Cloud Computing is the latest IT Jargon and seems to relate to everything new these days, but what exactly is it? Why is it making a difference to business IT systems? And is it a good thing for you?
With almost every software package boasting about their ‘cloud-based’ options, now is a really good time to take a look at whether your business could benefit from using it, and how this might affect your employees (or users) your clients (or CRM system) and most importantly, your finances.
What is the Cloud?
First of all it isn’t an actual cloud (!). It is a phrase that means data or software that is accessed on the Internet and not on your computer or local network of computers (e.g. on the dusty server in the corner of the office). You won’t have the files stored on your hard drive and you may not even have the software installed on your hard drive either.
It is all on a set of servers ‘in the cloud’ and you access it via your internet browser or via a dedicated ‘interface’. Internet Explorer, Firefox and Google Chrome are all interfaces that allow your computer to hook up to the Internet and use cloud services.
Hang on though, what is special or new about ‘the cloud’? How is this different to the way my email or website has been working for years – stored on a server accessed over the internet?
The key difference is that a cloud system is a network of servers often distributed across the World. If a server in the US fails, your data is still available from servers in Sweden or Bulgaria. But this is all invisible to you, the end user. All you see is your data available wherever you have the internet.
So the cloud makes your data safer, more accessible and can eliminate the need for a backup as there is no danger of data loss when a local server or computer dies.
Software in the Cloud
Increasingly, the software and services you use to manipulate your data are in the cloud too. You use your computer, tablet, phone or laptop as a ‘front end’ with an interface to access your data in the cloud which is the ‘back end’.
Anyone who uses a Yahoo, Hotmail or Gmail email account is already using a cloud based system. Special Hotmail software is not downloaded on your computer, you access it through an interface provided via your web browser.
This can dramatically reduce the outlay for software licenses as almost all cloud software solutions are subscription based – you pay a low monthly fee per user for access to the service. So when a new user joins the business you don’t have to shell out hundreds for new software licenses and pay for IT support to install it.
Broadband – the vital ingredient
In traditional ‘local computing’, you use a software package that has been installed onto your computer’s hard drive or local business server and access data stored locally. Local computing is fast because the data travels short distances over wires that can transmit large amounts of data at very high speeds.
Fibre broadband makes accessing data over the internet almost as fast as your local network and is the vital ingredient that makes any Cloud based system practical for business.
Even if you don’t have fibre, standard ADSL can be fast enough. It just depends on how many users are using it and what kind of data you are using in the cloud.
The cloud offers businesses safer, more secure and more accessible data. Plus it can reduce software licensing and upgrade costs and make managing your IT easier.