The cloud is all the way up there – not in the sky, but in the virtual universe of the internet. Above you, around you, and all about you flows a milky way of data. The question, therefore, is how to efficiently increase your business’ capabilities within this virtual framework without having to sign new application licenses, train new personnel and invest in yet more software. You may be wondering what it’s like being up in the cloud, and is it as great of an existence as it seems?
What’s The Cloud?
Figuring out the exact definition of the cloud can be difficult, especially when you add the word “computing” at the end of it. That’s because there are many variations of cloud technology: from SaaS, which delivers a single application through a browser to thousands of customers, to web programs like Google Maps that allow for functional services over the Internet instead of making a whole new downloadable application.
As a business, however, all you really need to know is that the cloud is essentially a global storage space on the world wide web. You can rent space and IT expertise from a relevant cloud service provider, and they will handle the rest. From iCloud, Gmail and YouTube, thousands of established companies are using the cloud in ways you probably don’t even notice on a daily basis.
What’s The Cloud got to Offer?
What’s the cloud really got that will make a difference to your company? Although it may initially be a hassle to switch your business to the cloud, you’ll notice that the little things start to get much easier. No more expensive software and hardware that requires an extensive IT department exhaustively checking components and updating software on each individual machine.
The cloud provides instantaneous installation and updates across the board for every user and computer, all handled by your trustworthy service provider. Less hardware means you’re naturally being more economical and more eco-friendly without even having to try.
Probably cloud computing’s greatest asset is that it will allow you to purchase exactly how much space and storage you need. You can scale it up and down as you like and you’re not necessarily bound to a long-term contract. This storage is also centralised – creating greater company efficiency, transparency and quality of experience (QoE).
Communication is also improved between clients and employees because there aren’t messy duplicates of huge files sent over an unreliable email connection. Files can be put in one central location, edited together with real-time feedback and accessed anywhere, anytime. Computer died, or power failed? Switch to your smartphone and all the files and information are still reliably there.
Businesses have also noted that security has in fact improved because you can enforce security protocols in a more streamlined manner, and because it’s off-site your applications are less likely to be infected by viruses.
Are There Cons to the Cloud?
That being said, there cons to using cloud technology. Of course – just like any other service out there, there are flaws. For one, you should research carefully before outsourcing your data to a cloud service provider because there are those that don’t provide what they advertise, or don’t take proper security measures. Some complain that customer service is also slow or relatively nonexistent, but again, this probably relates to individual service providers rather than the cloud itself: as with all things, take precaution and read the fine print.
On a global level, experts speculate that in the future hackers may aim to target entire cloud servers instead of specific companies. But the idea of one large cloud is largely a misnomer, as there are actually an infinite number of providers out there that provide their own “clouds”.
Tip: If you’re still worried about security breaches, it may be a good idea to start out with putting one or two applications on the cloud and seeing how it benefits your business and whether or not it’s worth it.
How are Businesses Using The Cloud?
When it comes down to it, though, you may ask: how are businesses actually using the cloud? It’s nothing very complicated: the cloud can be used for email, backup and file sharing systems like Dropbox (or your own internal company system), customer relationship management (CRM) – which has notoriously always been incredibly difficult to organise – rented servers and editing documents using applications like Google Docs.
One great thing about using the cloud is that it allows employees and small businesses to become more mobile and compete with larger corporations on a global scale. You’re using the same software and technology, and that gives starting businesses an advantage they never could have had in the past. Work from home or work from another country: either way, cloud technology is leveling the playing field and changing the face of computing and work culture itself.
The Bottom Line
So, what’s business like up in the cloud? Pretty dapper, as far as things go. Despite the historic flaws, cloud technology is relatively new and therefore constantly adapting, changing and evolving. It is, undoubtedly, the technology of the future. What you have to decide is whether those risks outweigh the advantages, which, in the long term, they probably will.