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The Cloud—What is it & How can it help you?

Everyone is talking about ‘The Cloud’ or ‘Cloud Computing’. Basically, Cloud Computing is the movement from site-specific data storage to storage that is held in the Cloud of the internet. Instead of your personal or business data being stored on your computer or computer network, it is moved to a shared resource accessible via the internet and not tied to your own resources.

The old model of sending your information back and forth from your computer server to another is replaced by centralized storage by a provider such as Google, Apple or Microsoft (or the many smaller or more specialized service providers) which is accessible by you or your partners wherever you have internet access.

The obvious benefits are:

1. Savings on the cost of owning and maintaining computer servers

2. Reduced risk of data loss due to local emergencies

3. The ability to use a wider range of devices such as smartphones that don’t have large memory resources

4. Access to your data no longer requires you to have access to your company’s network or personal computer

5. Shared programs will save on software purchases with more and more applications being designed for a cloud-based future

There are other factors to keep in mind, however:

1. Be sure you are working with a trusted provider. In all cases, your reputation, your business and your financial well-being is tied up with your company’s information. Make sure that there are controls to allow for only secure access to your data; protecting it from all unauthorized access.

2. Make sure there is redundant storage so that if there is a catastrophic data loss at one location that there is a backup of all files.

3. Ensure that if the company you choose to work with has a continuity of operations plan if they decide to no longer provide the services you have contracted for.

4. Don’t neglect backup routines for the data not stored in the cloud. You will still need to budget for maintenance of your IT resources.

5. Cloud-based software may not be as robust as the full-blown software suites.

Many of us already have been living in the clouds with our internet based email accounts or photo sharing sites for years. The Cloud is no longer science fiction—it is rapidly becoming the new model.

Are you using cloud-services? If so which ones, share them in the comments!