“The Cloud,” or slightly more technically, “Cloud Computing” has made the honorable transition from hot buzzword to fact of life over the last decade or so. However, despite being widely misunderstood (which we will presume to remedy here in a moment), the cloud is not at all a new concept. Or rather, even when it was the hot new thing, it had still existed as a concept for a while.
As alluded to, I am going to offer a simple explanation for exactly what the cloud is, and more importantly I’m going to explain why it is extremely important to your business. In fact, whether you’re aware of it or not, you have already been reaping the benefits of the cloud for years. Prove it, you say? Ever tried email? If not, you should. It’s neat.
1s and 0s in the Sky??
So why do I say the cloud is often misunderstood? Well, the term itself is inherently misleading. “Cloud” suggests your data is floating in the air, magically in puffy white clumps, and could potentially rain on you. But in fact, data “in the cloud” is actually very much based on the ground. But it is retrievable 24/7. You see, various internet services such as email, networking applications, storage databases, and many others store data on their own servers. Technically, the cloud refers to any data storage not kept locally on your own machine(s). And as a business owner, this benefits you wildly.
A Word About Redundancy
Chances are, you have at some point in your life/career experienced some sort of incident that involved backing up your data. It may have ended with you patting yourself on the back for having done it, or attempting to kick yourself in the back for not having done it. The point is, your data being stored within the servers of an online service gives you something of an automatic backup. And many services exist purely to be a deliberate method of backing up data.
These services go to great lengths to make sure they, themselves, are redundant (meaning if x part of the service goes down, y and z parts of the service stay up). It is a native feature to approximately 100% of their respective architectures. This means the cloud allows, or in some cases requires, your data to not only be backed up, but to have the back ups backed up.
If your back up incident story was of the ‘and as quickly as it was there it was gone’ variety, the value of this redundancy-by-default situation should be immediately clear.
Another fantastic benefit to your business provided by cloud computing is a relatively modern one. Namely that your data is available to you remotely, virtually anywhere you may go. When paper filing systems ruled the day, you might have been tethered to a single room to have access to your business’s data. Now you don’t even need to be in the same country.
The cloud truly allows you and your colleagues to conduct business on the go, wherever you may be. Admittedly I don’t know what kind of wireless reception one might get atop Mount Everest or from the inside of a barrel tumbling over Niagara Falls, but you can see it takes a little creativity in this day and age to dream up a scenario where everything you need isn’t remotely accessible, quite literally, in the palm of your hand.
Can You Hear Me Now?
The cloud benefits your business in some indirect ways as well. By this I mean it is not simply your hard data that takes advantage of the digital revolution. Communication too has evolved exponentially as a result of the way cloud computing has reshaped the business world. I could simply say, “email” and consider my point proven, but in fact Voice over IP (VoIP) phone calling, instant messaging services, and bulletin board forum style communication structures too are complete windfalls for your business, no matter what its size. And all of these communication channels (and many others) take place ‘in the cloud.’
The ability to contact, and be contacted by, coworkers, clients, prospective clients, and partners so quickly and easily opens up more doors than an ambitious locksmith. It’s not an accident that companies with policies encouraging open and smooth communication tend to succeed. And cloud computing makes it almost require hard work not to be communicative.
Nowhere and Everywhere
My goal here was less to provide an exhaustive list of the way cloud computing benefits you and your business, but more to clarify what this so called “cloud” really is exactly. And from that understanding, the ways in which your business can ascend to the next NEXT level as a result should start to become more and more apparent.
Our technology initiatives take advantage of cloud computing in the same way a fish might take advantage of water. It’s embedded in the fabric of what we do, and the most exciting thing for us is developing the most efficient and innovative ways to use the cloud as a means to an end, as opposed to the end itself.
And you too, armed with your deeper understanding of the cloud, can begin to imagine with crystal clarity, just what your business’s next stage of evolution could be.