What is The "Cloud" and Why Should My Small Business Use It?

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I keep hearing about the "Cloud”, but what is it?

America loves to use buzzwords.  One of the hottest buzzwords in technology right now is “Cloud”. The problem is we talk about the Cloud like it’s something magical, but we can’t quite explain what it is.

So, what is this magic Cloud anyway?  Is it some far away land in the sky?  It’s actually much closer to home than tech companies would have you think.  When tech companies say your data is in the Cloud, or that you can work in the Cloud, it has nothing to do with white fluffy cumulus’s in the sky.  I hate to be the one to tell you this, but your data is not in some fantasy forest where fairies live and everyone eats marshmallows for breakfast.  It’s somewhere on the ground—a whole lot of somewhere.  The very unexciting truth about the Cloud is that your data is on someone else’s computer in a data center, likely in a remote part of the US. 

Really, the Cloud refers to software and services that run on the Internet, instead of locally on your computer.  Most Cloud services can be accessed through a Web browser like Firefox, Edge, or Google Chrome, and some companies offer dedicated mobile and workstation apps (think Maps, Instagram, or Snapchat).  It’s the reason you can access songs from iTunes on any Apple device or how you save something to your Google Drive on your home computer then work on it on your iPad on the bus.

So, why would I want to put my sensitive business information in the cloud? 

To be frank, the concept of the Cloud” is not new.  Remember when you had to go to a terminal in the library to access something on a mainframe?  It’s the same thing, just on a larger scale. This means that your workstation isn’t doing the heavy lifting, something else is. Really some of the best reasons to move to a Cloud infrastructure are:

  1. Cost effective: Pricing is elastic. You pay for what you need and that’s it. Services are also scalable to where companies that grow from 5 users to 20 users in a few years don’t’ have to change what they are doing. You can also reduce the cost of maintaining expensive server hardware and LOB (Line of Business) application software. Workstation costs can also go down because less individual processing power is needed.

  2. Increased security: We’ve all heard about the hacks on iPhone and personal iClouds, but that’s not really business level security. That’s a bunch of people with weak passwords. Cloud business level applications use end to end encryption making sure your data is secure in transit, and are in data centers that have to pass some pretty intense security checks both in the physical and virtual realm. These data centers are virtually indestructible and good luck getting past the armed guards.

  3. Increased flexibility: I’m sure you’ve caught yourself in a situation where you have to scramble home or back to the office to get one single document. With cloud applications, you can access data on your desktop, laptop, tablet, or phone. Making that trek back to your computer a thing of the past.

  4. Data Safety: With most Cloud applications the data is either not stored on your computer, or it’s just a copy of your data, so if anything happens to your computers, you’re not sunk.

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