There are lots of people that although are pretty sure they are using the “cloud” are still not quite sure exactly what it is. This is our jargon free attempt to explain what the cloud is in non-technical terms.

So if you’re pretty IT savvy, this blog is not going be for you.

Still here? Great let’s get started.

What it is not

To start with the cloud has nothing to do with actual clouds or anything that is up in the sky and yet we seem to all point up when trying to explain that something is “saved in the cloud” The weather does not impact cloud computing in other way than it would affect any normal computer i.e. power outages flooding etc.

So what is it?

First and foremost, it’s a marketing term more than anything. Cloud computing is simply the act of accessing a computer or computing resources (think processing power or hard drive space) over the internet. So the computing resources you are accessing are somewhere else and not where you are.

Let start with some practical examples.

If you are accessing a website such as a social network or online banking, you are accessing the servers of the social network or bank. You are using your phone or computer to access it but the computing as actually at their end and not on your device.

Another example is something like One Drive or Drop Box. These are cloud storage services that allow you to store data such as your documents, photos and videos onto a server (in the cloud) that can be accessed from anywhere on any device and at any time. They are not on your device but the server in the “cloud” which basically means internet connected.

It is not new

We have been accessing remote computing resources for many years before the term cloud came along, so why now is it such a big deal?

The answer is very simple, advances in technology have made accessing and more importantly sharing computing resources much cheaper.

Previously you would have had to buy the computing resource (expensive servers) and then house it somewhere secure with a constant and reliable internet connection (datacentre) to then access it remotely.

Today you can get access to the same computing resources and pay for access by the minute without owning any computing hardware.
The technology is called virtualisation but more on that in another blog.

What It meant was that we could share the computing resources of one server amongst many people safely. This is what made it both accessible to anyone and very affordable.

The Concerns

At first many people were understandably concerned with using the cloud. Where was the data? Who owned the data? Is it Safe? These were all valid concerns that in some cases still exist today.
Confidence has grown and so has the adoption of cloud computing technology. There are now millions of services running in the cloud every single day, and more and more services being created every single day.

Computer Applications

Depending on your age you may remember when a new business or personal computer application needed to be installed on your computer it involved manually installing the files onto your computer from a CD or DVD and even floppy disk if you’re as old as me. Every time there was an update more disks were involved and more time was needed.

Today there are no disks of any kind. Pretty much every single new application you want to use is cloud based. You just access it from whatever device you want. Some applications are still installed locally on your computer but now they are downloaded from the cloud and updated via the cloud too.

How it affects your business?

The main way the cloud may affect your business is that is makes it much easier for people to work remotely when needed.

The cloud has given us far more choice when it comes to business and personal applications to use and has brought in a new pricing model. Many cloud based applications are free to try and involve no installation and little training. The new pricing model that accompanies these services is a pay per user per month. So not upfront costs but a low monthly price for each user then needs access.

This pricing model is becoming very popular as it is easy to understand and budget for.

The down sides?

The cloud is not for everybody. If you have sensitive data or compliance requirements there maybe reasons why you cannot use cloud services. Another concern is people putting corporate data into free cloud services such as Drop Box which may offer no backup or security leaving your company data potentially compromised.

For others the reassurance of being able to physically see the server and know that they are in control means that cloud services are not for them either.

Summary

The chances are you are probably already using some form of cloud computing every day without realising it as it becomes more ingrained in our everyday life. Today we are in a bit of a transition with a real mixture of cloud based and onsite servers and that is likely to be the case for a while yet.
But with more and more services being delivered via the cloud and business owners reaping the benefits, you need to be sure you don’t get left behind.
If you are looking to take your first steps into the cloud or even deploy a secure mix of the two, then we are always available and on hand to help you make the right decision for your business. You can call our sales team on 0800 6521365.

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