Talk of “the cloud” is everywhere nowadays, but what is it, why is it important, and how can you benefit from it?
At its most basic level, cloud computing is storing your data on the internet, rather than locally on your computer or hard drive.
You may already be using the cloud without realizing it, by using a service like Google Drive, Dropbox, OneDrive, or Apple iCloud to store photos, files, documents, and music.
There’s a high chance that all of your emails are also already in the cloud. Many of the most popular email servers are cloud-based, including Gmail, Yahoo, and Outlook, just to name a few. In fact, unless you have an email server in your office, your email is probably in the cloud.
"When you update your Facebook status, you’re using cloud computing. Checking your bank balance on your phone? You’re in the cloud again. Chances are you rely on cloud computing to solve the challenges faced by small businesses, whether you’re firing off emails on the move or using a bunch of apps to help you manage your workload.”
Here are some advantages of using cloud computing over storing all your information locally.
If you save all your data locally on your own hard drive, there’s the initial purchase costs and maintenance costs, plus the cost of hiring an IT person when something goes wrong. When your data is stored in the cloud, none of those costs exist. That’s not to say that storing your data in the cloud is always free, but Google Drive, for example, offers 15GB of storage space at no cost, and you can upgrade to 1TB of space for just $10 per month.
Flexible storage space
When you store your data locally, you need to be aware of the amount of storage space you have so you don’t try to store more data than you have room for. If you don’t have enough or have too much space to begin with, it can be difficult and expensive to scale up or down depending on the amount you need. As mentioned above, storing your data in the cloud makes it easy to upgrade to more storage space if you need it, and remove some if you don’t.
Because it’s stored on the cloud and not on your local hardware or a filing cabinet, you can access your information from your phone, tablet, laptop, or desktop computer. It’s easy to stay organized and get your data when you need to, from whatever device you have available. You aren’t tethered to your home network or out of luck because you forgot those paper documents at home or at the office.
Security and Disaster Recovery
Storing data in the cloud may seem less secure than using your own server, but cloud services stay up to date with the latest and most reliable hardware, to make sure your information is safe. It’s easily accessible to you, and many services, like Google, use encryption to make sure your data doesn’t end up in the wrong hands. You also don’t run the risk of losing your information because of physical disasters, like a flood or theft, that you may face if you stored your information in paper form or locally on a personal hard drive.
Less work for you
If you stored your own data, you’d want to make sure that all components of your computer (hardware and software) were up to date. You’d want to have back ups in case of emergencies. You’d need to know what to do if something went wrong. Cloud service platforms, like Amazon Web Services, are constantly maintaining and updating their hardware and servers so you don’t have to.
Larger data centers often have the ability to focus more on sustainability and the resources available to use energy-saving equipment, which would be difficult to do in a home or small office environment. Many cloud services like Microsoft work hard to provide cloud storage, while also reducing carbon emissions and conserving energy.
As with most things, there are some risks related to storing your data in the cloud, however, the advantages far outweigh the time, money, and energy you’d spend setting up and maintaining your own “personal cloud” or keeping hard copies of all your information.