“What’s the cloud?” “Where is the cloud?” “Are we in the cloud now?!” These are all questions you’ve probably heard or even asked yourself. The term “cloud computing” is everywhere.
In the simplest terms, cloud computing means storing and accessing data and programs over the Internet instead of your computer’s hard drive. The cloud is just a metaphor for the Internet. It goes back to the days of flowcharts and presentations that would represent the gigantic server-farm infrastructure of the Internet as nothing but a puffy, white cumulonimbus cloud, accepting connections and doling out information as it floats.
What cloud computing is not about is your hard drive. When you store data on–or run programs from the hard drive, that’s called local storage and computing. Everything you need is physically close to you, which means accessing your data is fast and easy (for that one computer, or others on the local network). Working off your hard drive is how the computer industry functioned for decades.
The cloud is also not about having a dedicated hardware server in residence. Storing data on a home or office network does not count as utilizing the cloud.
For it to be considered “cloud computing,” you need to access your data or your programs over the Internet, or at the very least, have that data synchronized with other information over the Internet.
In a cloud computing system, there’s a significant workload shift. Local computers no longer have to do all the heavy lifting when it comes to running applications. The network of computers that make up the cloud handles them instead. Hardware and software demands on the user’s side decrease. The only thing the user’s computer needs to be able to run is the cloud computing system’s interface software, which can be as simple as a Web browser, and the cloud’s network takes care of the rest.
There’s a good chance you’ve already used some form of cloud computing. If you have an e-mail account with a Web-based e-mail service like Hotmail, Yahoo! Mail or Gmail, then you’ve had some experience with cloud computing. Instead of running an e-mail program on your computer, you log in to a Web e-mail account remotely. The software and storage for your account doesn’t exist on your computer — it’s on the service’s computer cloud.
Other typical small business cloud computing programs include:
If your company doesn’t operate its own email server, then your business email is probably handled in the cloud. Both free email services, like Yahoo! Mail and Gmail, and paid-for email services, are cloud-based.
Backup and file sharing
As well as keeping files on your own computer, why not store them in the cloud too? This allows you to access them by logging in from any location with any computer. You can share them online with others, and it keeps your data backed up in a separate place.
Customer relationship management (CRM)
CRM software is a great way to store details of your customers and track when you contact them. Because setting up a CRM system tends to be expensive and time-consuming, it used to be the preserve of big companies with big budgets. However, cloud-based CRM has changed all that, because you don’t have to worry about installing and setting up a whole system yourself. Instead, you just log in to a service on the internet.
Office suite software like Microsoft Office is one of the most commonly-used pieces of business software. However, it is often expensive to buy and can only be used on the computer it’s installed on. With cloud-based office suite software this isn’t a problem anymore. Cloud-based tools give you a capable office suite (including word processing and spreadsheet options) that you can log in to online, from anywhere.
Executive Suites at Lakewood Ranch offers many cloud-based services to our tenants and clients and they are all designed to increase productivity and improve your business. Contact us at 941.373.1400 to learn more.