You’ve likely seen the word “cloud” mentioned online or in a television advertisement. It’s also likely you did not heard the term from a weatherman discussing the latest storm heading your way. Instead, it was probably mentioned by a tech-related business touting their latest method of sharing or storing information. If you don’t know what cloud computing is or how it works, it might be time to explore more. Perhaps you can also determine if you could benefit from this type of service, whether from a professional standpoint or a personal one.
What is cloud computing and how does it work?
According to the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), cloud computing is a model designed to allow on-demand access to a shared pool of computing resources. This can take many forms, and is used by both businesses and individuals in their homes. The NIST further discusses the makeup of the cloud. For instance, it consists of five characteristics:
- Broad Network Access.
- On-Demand Self-Service.
- Rapid Elasticity.
- Resource Pooling.
- Measured Service.
It also fits under one of three service models: Software as a Service, Platform as a Service and Infrastructure as a Service. Each service model provides different advantages to users that must be explored to ensure the right choice. In addition, cloud computing is further categorized by one of five delivery methods: community cloud, private cloud, hybrid cloud or public cloud.
What does this all really mean?
You may still be wondering what this all really means. Before the era of cloud computing, individuals stored all of their files on their personal computers or external hard drives. This was the only method available to avoid losing files. Businesses were much the same way. They could either store important business files on worker computers, or they could invest in a server for their business to ensure every employee had access to the files they needed. With the birth of cloud computing, it has now become less important for businesses and homeowners to invest more money into these onsite storage options. The cloud opens up new options.
Instead of storing personal or business files on a home computer or even a business server, the cloud provides storage options located elsewhere. While this trend started out with just a few providers, making it difficult to find good services, it has now grown to a point where just about anyone can use storage on the cloud. In fact, many people are already using some form of cloud storage without even realizing it. For instance, if you use a website to store all of your photos online, you are essential using cloud computing for your personal needs.
What Is Cloud Computing Used For?
Cloud computing can provide a long list of benefits to those who take the time to understand and use it. While it isn’t difficult to use, it can require a lot of research to determine if it’s the right option for you, whether you are looking for a solution to your personal data storage, such as photos and videos, or you need something to help with your business. Both are valid uses for the cloud, but they are quite different in terms of purpose and usage.
Cloud Computing for Home
This method of storing information is done on a much smaller scale when used at home. Most people don’t purchase space on a dedicated server to store their family photos, copies of tax returns and other important documents. However, they still use the cloud just the same. Anyone who stores their music, photos, videos and other documents to a website online is making use of cloud storage options. Some of these require a subscription payment. Others are free services. Free services often place a limit on the amount of storage space provided, while paid versions allow unlimited space or have higher limits. This can be an effective way to backup files and make sure everything is safe if your computer crashes due to a virus or otherwise.
Cloud Computing for Business
Cloud computing for business is typically more complex. For starters, businesses often work with companies designed specifically for this purpose. They operate a large number of services divided between their customers. Every business purchases a package that includes a specific amount of storage space. They can then store business files, customer information, inventory logs, software and more. In some cases, cloud computing companies may also offer software through these shared services so businesses don’t have to purchase it on their own. This can also save the company money. In addition, every employee with access to the cloud is able to make use of the company files anytime they need something, even when they are at home or away on a business trip.
The Benefits of a Computer Cloud
There are many benefits to choosing a cloud-based server over using one of your own, whether you need personal storage or storage space for your business. Understanding these benefits will make your decision even easier. Some of the most compelling advantages of this solution include:
- Scalability. One of the goals of most businesses is to continue to grow and expand. This can cause difficulty when companies are using their own servers. However, when using a cloud-based solution, they can quickly expand their space without making a large investment in a new server.
- Energy Efficiency. Saving money on energy bills isn’t something only homeowners want to do. Businesses also enjoy reducing their bills so they can improve their bottom line. Because cloud servers are off-site, it will reduce the amount of electricity a business uses locally.
- Universal Access. Today’s employees often enjoy working from home, or occasionally need to travel for business. In these situations, it’s important to access the same files they would at the office. The cloud grants them that access so they can work from virtually anywhere as long as you have an Internet connection.
- Cost Savings. In addition to saving money on utility bills, businesses can avoid the major expense of purchasing their own server. Another cost savings comes in the ability to reduce or eliminate an onsite IT staff. All these issues can be handled by the cloud computing provider.
- Disaster Recovery. Every business should have a disaster recovery plan. Storing electronic data off-site makes it easier to access files after a disaster and minimizes the amount of lost data. This is also useful for home computing.
- Faster Deployment. If you’ve ever launched a new software solution, particularly larger businesses, you understand the logistical nightmare of installing the same software on every machine. With software on the cloud, it is automatically deployed on every computer at once.
- Lower Cost of Ownership. Over time, cloud computing can save businesses a lot of money. The investment made in renting storage space helps keep operation costs low over the long-term.
One of the biggest issues raised when it comes to cloud computing is how secure the data is. After all, recent years have seen a lot of major corporations falling victim to security breaches. If these large companies can become victims of hackers, can’t the cloud as well? Just like every other transmission of data, there are risks. This is why it’s so important to do your research and choose a company with good reviews and a solid track record of security. You need to find a cloud computing provider that offers:
- Secure data transfer.
- Permissions settings for users.
- Secure storage.
- Data separation.
It’s important for cloud providers to keep their security software and procedures up-to-date and to educate their customers on the importance of data safety. For the most part, cloud companies have taken the right precautions to keep data safe. With hard work, this trend should continue. It’s also important to ensure your anti-virus and security software is current as well.
Once you know what cloud computing is, you can make an informed decision whether it suits needs. It is becoming a popular method of storing business information and completing business procedures, but it is also a useful tool for the average computer user. Today, the cloud is just about everywhere, helping people store and access data from any computer in the world with an Internet connection. Who knew the world was so small?