The days when cloud computing was clouded in mystery and steeped in privacy and security concerns are past us. Today, most businesses and tech-savvy individuals are well-aware of the power of cloud computing and are using it to increase efficiency. It has permeated slowly throughout the relatively conservative world of small businesses and few are using it to its full potential. Learning the many uses for this technology and being able to harness its full potential can mean big savings and great leaps in the efficiency of your operations. This article will expose you to the most critical uses of the cloud.
First off, What is Cloud Computing?
“Cloud Computing” simply refers to a collection of IT services which are streamed live off the Internet rather than residing physically on your computer’s hard drive. This is the next level of the Internet revolution and has several benefits over traditional networking:
- The files and programs you use in the cloud do not take up space on your own computers.
- They can be accessed from virtually any device with an internet connection.
- They can be accessed and edited by multiple people.
All of this is achieved without having to set up networks, folder shares, or use complicated programs. The particular uses may not be apparent to those who are unfamiliar with cloud technology, but here are the major ones:
It’s 4:00 AM and there’s a powerful thunderstorm. The server is up and running – after all, you buy only the most reliable technology for your business. Yet the force of nature is too overpowering and the mighty citadel of silicon falls, the surge strip unable to mount an effective defense. What’s worse, tomorrow is an important day, with big clients coming to call on your business first thing in the morning. What do you do?
Any small business owner worth his salt knows that emergencies like this will happen and is prepared with technical help for his server and meticulously prepared backups. Yet the very act of backing up one’s configuration can be arduous if the correct methods and technologies are not being used. Yesterday’s backup to the external hard drive might be too old or you might have left the box connected to the server in which case it has probably sunk with the ship.
With services, such as iDrive or Crashplan, your whole hard drive is constantly being uploaded to the company’s servers in some undisclosed location, far away from damaging thunderstorms. Whenever you want to recover your information, you just download the interface and have your information downloaded to your computer again. You can be back up and running within a matter of hours.
In recent years, big businesses have been warming up to the idea of having a widely scattered workforce. Small businesses, as always, are a little shyer about allowing employees to telecommute, but it’s becoming less taboo among these businesses as well.
Everyone can agree that there’s power in being able to work from anywhere on any platform. Using a network solution, you might have to log onto your work network from a Windows computer with Microsoft Office installed, change the document, and make sure no one else is editing it. With programs such as Google Drive or Dropbox, however, anyone can work from any device at any time. All they need is an internet connection.
Google Drive comes with Google Docs, which is something like a basic Microsoft Office. It allows you to edit spreadsheets, written document, or presentations. Better yet, everyone who is a part of the project can edit it if you so desire, making it a great collaborative effort.
The technology used by a workforce today is as diverse as the workforce itself, with Apple OS’, Androids, and Windows all vying for market share around an ever-increasing pool of devices. There is power in being able to access and edit a project from your mobile phone, your laptop, or your PC in the office. Used correctly, this allows more work to get done in a shorter span of time.
Now a little over a lustrum after the beginning of the cloud boom sometime around 2010, we can say that the technology has reached a level of maturity that has brought costs down and quelled many of the initial fears businesses had about adopting it wholeheartedly. System downtime is relatively uncommon, prices are fairly low, and security breaches are minimal. If you’re a small business owner, then ask yourself what cloud technologies can help your business goals and begin to implement them. Your operations will quickly become safer, more efficient, and more convenient for everyone involved.