Cloud computing for your business
Cloud computing is one of the latest IT technology marketing buzzwords. Is it something you can take advantage of in your business or is it just the latest in a long line of ‘next big’ things that just don’t cut it. Before we look at the benefits Cloud computing could have for your business, just what is this mysterious piece of jargon?
What is the Cloud?
Imagine instead of having all your files installed on your own computer, you simply log into the internet and find all your programs directly in your browser. That’s basically what Cloud computing is all about. All you need is a computer, an internet connection and you can work from anywhere – even in transit with your tablet or iPhone.
If you use a web based email program like Hotmail or Gmail then you already use the cloud without realising it. All your emails are stored on the email service’s web servers and you can log in from anywhere around the world. Cloud computing takes this to the ultimate limit – a virtual computer office accessible anywhere with an internet connection.
The accessibility that Cloud Computing offers means the information must be stored off-site. This means data needs to be hosted on a cloud company’s own server. Issues with trust have been well-documented and certainly worth investigating further – especially find out where the servers are located. Different countries have different levels of legislation regarding access to this information, certainly the general advice is to make sure you choose a company with servers in your own country. Robin wrote an article last year on the issues with The Cloud here…
Dedicated companies can provide ‘limitless’ storage – limitless being of course the anticipated demand for storage space. But the power to buy in bulk allows, in practice, no limit to the size your system needs, without the need to purchase the storage hardware yourself. No more backing up on to DVDs or portable memory drives. Guaranteed continuous backup of your data is the catch cry.
The freedom from the need to buy big powerful computers and manage your own IT department is a real attraction to cloud computing. A computer that has an internet connection and a browser is all you need – the software run through Firefox or your browser of choice. The management of an IT department isn’t something that most people will really have to do. But larger companies can relieve themselves of the cost of this by outsourcing to a cloud provider. Sorry guys but it’s true. Large companies requiring security of their information can utilise the technology to run their own cloud-based system and network.
The two burning questions I hear you asking about The Cloud:
- How much does it cost?
- Can I trust it?
The cost depends on what sort of computer you want to mimic. You can choose levels of:
- Basically storage space. Just like the RAM in your computer, but it runs in a virtual environment RAM runs faster than hard-drives so your system can potentially run faster in a cloud environment. This is what your software runs in.
- The speed of the processor the environment mimics. The reason they have a choice is to lessen the burden on their server loads – ‘slower’ performance is really less requests to the server per second.
- The number of processors the environment mimics – the more people accessing the server at anyone time – sort of like the bandwidth in a way.
- Storage space
- This is where your documents, files and media are stored. Just like your hard-drive.
Some companies offer fixed plans like mobile contracts (Software as a Service SaaS), some have a yearly fee, many such as Gmail are ‘free’ and some you pay a rate based on the amount you use. Also remember the overall speed is also affected by the speed of your own web host plan or wireless connection.
One consideration is if the data storage company goes bust and turns off the servers – or withhold your data if you get behind in paying your bill. Sometimes the security of a large, popular company is worth the additional fees – whatever you do, make sure the host has a policy for the ownership and access to your data in case of catastrophy!
I see the use of cloud technology becoming a mixture of smaller business utilising web-based hosts and larger businesses incorporating cloud-based technologies into their own IT departments. With a healthy sprinkling of work from home and jet-setters running their businesses from their laptops in all the most beautiful places in the world. On a gondola down a venice canal perhaps… It sounds far-fetched and science fiction but this technology has the potential to transform the idea of the internet, as not so much a place you visit but a place you operate in. And who doesn’t want more control over their own lives anyway?
Let’s recap the Benefits of Cloud Computing
- Limitless storage
- Easily accessible
- A wide range of options for your budget
- Less hardware and software to purchase and upgrade
- Better quality of life for everybody
I don’t often see as much potential in new technologies as I do in cloud computing.
Will the internet finally keep it’s promise to mankind to free our lifestyles.