Understanding the Cloud

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These days most of our tasks are taking place in the cloud, and often, we really aren’t even sure what that means. Broken down to it’s most basic form, essentially the cloud is the internet. Network diagrams always showed the internet as a cloud, and thus the name “cloud” started getting used.  As we were able to see from the Amazon Web Services crash a couple of weeks ago, just because something lives in “the cloud” does not make it safe from all mishaps.  For a company, there are several uses for the cloud, and it’s important to understand what they all do.

Computing – When a company is just starting out, or maybe it’s time for an upgrade to everyone’s computers, a great way to save some money on hardware is using cloud based computers. It’s also a great way to standardize applications across a company.  A cloud based computer is a large computer, or server, with an operating system employees login to. It acts as their desktop so the actual hardware they need to login from can be very minimal, since the real work is being done by the server. The real benefit with this setup, though, is that it allows employees to work from anywhere, and it will be just like they are sitting at their desk in the office, as long as they have an internet connection.

Documents – Services like Microsoft’s OneDrive, Dropbox and Google Drive will all store a certain amount of files for free, but for business class storage, there would be fees associated with the service.  Using a service to store your company files does have several benefits. First, the files are automatically backed up so you aren’t going to be worried about server hardware failure. Sharing files and collaboration with people inside and outside of your company is a lot easier using a cloud based platform. Much like the cloud based computer, members of your team can also access the files from anywhere with an internet connection.

Software – Cloud based applications can make many business processes seamless. There are several cloud based CRM programs, that even have apps so your leads and customer information can be truly mobile. Remote employees can track time through cloud based software programs. Task management for your entire team can live in cloud for collaboration that increases productivity. Emails can be accessed through cloud based software. These are only a few of the many applications and programs you can use from anywhere you have an internet connection.

The obvious problem with many of these cloud based solutions is the one thing they all need, and that is an internet connection. If the internet goes down at your company, your entire day could suffer serious productivity loss. Your managed it support provider can work with you to create a redundant system to prevent down time due to internet loss.  Another concern with the ability to access these systems from anywhere, is security. Each system will have it’s own encryption policies, but most would definitely be compliant with security standards. You just need to make sure all employees have secure passwords, and follow proper security protocol (like not saving usernames and passwords on public computers, using multi-factor authentication, etc) which should be outlined in company documentation.