Let’s get back to basics and discuss what modern cloud computing is and what it can do for business.
First of all, it is not a literal cloud in the sky. This may sound silly, but back in 2012 Business Insider reported that 51% of the people they surveyed believed that ‘bad weather’ affected cloud computing. I’d like to think that if the same survey was conducted today the outcome would be very different.
Many of you may be reading this thinking, “Great, I have no idea what cloud computing is and I have never used it before.”
In reality, you are probably already using cloud computing in your everyday life and don’t even know it. If you use a smart phone, you will be using ‘the cloud’ every day. Smart phone companies switched to cloud computing around 4 years ago, allowing users to back up contacts, photos, messaging and more in the cloud. Today these modern conveniences are taken for granted and the idea of not backing up your data is ridiculous.
It is not just your smart phone that is connecting you to the cloud. If you are currently operating Gmail or use DropBox, these are also a cloud services. They hold your email, files and data online. If you’ve just binge-watched your latest television obsession on Netflix then you are connected to the cloud. Yes, you read it right, Netflix functions with the help of the cloud.
With these realisations it is easy to assume the cloud is some sort of top secret technology enigma. However, the cloud is not as mysterious as you may think. Just because you cannot see it does not mean it is not a physical entity. Cloud computing refers to a network of servers located in thousands of data centres around the world. Some of the largest data centres reside on plots up to 1 million square foot! Now that’s a lot of data.
Data centres are owned and operated by a number of different organisations, some of the big players include Apple, Microsoft and Google. Users then sign up to a cloud plan and pay for these companies to store, manage and maintain their files in these data centres.
To put this into context, Gmail stores your emails in a data centre to ensure that you are able to access them anywhere, at any time. When you login to your inbox the internet connects you to the particular server, within this data centre, that is hosting your emails. Your emails appear and you can proceed with using your inbox as normal. So instead of accessing your data from a server in the same room as you, you are accessing the data via the internet from a server likely to be located somewhere in your country. All of this happens effortlessly. This is why it can be hard to recognise that certain every day practises rely on cloud services.
Today, the cloud is so much more than just file storage. Cloud applications now allow for the use of common programs across multiple devices, providing you have access to the internet. Gone are the days where you need to install software in order to access programs such as the Microsoft or Adobe suites. Now, all you need to do is sign up to a plan and login. You will then receive access to familiar applications online and all of your work in progress.
The cloud in a business setting works the same way as smart phone storage but on a much larger scale. It is all about connectivity, security, productivity and scalability. Imagine it like a huge online filing cabinet containing all of your important business files and documents. By combining file and data storage with the use of cloud applications, cloud services have the potential to increase productivity and streamline business practises.
Cloud computing for business gives you the ability to work on-the-go across multiple devices, with the help of easier communication methods and better collaboration options.
The cloud isn’t magic. It’s business. It is a simple metaphor for online data and applications. "The cloud" may be a nebulous term (pun intended), but now, it is an everyday part of our lives.
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