The Cloud, data on-demand, online storage… however you look at it ‘Cloud Data’ is all around us. If you’re hooked up to the internet in some way (which we assume you are reading this) you are likely to be immersed in Cloud Data some way or another… but what does it all actually mean, what is the meaning and practical use of “Cloud Computing” and how can you utilize it?
In this guide we’re going to take a look of the some the key points around Cloud Computing, how to best utilise cloud data, the change from hardware to Cloud and hopefully quell some of the jargon surrounding the Cloud. Our expert guide in this article is Craig Sharp, MD from Abussi Ltd.
How IT has changed from hardware to Cloud
In order to offer an explanation about what Cloud or Cloud Computing is, we first need to examine where we were in the recent past………..
IT systems were, and to a degree remain, based mostly in a fixed office location and focused on servers and desktop PC’s with the occasional laptop thrown in for mobile workers. IT was physical, it made a noise, it had green and red flashing lights and it was tangible.
Moving forward to today you will find that much of the world outlined above has changed significantly. PC’s still exist and many people working in an office will have one, but they’ll also be able to work on a tablet or a mobile. Much of the software they use is not installed to a device but accessible via a web browser and files or data are now available across many platforms, fixed and mobile.
What has created this change? The Cloud
The best way to think of Cloud or Cloud Computing is “the use of IT services which are not physically located at your premises” – Cloud services stop being your responsibility to buy, maintain and keep running for you and your business.
What are the advantages of Cloud or Cloud Computing for business?
When you think about it a home doesn’t have an internal email server; individual users have email accounts with Hotmail and Hotmail is a service that is ‘in the Cloud’. Each home doesn’t have a file server, they perhaps save important data and documents with Dropbox or Google Drive and both of these services are ‘in the Cloud’.
It’s not hard to take the next logical step and see that if you run a business with an email server or a file server then you too can move to Cloud services instead. There are many reasons to do so but the two key reasons are a) improved reliability and b) enhanced flexibility
Cloud services are hosted in multi-million-pound data centres with huge amounts of resilience, allowing them to offer 99.9%, 99,99% or 99.999% uptime. These are figures that even the best maintained local single server can never achieve. By embracing the Cloud you can stop phone calls to clients saying “I’m sorry, I can’t process that sale, our systems are down at the moment” – you cannot run a business without IT and the more your IT is down the less business you can do – fact.
The other key benefit is flexibility and in the 21st century you need to do business anytime-anywhere. If a worker needs to access information from the office then they need it fast and they need it on a PC, a laptop, a mobile or a tablet. Using the Cloud services allows you to offer Enterprise solutions for your business at a fixed and low monthly cost.
What are the security concerns regarding Cloud?
Business owners stop thinking positively about Cloud or Cloud Computing when they hear the ‘S’ word (Security) and start recalling all those hacking stories which the media enjoy telling us about cybercrime and so there is a worrying trend in the business community to feel the Cloud is not a safe place.
The fact is that any local office server is much less secure than a Cloud service. The server can be stolen, it will be less secure in terms of software than most Cloud services, it will be vulnerable to accidental damage and it is easy for most SME’s to have it in a place where staff can put USB memory sticks into it bringing in all manner of viruses or other malware. Most important of all the most vulnerable part of any SME’s server is the backup and restore procedure which from my experience is untested and probably not working correctly. So let’s not feel that our own local systems are impenetrable and super-secure – they are not.
In order to put all of the benefits from a Cloud service into context, let’s look at the comparison of a file server in your office with a Cloud service like Dropbox for Business (DfB).
- DfB has no upper limit on data stored so unlike a local server that would need disks adding in the future you would just keep growing.
- You would benefit from a system that is accessible across any platform, PC, laptop, iPhone, MAC, Android phone etc. Business anytime-anywhere
- Information stored in DfB can be undeleted if removed in error going back months and months.
- DfB is based around a number of data centres of which all are highly resilient so your data will always be available and never lost
If you have never given the Cloud a second thought then it might be time to do so. As the requirements of modern businesses become more and more diverse and the need to have IT up and available more and more of the time, then shifting services to the Cloud is a way of maximising your IT budget and reducing the impact that an IT failure would have on your activities.
The Cloud is not a dangerous place and more secure than local IT systems and services based in the Cloud are so reliable that in the long term you may never need to refer to your systems being “down” or suffer significant problems because Brian in Sales deleted an entire folder from the server without noticing and this lost data wasn’t on the backup tape.
If you have not looked at bringing some form of Cloud service into your business before today then maybe 2016 is the year you should.