When talking to small business owners, many seem confused by how cloud computing actually works. What is the cloud? Where is the cloud? Is it safe? Who is using it and why do I want it? These seem to be the top 5 questions asked by many knowledge-seeking consumers.
Technology can be hard to decipher and navigate because it is full of technical jargon and is constantly changing. Let’s answer all of these 5 questions for you, no technical jargon allowed.
What is the Cloud?
The dictionary defines cloud computing as:
Internet based computing in which large groups of remote servers are networked so as to allow sharing of data processing tasks, centralized data storage and online access to computer services or resources.
Thank you Dictionary. I just have one last question, what is the cloud?
Think of the cloud like you think of the internet. Saving your data to the cloud means that instead of sitting at your monitor, saving and downloading everything on to your own personal computer, (which can crash, be easily hacked, get stolen or lost) you are saving it to servers on the internet.
Now, the cloud and the internet are not synonymous, you are not just saving all of your data to a website. Cloud computing is part of what we call software as a service.You are saving your data to software that is based on the internet instead of a personal or company computer.
Here’s how it works. As mentioned earlier, when you use the cloud computing system you are entrusting your data, software and computations to a remote server. The providers of the cloud then manage the platforms and infrastructure on which the cloud and all of its applications run. So the natural follow up question is, where then is the cloud and who runs it? I am so glad you asked.
Where is the Cloud?
There is actually no centralized cloud. You can’t buy a ticket to get in to see it. The cloud is a term for a system and a concept (stay with me). You are interfacing and storing your data on a remote server. A remote server that has all of the: storage, software, automatic updates, firewall and security that you will ever need. Your own systems and computers will not have to do all of the work. You will not have to worry about if everyone has the same software and if it is all updated. You will not have to worry about getting viruses or running out of storage space.
All your computer has to do is have an internet connection and be able to run the cloud’s interface software. Having a computer that can interface with cloud software usually just means opening up a browser page on the internet. I can feel the question that is at the tip of your tongue, but is the cloud safe? Let’s address that now.
Also Read: The Cloud Computing Revolution
Is it safe?
When we talk about technology we are actually talking about our livelihoods, our families, our legacies and years and years of hard work. It is imperative for us to know that the system we are handing over our data and all of our sensitive information to is secure.
Hard drives locked in a cabinet along with files upon files are not safer, they are just more tangible and they give you the illusion that you are in control. All it takes is a fire or heat damage, a flood or water damage or a break-in for everything to be destroyed.
When you move your systems to the cloud, it is now the cloud system provider’s responsibility to manage your IT systems. Most cloud providers manage their systems 27 hours a day, 8 days a week, 390 days a year; in other words someone always has an eye on it. Viruses are caught immediately, software is updated automatically and the equipment is stored in a secure, temperature controlled environment.
Now for the other side of the coin
Cloud accounts can and have been hacked; even though millions of businesses have moved to the cloud most have them have not completely moved all of their data. There are still some things that business owners choose to keep close to the vest.
Mario Santana, vice president of Cloud Security at Terremark, told TechWorldNews – “the first step is to realize that all the normal security steps are still necessary in the cloud… It’s surprising how many folks assume that all that stuff is handled as a default part of a cloud service.” Due diligence is still necessary when dealing with IT security and the cloud. In order to help you in this decision of whether or not to join the cloud, it is good to look at who else is using the cloud….
Who is using it?
Thales E-Security, a leading global provider with more than 40 years of data protection solutions experience, had Ponemon Institute (an independent research organization that conducts surveys on privacy, data protection and information regarding security policy) survey 4,000 IT and business managers worldwide. They found that more than 80% of those surveyed “are transferring, or plan to transfer, sensitive or confidential data into the cloud” as reported by TechNewsWorld.
The SiouxFallsBusinessJournal wrote “cloud activity is expected to grow dramatically in the upcoming year with asset management, security monitoring, cloud service brokering and service stacks leading the way.” They also quoted a recent Harvard Business Review Analytic Services survey which found that “85 percent of business and technology leaders said their organizations would be using cloud tools moderately to extensively in the next three years.”
- Microsoftin their New Center reported that “their spending on public and private IT cloud services will generate nearly 14 million jobs worldwide from 2011 to 2015, according to a new study by the analyst from IDC. The research, commissioned by Microsoft, also found that IT innovation created by cloud computing could produce $1.1 trillion a year in new business revenues.”
Why do I want it?
Last but not least, the final question to be answered is: why do you want it? Let’s recap:
It helps you focus more time on business and away from your IT
It helps standardize computer systems and software
It provides additional security compared to what some businesses can supply to their IT
It provides endless storage with no hardware purchase required
It allows access to all of your information anywhere with an internet connection
It is becoming a staple of industry standards
The biggest and best reason for moving to the cloud, as mentioned in the first bullet, is that it allows you to focus more of your attention on your work and less of it on managing your IT. Technology can be hard to crack and that is one of the reasons why the cloud was invented, so that you can continue to be the expert at what you do and let those who excel at IT expertly manage your cloud.