The “Tech Basics for Business” Blog Series
This is the first post in a new blog series in which we’ll cover new trends, technologies and news and why it matters to you and your business. The important thing about this series is that we are not going to assume anything, and we intend to cover technology topics in plain English and from a business point of view so that you can understand the concept and why it matters to you and your company.
What is Cloud Computing?
According to Wikipedia, “Cloud computing is internet-based computing in which large groups of remote servers are networked to allow sharing of data-processing tasks, centralized data storage, and online access to computer services or resources.” Yep, clear as mud for non-techies isn’t it! Definitions like these prompted us to start this blog series. Let’s take another crack at defining cloud computing for the non-techies out there. Cloud computing is essentially a group of servers that are running at one or more data centers which are connected to each other and to the Internet, allowing allow your computer to access the data they are sharing and the services they provide.
Let’s break that definition down. A data center is essentially a big building that houses bunches and bunches of servers and provides the servers with electricity, connectivity, air conditioning and all the other things they need to run. Companies like Google, Microsoft, Amazon, Rackspace and others have many data centers running across the United States and in many areas of the rest of the world. These servers are what provide the foundation of cloud computing. The servers can work together behind the scenes to provide hundreds, thousands or even millions of users access to the files, photos, videos and other media and services they provide.
An Example of Cloud Computing: Dropbox
The best way to illustrate this is to look at a couple of cloud computing services many of us have used. For instance, Dropbox is a very commonly-used online storage service. For those who aren’t familiar with Dropbox or have never used their service, they provide online storage so users can backup and share files from computers, phones, tablets or other Internet-connected devices that can access their website or use one of their apps.
Dropbox has servers running all over the world in their data centers, and these servers have access to the files that users upload to Dropbox servers. Once a file is copied to Dropbox, it is housed on their storage systems and available essentially anytime the user wants it as long as there is an Internet connection and a device which can access the service.
Dropbox uses the cloud to provide its service to millions of customers on a multitude of devices, but users do not need to understand anything about the company’s servers, data centers, or network. This is basic view of how Dropbox cloud computing works. It is seamless and easy-to-use for those who join the service.
Another Example of Cloud Computing: Google Docs
Google Docs is a group of applications created and provided by Google which is very similar to Microsoft Office insofar as it offers spreadsheet, document and presentation applications, each of which runs in a web browser or in a mobile app. The files are stored on Google’s network in another service called Google Drive.
Here’s how it works.
- If you want to create a new document, you can go to Google Docs in your web browser on your laptop, login and then click on the Create button and select Document. An editor then opens which allows you to edit the Document in your browser. There is no need to save the document, as it’s automatically saved whenever you make a change to Google’s storage in the cloud. When you are done, you can close the browser.
- If you want to edit the document later, you can go back to Google Docs website and make your changes.
- If you want to share the document, you can send a link to your friends or work colleagues, and they can view the document.
- If you and one or more other people access the document at the same time, and you have given them privileges to edit the document, you can actually see the changes they are making on your screen in real-time.
This is the power of cloud computing. You are not tied to your computer any more. You are accessing a service which runs in the cloud, and someone else can utilize the same service at the same time, allowing all of you to collaborate in new and powerful ways.
Free Your Files
Cloud computing frees your files, documents, images, videos, services, etc. from your computer and allows for new ways to collaborate by sharing, viewing, editing, commenting and much more. Often times cloud computing also drops the cost of file backup and services that are available outside of the cloud but cost much more than if you used the same service in the cloud.
Another advantage is the massive amounts of computing power the cloud has because of all the servers you never see or the vast amounts of storage on all the drives you don’t know about. There are boundless amounts of computing power, storage and bandwidth which allow your business to do things at a cost basis that is not possible without cloud computing.
Common Cloud Computing Services
Some common cloud computing services that you may consider for your business, if you are not using them already, are backups, website hosting, email, office applications, collaboration, CRM, LMS and many others. Cloud computing allows you to backup vast amounts of files offsite in the cloud at a fraction the cost of many other methods. There are great solutions for cloud-hosted email as well on Google Apps or Microsoft 365 services. Google Docs, Microsoft 365 and Zoho all offer cloud based office applications. Cloud hosted CRM (Customer Relationship Management) applications are available from Salesforce, NetSuite, Oracle, Zoho and a number of others as well.
You name the service, and there is most likely a cloud equivalent for it. This doesn’t always mean they are better than desktop or server software for your company. That depends on a variety of factors, and it is relative to your situation. By engaging a trusted technology consultant who is agnostic in the software vs. cloud service debate, you will likely find many often-used applications and services which may prompt a move to the cloud. These will often result in lower costs, additional features, collaboration, sharing, accessibility and more.
Learn How Able Engine Can Help You Move to the Cloud
If you have questions or would like to know more, contact Luther Andal by email at [email protected] or by phone at 859-272-7135 x5.