“The Cloud” is a popular term these days, but what exactly does it mean to use cloud computing and should your business start using it?
Cloud computing sounds cutting edge and a bit mysterious, but it’s really kind of simple. Cloud computing is a computing model that lets you access software, server and storage resources over the internet. Basically, instead of having to buy, install, maintain and manage these resources on your own computer or network, you access and use them through your browser. You can also expand or shrink services as your needs change.
In fact, you’re probably already using cloud computing in some way. It’s been around for years, even if the buzz around it hasn’t. If you use Gmail, Google Drive, Dropbox or iTunes, you’re using cloud computing. None of those services require that you setup or maintain storage or network solutions of your own. You simply login and they work.
Will it benefit you in your business?
Take Google Apps for Business as an example. It’s a cloud computing solution for sharing documents, email and calendars. As a small business owner using Google Apps, you’re renting server resources from Google to provide those services.
It sounds pretty great, right? For a minimal monthly charge, Google will setup and manage your business’s documents, email and calendars for you.
Now think about what would happen if Google’s service went down for a day or two? (Rare, but it does happen.) Think about how critical that function is to your business. What would happen if you couldn’t access data or use the application for a period of time? Since the services reside in Google’s cloud, there’s not much you can do but wait for them to fix it.
On the other hand, if you were set up your own server for sharing documents, email and calendars, you would be in charge of whether it stays up or goes down depending on how you chose to manage it. Of course, you’d typically incur a larger cost up front in order to obtain the server and deploy it, but for many businesses, that’s a minimal cost for having more control over essential business services.