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Businesses in The Cloud
Cloud servers explained
Barely a day goes by without some mention of 'The Cloud', and we are not talking about the weather. Almost every new piece of I.T has a connection to 'The Cloud'.
As new models of mobile devices come out and indeed new technology is introduced to the market, we will hear a lot more about the cloud. Smartphones, netbooks, laptops, PDAs are all able to store information in 'The Cloud'.
What is 'the cloud' - The ‘cloud’ of which we speak is not a soft woolly floating mass in the sky but a solid secure and potentially an essential piece of technology for most businesses.
Where is ‘The Cloud’ ?
It is easy to think that some I.T guru has purchased a chunk of freehold in the sky and subletting it to other I.T support companies for use with their clients.
The cloud is a term used in relation to storing and accessing data and programs over the Internet as opposed to on your own computer's hard drive.
The cloud is still, and always will be the Internet but not too long ago when the ‘information super-highway’ was explained in flowcharts and presentations it was represented as fluffy, white clouds, constantly accepting connections delivering information as it floats in the ether.
The other term often used is ‘cloud computing’ and means NOT using your own computer’s hard drive. Let’s call your own computer’s hard drive ‘local storage’.
When you store any data or indeed run programs from your hard drive, you are dependent upon local storage and computing. All the programmes, documents, emails etc that you need are physically on your PC, Laptop, Netbook or even Smartphone, and this means that to access any of your data you need to use that one computer, or others that are on a local network that you may have set-up.
Cloud Computing Explained
No Hard Drive Required?
Apart from not needing to store data on your local drive, you don’t even need a dedicated hardware server in your business premises.
Cloud computing enables you to access any of your data, programs or email over the Internet.
Netbooks are designed with little or no hard drive - well nothing worth a mention anyway because they are geared towards use on the internet, hence the name 'net' book.
They are cheap because they don't need massive hard drives, not expensive fans to cool the hard drives. They are silent too for the reasons just mentioned.
Some come with a cloud package that you just need to subscribe to.
Anywhere - Anytime!
Cloud computing can be done from anywhere, at anytime.
No need to worry about buying laptops with terabytes upon terabytes. The solution is Cloud Storage.
One Man Bands to Corporate Giants
If you work from home or you are in small-to-medium size offices using the Internet on a regular basis, you would have a different demand on the cloud than say a large corporation with satellite branches and travelling sales staff throughout the world – but the principle is pretty much the same.
A good example of a mobile device that is totally cloud-centric is the Samsung Chromebook Series 3, a very low cost laptop that has sufficient local storage and power to enable it to run Google Chrome. Once it is open everything you do is done online: all your apps, media, and storage are all there in the cloud.
What happens if you are somewhere without an internet connection? When you need to access your data you will need to find a hot spot but look no further than McDonalds, Starbucks and even a local pub offering free WiFi.
A sales driven businesses may operate from Software-as-a-Service (SaaS), subscribing to an app that is it accessible over the Internet. A good example would be Salesforce.com.
The bigger picture Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS), where a company has bespoke apps used by the entire workforce within that one company as opposed to shared by others.
The peak of these systems is a monster type Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS), to be in this league you would be Amazon, Google, Rackspace etc and provide a massive backbone that is rented by anyone who wants to store data – these are often pay per usage.
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Examples Of Cloud Users
Cloud shows up on many things nowadays. Smartphones and tablets often provide free cloud storage and a good example is MicrosoftOffice365 using SkyDrive. Then we have Google Drive for Gmail, Google Calendar, Google Reader, Google Voice, etc.
Apple's iCloud is used for online storage and synchronization of email, contacts, calendar,
Amazon Cloud Storage tends to be used mainly for music purchased from Amazon.
Dropbox is a cloud based service where organisations files online but sync to files on local storage. A club for example may provide templates for forms in Word format, so you would need to have Word installed or subscribe to MicrosoftOffice365.
Totality Services SharePoint
Automating A Business Operation Online
In summary ‘Cloud’ is a virtual server giving you access to all the bespoke systems, software, databases, files and emails that you would normally access via the usual space and power eating physical server. The big difference is that everything your business needs to operate effectively and efficiently is actually stored securely online, accessed via the internet without stress on your computer.
Authorised personnel can access emails, documents and software from home or on the road via an internet connection.
An example of cloud computing is branded SharePoint from Totality Services, a London based IT Support provider.
It is best described as an online tool for securely storing and sharing documents and data. SharePoint enables you to automate your business operation, this could entail scheduling meetings, courses, events and even pooling ideas. Editing documents is as simple as if it was on a local drive and changes are saved in real time.
Staff can create their own project control panel so that all the elements of a task such as documents, calendar, plans, instructions, memos etc can be developed, stored, viewed and even actioned from anywhere in the world but all in one place.
The biggest concern for most potential cloud users is that of security and indeed fear of being hacked, corporate information theft and a whole host (pun intended) of scary things.
Due diligence is the key, call the virtual server provider and ask for details of their security protection. It is highly unlikely that they will tell you too much about their high end security but they will be more than happy to discuss the protection they offer to protect you and your data.
Online security is an ongoing issue and no professional virtual server provider will sit on their laurels in the belief that all is well in their virtual world.
Hackers being hackers are tenacious, they see top quality security as a challenge, this is why big banks and institutions like the White House are targeted.
Attempts are sniffed out, instantly alerting counter hacking management protocols to kick in and these incidents then create the need for new more robust security measures.
Some server companies even deploy the skills of reformed hackers and invite them to break-in or at least pin-point vulnerable areas.
Any virtual server host will be more than happy to discuss security.