The Cloud can be, well, a cloudy concept to understand. Typically, a computer has a hard drive and sufficient memory to locally store all the programs and data accessed by the computer. But what if your personal or business data were stored online, rather than on your computer or a local server? That is exactly what the Cloud is – data that is stored on a computer somewhere else and is accessed using the Internet. People use the word ‘Cloud’ as an abstract term that represents many computers housed in massive data centers all over the world. They use that term because your data is being stored “somewhere out there” on a computer that is not your own.
Why would someone choose to store data online rather than on their own computer? There are several good reasons. First, your data is available, to you or those you share it with, anywhere. For example, if you’re working on a document at work, and later, you wish to work on the same document at home, it is easily accessed over the Internet. Or even at a coffee shop on your cell phone. Many value the convenience and flexibility of having access to their data whenever and wherever they are, provided they have an Internet connection.
Another benefit is cost-effectiveness. Instead of a business investing heavily in IT equipment with enough hard drive space and memory to support all the applications and data each user needs, they can purchase less expensive machines and use a Cloud operated data center to store the information for them. This means less IT support costs to manage local servers.
Scalability is another important cost benefit to Cloud computing. As a business expands, it may require more storage, power or speed. Instead of buying an expensive server, they can simply increase their capacity in the Cloud. In the future, if their need decreases, adjustments can be easily made as well. The Cloud allows a business to increase or decrease what they use without any large investment or absorbing the depreciation of costly equipment.
Another benefit to cloud computing is having a more consistent service. If a business’s data is stored locally and the power goes out or the Internet connection is down, that business now has no access to their data and may no longer be able to operate. However, with data stored across many servers, a worker can access their data (for example their email) on their mobile device or laptop, anywhere they can get online. Data centers have redundant fiber connections, and redundant power, including backup generators to ensure consistent service.
You may already be enjoying the benefits of the Cloud without even knowing it. For example, do you love binge watching your favorite Netflix series? Can you imagine how much hard drive space you would need to store all those TV shows or movies? All these shows are stored in multiple data centers and accessed quickly and easily by users via the Internet. Netflix stores copies of files at many geographic locations so that each user downloads from the closest location to them. This greatly increases the speed of the download, creating a better experience for the user.
Other popular Cloud-based services you’ve likely heard of are Microsoft’s Office 365, Google’s G Suite, Apple iCloud, Gmail, Dropbox, Google Drive, and Microsoft OneDrive.
There are even Cloud-based devices like the Google Chromebook. These machines run only the Chrome operating system and do all work in the cloud. They require minimal storage space and computing needs, making them very affordable. The education sector has made extensive use of Chromebooks, many classrooms now having several for student use.
Another factor to consider is disaster recovery or theft of a computer. If data is not backed up offsite and a theft, fire or flood occurs, your precious data could be lost. Disaster recovery is simpler and much faster when done from the cloud.
There are a few concerns to be aware of with Cloud computing. Some don’t feel secure with the idea of their data being stored somewhere far away. Will that data be safe in someone else’s hands? A secondary concern is that of ownership. Who owns the data – the company who places their data with the cloud computing service or the Cloud computing service itself? In both cases, you need to trust the company you choose to do business with and take protective security measures as there are still legal areas that are not yet clear cut.
Undoubtedly, Cloud computing is the way of the future and a very good option for many homes and businesses. Be sure to do your research and choose your Cloud computing company carefully, or call your knowledgeable friends at allCare IT for help to get set up. We have migrated many clients to cloud solutions and as partners and users of many Cloud services, including those from Microsoft, Google and Amazon, we’re in a great position to get you on your way.