What is the Cloud?
You’ve probably heard the term Cloud Computing thrown around in the media lately. Everyone’s talking about the merits and marvels of “the cloud.” But what exactly is a cloud? Unlike the fluffy white objects floating in the sky, “the cloud” is a broad term used to define the infrastructure, platform and software that powers your favorite websites. As an analogy, a cloud infrastructure would be the highway on which you drive, the cloud platform would be the bus you ride, and the cloud software (or service) would be the bus drivers. Cloud service providers often have thousands (to millions) of customers and can provide the same service to huge corporations as they can to solo-entrepreneurs at a fraction of the cost. Therefore, the cloud is really any service delivered through the Internet at a variable cost (or sometimes free) structure.
Examples of cloud computing.
Cloud computing is all around us, though you may not recognize it. For instance, webmail such as Gmail and Hotmail are websites that allow us to create, edit, format, send and receive emails. All of this happens in “the cloud” without having to install a specific program on your computer. Similarly, if you’ve ever watched a video on YouTube, or listened to an audiobook on Audible, you are cloud computing. Moreover, if you’ve ever used Dropbox, or performed an online backup, you’re also, you guessed it, cloud computing.
Cloud computing for business.
While sending emails and watching movies online sounds pretty great, you may be wondering how your business can use the cloud. To better answer this question, there are a number of factors. Primarily, there are the business consideration, and the technical consideration. Though not all businesses are able to leverage the cloud, most can, and in the process, may save some money and improve efficiency. From a business perspective, if you have the need to access data from outside the office, or if you have multiple offices in geographically separate locations, then the cloud could work for you. Technically, cloud computing is suitable for companies with limited budgets requiring specialized IT talent.
Should you move to the cloud?
In the early 20th century businesses were responsible for generating their own power. The infrastructure of good quality and reliable power simply didn’t exist. However, the vast majority of businesses today don’t spend a single thought on where their power is coming from. This allows companies to focus their energy (no pun intended) on their core business – be it dentistry, architecture, engineering or real estate, etc. Likewise, the option exist today to allow companies to transfer IT responsibilities to the cloud.
Email is one of the best candidates to move to the cloud. Instead of managing your own email servers and spending hours administering the mail servers, companies such as Google offer robust email solutions on a pay-what-you-need subscription basis.
As mentioned before, online backup is also a great use of the cloud. A good data protection strategy requires that the backups are stored offsite and occur automatically. Since the cloud, is by nature offsite, all your data can be recovered in the event of damage to, or loss of, the original files.
A secondary benefit of the previous examples are that you can convert capital expenses into operating expenses. Instead of spending large amounts of capital upfront to purchase equipment and software, you can opt for a recurring expense model where the equipment and software are managed without your intervention.
Cloud computing can be confusing, but a little information goes a long way. You may have noticed that EDMI is now cloud certified – see the badge on the right. If you have any questions, or are considering moving your business to the cloud, give us a shout or leave a comment below.