What is Cloud Computing?

Cloud computing is rapidly changing the way we access software and hardware, with entire companies moving to cloud-based systems in order to reduce costs and improve their efficiency in data storage and access. But what exactly is cloud computing? This article will give you an overview of what cloud computing is and how it works, helping you decide if this new technology could help your business or if it’s just another fad that won’t stick around for long.

Understanding Cloud Computing
Just as it sounds, cloud computing means processing and data storage are done offsite. You don’t have to buy any software; you just need an Internet connection to use a company’s pre-existing system. Cloud computing can save companies money on hardware because they don’t have to purchase and maintain their own servers, but there are many potential security concerns. Before deciding if cloud computing is right for your business, do your research. Read up on what businesses like yours are doing with cloud computing or ask trusted business partners how their experience with the technology has been. Remember that while cloud computing may be convenient, it doesn’t mean that you won’t have to make some sacrifices. For example, if you work in an industry where uptime is crucial (such as hospitals), using a service that isn’t guaranteed to be available at all times could put your clients at risk. If you decide cloud computing isn’t right for your business, consider other ways of saving money on infrastructure without sacrificing reliability.

Businessman holding mobile phone which on the top of phone has upload and download cloud space computer.Technology and data information transfer concept.

The Current State of Cloud Computing
The cloud has changed technology as we know it, and all signs point to it only being more ubiquitous in our everyday lives. So what is cloud computing exactly? As you might have guessed, cloud computing refers to harnessing data in online servers through software as a service (SaaS), platform as a service (PaaS), or infrastructure as a service (IaaS). Additionally, storing data on remote servers gives companies access to systems and information from just about anywhere. In fact, according to Cisco’s Visual Networking Index Global Forecast for 2014-2018, global IP traffic will increase by a compound annual growth rate of 32 percent between 2013 and 2018. The report also predicts that video will be responsible for 80 percent of consumer Internet traffic by 2018—up from 64 percent in 2013. That means that if your business doesn’t already use cloud services, it soon will! This year alone, Gartner predicts that 10 percent of businesses will adopt some form of public cloud services. If your company isn’t among them, it should be soon!

How Will Cloud Computing Change in the Future?
With cloud computing, many of us are skeptical to trust our data with a company and its resources. While having control over where you store your own data may seem convenient, it may not be as safe as many companies promise. With cloud computing in place, there are more options for storing your files in different places with different amounts of security and protection. For instance, if something were to happen to one company’s servers where all their customers’ information was stored, another company would automatically back up their information so that you can access it when needed. Although most of us feel that we have no need for backup services (because nothing will ever happen to our laptops or phones), something could always go wrong at any time—and backing up your files is just a precautionary measure against possible loss.

Major Cloud Providers
The big four cloud computing providers include Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure, Google Cloud Platform and IBM SoftLayer. These services are part of what’s known as IaaS (Infrastructure as a Service), or cloud infrastructure. With an IaaS solution, companies can lease servers on demand to host their applications, so IT departments don’t have to keep large equipment in-house. Most major web hosts provide IaaS. The other big category of cloud computing is PaaS (Platform as a Service), which offers more tools and frameworks for developing apps quickly and easily. Popular PaaS providers include Heroku and Salesforce’s App Cloud. AWS also has its own version of PaaS: Elastic Beanstalk. Other kinds of cloud computing fall under SaaS (Software as a Service). In SaaS, users access software through a web browser instead of installing it on their computer. The most common example is email: Gmail, Outlook and Yahoo Mail all offer online email accounts rather than desktop software that you install locally. Other examples include document storage (Google Drive) and word processing/spreadsheets (Google Docs).

Steps to Creating an Effective Cloud Strategy
If you’re just getting started with cloud computing, it can be difficult to decide where to begin. There are so many different platforms, costs and risks associated with cloud computing that it can be overwhelming. But by understanding a few key factors about your company, business goals and spending requirements, you’ll have a good foundation for developing an effective cloud strategy that doesn’t break your budget. Here are some questions to ask yourself when determining how to use cloud services:
How much do I want my IT department involved in managing my data center?
Do I want my data stored in-house or off-site? How do I know if public or private clouds will work best for me? What security measures should I take into account when implementing a cloud strategy? Do I need help from third parties when selecting a provider or migrating my data? Will any of these providers be able to scale up as my business grows (or shrinks)? How can I make sure that I’m not paying more than necessary for these services down the road?

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