A couple of clients … and my mum … have asked me what is “cloud computing”, or “the cloud” – and when the penny drops after a simple explanation, you realise how complex & scary simple concepts can sound!
So, what IS “cloud computing” ?
Basically “the cloud” is just the internet! So if you remind yourself it’s really just “internet computing”, where you are running programs on the internet rather than on your computer, it might feel a lot easier to grasp.
To use one of these services, you will usually have to sign up to an account on a website, and in some cases download an application (e.g. Dropbox) to make things work even more effectively.
What are the benefits?
- Number one has to be FLEXIBILITY! You can access your stuff anywhere, from almost any internet-enabled device (laptop, smart phone, desktop). This makes remote working and growing your business quite simple.
And you buy what you need, and upgrade if you need more.
One example is having your email available online all the time (for example, with GMail, Yahoo, Hotmail etc.) rather than being tied to a single computer.
- Cost – you can do a lot more with your information for a lot less, as many of the basic services are free. And upgrading to premium services is usually pretty cost effective too, especially for small businesses.
It can also mean, especially for smaller businesses, that you don’t have the expense of expensive IT equipment just to get started, and you are only paying for what you use. And monthly subscriptions smooth out your cashflow too.
- Security – you can store your information online in an encrypted format, and it can only be accessed by logging in with a user name (or email) and a password. And your data is backed up by someone else – fewer headaches!
(Caveat : too often, people use the same password across multiple sites, so if one site gets hacked, your whole life could be exposed – so follow my useful tips to make your passwords harder to guess.)
What are the possible downsides?
- Do make sure that you choose a reputable provider for whatever service you are purchasing – they will have access to very personal data and you want to know it’s looked after, backed up and most of all safe!
- You need to take responsibility to ensure you understand the fine print of the terms and conditions, so that there are no problems if you choose to move your data to another provider. You need to remain the legal owner of your content, and be able to migrate it when you choose.
- If you don’t have a fast internet connection, it could be a bit slow with file uploads & downloads.
Many businesses can use applications “out of the box”, whereas other businesses might choose to have applications developed to integrate with other services – it really depends on your business needs. But whatever you do, do check some of the services out so you can make informed decisions!
Examples of cloud services I use:
What if you could collect, in one well-organized, searchable, private digital repository, all the notes you create, clips from Web pages and emails you want to recall, dictated audio memos, photos, key documents, and more? And what if that repository was constantly synchronized, so it was accessible through a Web browser and through apps on your various computers and smart phones? Well, such a service exists. And it’s basic level is free. It’s called Evernote. (Source: Walter Mossberg, allthingsd)
Dropbox (free to $19.99 per month) is the simplest, most elegant file-synchronization tool we’ve ever used. The premise behind Dropbox is it gives you access to your files no matter what computer or device you have at hand. The service stores files with strong encryption on multiple servers and lets you get at your files quickly, easily, and for the most part elegantly from virtually any Internet-enabled device. Dropbox is both a downloadable product, with a version for every major operating system—Windows, Mac, Linux, iOS, Android, BlackBerry—and every user also gets a Web account with file access, too, just in case you’re on a computer that doesn’t have Dropbox installed. Dropbox works equally smoothly on Windows, Mac, Linux, as well as mobile devices. (Source : PCMag.com)
Google’s email offering, GMail, gives you access to your emails any time, any where, as long as you have an internet connection. There are a lot of other webmail providers (Hotmail, Yahoo etc.) but if you take into account all the other free Google Apps you get with a Google account, it becomes a compelling case for Gmail.
TeuxDeux (pronounced “To Do”!) :
There are many online “To Do list” applications, but I really like the simplicity of TeuxDeux. And it automatically rolls over unfinished tasks, so no excuse, you can’t forget!
(Now I just have to remember to actually check TeuxDeux daily!!)
And a few others: Flickr for online photo sharing; Google Docs for MS Office-style documents you want to store online & share with others; and Spotify for music playlists…. and there are MANY more!!
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Wishing you success…