What is cloud computing?

070213-cloudcomputingYou don’t have to be an IT professional to be familiar with “the cloud.” In fact, chances are pretty good you already use it every day. A few examples:

Do you check email using a web-based service like Gmail or Hotmail? You’re using the cloud.

Do you store your music remotely so you can access it no matter where you are? That’s the cloud again.

Do you use apps on your smartphone? That’s right – they’re also part of the cloud.

Essentially, cloud computing is another form of Internet-based computing where the data is stored and processed remotely, not on your machine. Let me use the web-based email example from above to illustrate. You use your laptop, tablet, or smartphone to access a website like Gmail.com or Hotmail.com. You get to your email through a web browser, not a desktop application like Outlook. Your email – plus your responses, contacts, and archives – are stored remotely at the Gmail or Hotmail servers. Those servers do all the hard work and take care of storage; your machine is just accessing them.

The same goes for any music you have stored remotely at a cloud service like those offered by Apple or Amazon. The actual music files don’t live on your telephone; they’re at the remote servers. Your device plays the music over the Internet (called “streaming”) using the music player app on your phone. Again, the remote computers do all the work.

Now, all this is well and good, but what does cloud computing mean for your business? Well, “the cloud” can handle much more than email and music. Your business’ cloud could include all of the applications your employees use for word processing, bookkeeping, data analysis, human resources, and more. Your computers access these applications through a subscription-based services or a pay-per-use service offered by a company that provides cloud computing services.

What are the advantages for you?

  • You and your employees can access your applications and data anytime from anywhere
  • Your hardware costs could decrease because you no longer have to maintain the physical computers that house your data
  • You may also be able to buy less expensive computers for your office because your local machines wouldn’t need to do the heavy lifting – the cloud computers would do all the work and store your data
  • You don’t have to buy software or licenses for every employee you hire

Sounds great, right? There are a couple of concerns to consider. How secure is your data? Any cloud company worth its name is going to make sure it has reliable security measures in place – protecting your data is their business!

The other concern is privacy. Who has access to your data? Can every employee see everything in your business’ cloud? You can protect your data from outsiders by giving each employee a username and password. And, you can customize your cloud so that each employee can access only the applications and data she or he needs to do their job.

Got more questions about cloud computing? Contact us! And, don’ forget to fill out our business survey by July 31, 2013. If you’d like us to discuss cloud computing at one of our free seminars, you can let us know on the survey!

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