You’ve likely seen commercials where people reference taking their operations “to the cloud.” But do you really know what cloud computing is? Cloud computing is when users rent or borrow server resources from a provider to store information, instead of installing and storing the software and data directly on their own servers. Essentially, cloud computing takes much of the risk off of the individual and gives it to a third party, who you then trust to provide a software, store your data and support regular operating functions. Just think of Gmail, for example — you can upload important documents and save them in one of your e-mail folders, which is then there for you to access anytime you log into your account. Through Gmail, you can chat with peers and friends. And you’ll rarely, if ever, have to delete anything due to the large data allotments each user is given to work with. You are also able to access your Gmail account from nearly any device that connects to the internet – you don’t need to be logged in to a special device or server in order to check your email.
While a lot of cloud computing has to do with online data storage and safekeeping, the cloud is also becoming reliable for accessing software.
Now that you know a little bit about the cloud, let’s look at some of the advantages and disadvantages of taking business operations “to the cloud”:
Advantages of Cloud Computing
Lower Costs: Cloud computing saves money and that’s arguably the biggest benefit of using the cloud. Rather than purchase software that you already know you’ll regularly have to update as improvements are made, you can rent it from a third-party source and access it via the cloud.
Access Anywhere: The cloud is especially helpful for people travelling on business who may need to use more than one device for daily operations. With the cloud, information and program access can be gained from any device, just so long as it has an internet connection
More Productivity: There was probably a time where you sat on the customer service phone line with an IT tech or software vendor trying to solve a problem you’re having. The cloud eliminates a lot of this “down time,” as maintenance is kept up by the cloud vendor.
Disadvantages of Cloud Computing
Reliability: While the cloud is reliable, you have to make sure that you’re going with the right vendor. In the cloud, control is taken out of your hands and put into someone else’s, so be sure you can work well with the vendor in charge.
Privacy: Perhaps the biggest issue that has to do with cloud computing is privacy and concerns about how secure cloud data really is. That’s another reason to select a reputable vendor. Security lapses can occur anywhere, whether it’s in the cloud or on your own database, so make sure you’re selecting a cloud vendor wisely.
As cloud computing becomes more and more popular, many businesses are moving their IT operations to the cloud. Understanding the cloud – and what it can do for you and your business – are an important first step in increasing the efficiency and effectiveness of business’ IT programs.
Richard Wallace is a business technology consultant who writes a technology column for a variety of online and print publications.