office on my hard drive. Instead I use my web browser to log in to my account at the Google Apps website.
So what’s the big deal about accessing different applications through your web browser? The big deal is that you can access your information from any Internet connected computer! And more often than not, you can also access the same information via your smartphone and/or tablet device. But wait, there’s more. You don’t have to worry about backing up your data as it resides in a large data center(s) and is backed up by your provider (assuming they are a large establishment such as Google, Amazon, etc.). The other plus is that you don’t have to manage any server hardware or perform maintenance updates or hardware fixes. That within itself saves a decent amount of time and money. So access to your data from anywhere, no backing up and no server hardware to manage. That’s a pretty sweet deal!
The pricing model for cloud computing takes a different approach than traditional software that you load on your computer or server. Since you are essentially leasing space on the servers of your application provider, you normally pay a monthly or yearly fee per user. From a business standpoint, this is great for budgeting as with the traditional software model you always had a risk of downtime and associated costs to fix a physical server. This simply doesn’t exist with the cloud computing model.
Also consider that cloud applications such as Google Apps email for Business and Salesforce CRM will continually add updates to their products which you automatically have instant access to. No more waiting for the latest version of Outlook to come out and then waiting for your IT guy to install it. The application provider does the heavy lifting and you automatically benefit!
So what’s the down side? The potential down side is that your data is stored on someone else’s servers. Obviously it’s key to work with an established company that you trust. The other potential issue is that all of your data is traversing the Internet. A reputable provider will encrypt all data transmissions and certify with the standard security guidelines.
Now the question is: Will you move some or all of your business applications to the cloud? Why or why not? We would love to hear your thoughts!