These days, cloud-based computing and cloud applications have become the predominant way many companies do business. As of 2018, ninety-six percent of all businesses were utilizing the cloud in some way. At the same time, “the cloud” is one of those things that lots of people talk about, but many people have very little understanding of what it actually is. What is the cloud, exactly? Do you have it on your computer? How do you know when you’re in it?
In reality, businesses who understand how to utilize cloud-based services typically find that it streamlines their efforts and improves their ability to do business efficiently and safely. In fact, chances are you’re already using cloud applications without realizing it. Let’s take a closer look at cloud-based computing and how it can help you.
What Is “the Cloud”?
Let’s start with the most basic question: What is the cloud? First of all, it’s not in the clouds, nor is it somewhere in the ether. Cloud-based computing simply means you’re accessing and retrieving data from a remote server via the Internet rather than a server that you own or control. It’s still a physical server in a physical location—it’s just not in your home or office. The server is owned and maintained by a service provider. Your data and/or applications are being hosted there, and you can interact with them from any place where you have an Internet connection.
How Do We Use the Cloud?
An increasing number of computing and business functions are now available as cloud-based services, and most of us use the cloud in some way during our normal business day. Some examples of ways we use the cloud:
- Data storage and retrieval (e.g., Dropbox, Google Drive)
- Backup and recovery (e.g., Backblaze, Carbonite)
- Software as a Service (SaaS)—any of a number of pay-by-use applications you might be using (e.g., Adobe Creative Cloud, Salesforce, Microsoft Office 365, Quickbooks Online, even VoIP phone services like Skype)
- Full-cloud computing—a growing number of companies are shifting their entire computing functionality to cloud-based services. Their employees log in to the servers and conduct their business via virtual machines with their entire desktop consisting of cloud-based applications.
Pros and Cons of Cloud Computing
To understand how the cloud can help your business, you need to know both the good and the bad of it. Let’s do that now.
- Lower overhead costs. Cloud-based computing tends to be much more cost-effective than operating your own servers and hiring IT staff to maintain them.
- More agility and mobility. With more people working remotely than ever before, cloud computing allows you and your team to conduct business from almost anywhere.
- Protection from loss. Data loss is the bane of any business’s existence. When your data is stored and backed up remotely, crashes become a mere inconvenience, not an emergency.
- While some might be concerned about whether an online system is vulnerable to cyberattacks, cloud-based systems are considered highly secure because they use multilayered encryption.
- A cloud-based system can be scaled easily to match your company’s growth.
- Reliance on the Internet. While the Internet is more consistent now than ever before, you still have to have an active Internet connection to access the cloud. If your Internet goes down, your productivity stops until it’s back up.
- Internet demand. Cloud-based computing requires more Internet bandwidth, so some businesses have to upgrade in order to do more online.
- Vendor lock-in and non-negotiable agreements. Some cloud-based vendors have service agreements that lock their clients into terms that make it difficult to switch later. (Always check the EULA before entering an agreement.)
Taking the positives with the negatives, the vast majority of small businesses find that the cloud enhances their productivity and ability to function—and even their ability to promote their brand. If you need expert help with cloud computing reach out to MelroseINC to learn how your business can become more efficient. Learn how to maximize your marketing at Wicked Bionic.