You may have heard the term “the cloud” or “cloud computing” thrown with increasing frequency lately. What is this cloud and how can it help you?
The cloud, or cloud computing as it’s commonly called, refers to computer applications that operate over the Internet, rather than on your PC’s hard drive. Your programs run on Internet-based servers and your data is stored there. You access both the software and your data using a Web browser or mobile app.
The cloud offers a number of advantages for your business compared to software you’d install on your PC or company server. The benefits include:
- No capital costs. Instead of purchasing application software for one large up-front price, you subscribe to cloud services, paying a predictable and affordable monthly or annual fee.
- Cut hardware costs. Because you access the applications through the Internet, you no longer need to purchase the fastest PCs or devices with the most memory. All you need is a reliable Internet connection.
- Get started quickly. The cloud provider takes care of installation and upgrades, relieving your IT staff of those tasks. You can quickly start using the application and you’ll always be working on the most recent version because your application is
- Anytime, anywhere access. You can connect to your cloud-based data and applications anytime, anywhere from any PC, laptop, tablet or smartphone. For example, if you’re using a cloud-based email service like Gmail, you can check your
email on your computer or smartphone.
- Simplify collaboration. No longer will there be a need to worry about compatibility of data formats across your business. Everyone can access the same documents and data. Cloud applications make it easier for businesses to collaborate internally and with partners, vendors and customers.
- Focus on your business. The cloud allows you to take advantage of advanced software without having to spend your team’s valuable time installing and maintaining your IT infrastructure and applications. Your staff is free to focus on creating new products and services that differentiate your business and generate income.
Types of Cloud Infrastructure
When considering cloud applications, businesses choose from three types of cloud services.
The public cloud uses the Internet to connect customers and services, providing easy, inexpensive access to software and storage. Examples of public cloud applications includes Google Apps for Work and Constant Contact. This option can be a good fit for companies without an IT staff. However, some companies hesitate to put highly sensitive or proprietary files into public cloud applications because they’re concerned their data may not be secure. While this may be a concern, most cloud providers make security a top priority and will even publish their security protocols on their websites.
Larger organizations that are particularly worried about security may choose a private cloud. A private cloud is operated solely for a single organization within their firewall to restrict access to information. In addition to providing greater security, a private cloud allows an organization to easily customize their applications and data. The downside is that the private cloud requires
significant in-house IT resources to set it up and operate it.
A hybrid cloud infrastructure uses a blend of public and private cloud environments to deliver the advantages of each. For example, you might put sensitive production data on an application in a private cloud to maximize security and then archive less critical data on a public cloud service to take advantage of the less expensive storage costs. Hybrid clouds can also provide more cost-effective scalability. Your organization can take advantage of the computing and storage resources you typically need on the private cloud without buying more than you need. Instead, you pay for extra resources on the public cloud as you use them; for example, in response to traffic spikes. Remember that you will also have to pay for the infrastructure and operational costs of the private cloud.
By partnering with the right cloud services provider, failure of your mobile device, PC or server no longer means your business is endangered. By taking the time to research and evaluate public, private and hybrid cloud solutions, you can make sure you’re selected the right solution for your business.
The time you spend making sure that your security, support, management and cost requirements is a good investment in your business and increases the chances that your new cloud-based tool will be a success. Comparing references with your peers, doing research online and talking to a customer service representative are all ways to help you choose a solution that’s the best fit for your business.
You can feel confident knowing that your data is secure in the cloud, and you no longer have to worry about a hurricane, fire or flood disrupting your business. Instead you can concentrate on growing your business, knowing that you can access your data quickly and easily on the Internet.