What is this ‘Cloud’ thingummy everyone keeps talking about?

What is this ‘Cloud’ thingummy everyone keeps talking about?

Whenever ‘The Cloud’ is mentioned in an IT context I still look skywards as though there is really a huge fluffy cloud up there full of kit looking after all our computing needs. Perhaps I do it because it’s a more exciting notion than the reality of what it is. Although its’ exact definition is a mystery to a lot of people, they probably experience cloud computing on a daily basis. For instance if you have a smartphone, use Hotmail, Yahoo or Gmail you are a user of the Cloud.

‘The Cloud’ is purely a name given to various services where information and files are kept on servers connected to the internet. At its most basic, cloud computing means that instead of keeping your files, emails or photos on a single computer that you have to stay at in order to work, you can upload them to a service and then, providing you have internet access, download them again wherever you are, using any internet enabled device.

This can be useful for working collaboratively, or for allowing multiple people to access the same files and even work on them at the same time. It is also very useful to backup important information – even if your office or house (and computers) burn down, your files in the Cloud are still safe and accessible.

So what does the Cloud mean to me if I run a small or medium sized business?

Cloud computing can make all the difference to your business. Because cloud computing runs on external servers the services are scalable and reliable your uptime is maximised. Data is backed up automatically using enterprise grade infrastructure that runs in extremely secure, ‘bomb proof’ data centres with backup power generation, something that can’t be said of the situations of many SMEs where data is stored on a single server tucked in the corner of an office or comms cabinet, with little security, back up and no UPS (uninterruptable power supply) availability.

Worried about the cost?

Because you no longer have to buy and replace servers, those hardware and associated support costs disappear, you only pay for what you use – your overall IT bills will be lower and you won’t need to spend time on the phone to tech support.

One of the concerns voiced by small and medium businesses is that they are interested in moving to the cloud but are worried that they’ll have to give up their desktop applications like Outlook, Word and Excel in favour of the Microsoft Office 365 Web Applications. There is another option – both Google and Microsoft offer desktop apps as well, giving the best of both worlds.

With transparent pricing and free trials available for both products there is nothing to lose and plenty to gain by you and your business trying out that ‘Cloud’ thingummy everyone keeps talking about!