For the past several years, terms like “cloud computing,” “working in the cloud” “cloud services” started popping up in blogs, white papers and business meetings. A seemingly vague term, cloud computing can do certain things for business owners, but it also gets misrepresented as something it is not. Learn about what the cloud is and how it can possibly benefit your business.
What “The Cloud” Is
The cloud offers a secure place where multiple servers support a variety of applications and data. Users can access this data via computer, netbook, phone or other device that supports an internet connection. The beauty of the cloud, especially for business owners is the ability to access the information anywhere, at any time. Since the information is based on a remote server, any information placed in that server can be accessible to anyone you allow into your network. Within cloud computing, a couple of distinctions have been made to offer users various services.
Software as a Service – also known as SaaS. This type of cloud computing offers licensing for software applications on a remote server. Programs do not need to be loaded to an individual network; with the right access, all members of a business or company can access a single, licensed product on another server.
Programs as a Service – also known as PaaS. A provider offers an environment or base for a business or company to build a platform of commonly used applications. A few popular Paas applications include:
- Google Apps for Business (http://www.google.com/apps/intl/en/business/index.html)
- Sales Force (http://www.salesforce.com/)
- Basecamp (http://basecamphq.com/)
Using Paas, Saas or other cloud computing services can make everyday business functions and collaboration easier and faster.
What the Cloud is Not
Going online and posting your video on YouTube is not cloud computing. Stacey Higginbotham describes in her article “CNN Explains the Cloud… Badly” that storing data in the cloud is not the same as storing it online. Cloud computing essentially is providing processing power on demand. Web-based companies like Amazon.com or Google.com offer their services and then charge a fee for each time that service or platform is accessed.
How Can the Cloud Help Your Business
There are several ways your business can benefit from using cloud computing. The benefits include:
- The cloud can save business space, literally. Cut down on the amount of desktops and software programs and operate your business through laptops and other smaller devices and store the big programs on a remote network.
- It can save your business time. Do you operate on a teamwork environment in your small business? Saving documents, emails and other communication in the cloud, allows every employee to access and see information instantly.
- It will save you money. Keep your money focused on paying off your business credit cards and other debts and forget about buying expensive software applications that become obsolete every few years.
Top 5 Sources to Learn More About the Cloud
The cloud can be a confusing tool for the regular business owner. The best way to get a better understanding of details of cloud technology is to learn more about it. Check out these resources to see if the cloud can benefit your business.
1. “Cloud Computing: A Practical Approach” by Toby Velte, et al.
This is the quintessential bible of cloud computing. If you want to examine the pros and cons of cloud computing and whether or not it works better than a traditional infrastructure, this is the book to do it.
2. Educause http://www.educause.edu/Cloud101
This site offers a number of resources and articles defining the more complex offerings of cloud services. Here you will learn the definitions and benefits of public versus private clouds, infrastructure as a service (IaaS) and other essential cloud computing models and services.
3. InfoWorld (http://www.infoworld.com/)
Want to learn the technicals about cloud computing? Check out InfoWorld’s whitepaper resource library on the topic. In addition to the specifics on how the cloud can increase the performance of a business, a number of articles discussing the pros and cons of this new technology are also available for perusal.
4. OpenStack Cloud Software http://www.openstack.org/ (open source)
If your business doesn’t have the funds to go cutting-edge, consider using open source software to build your own platform for free. OpenStack offers a veritable ecosystem of cloud services which runs on Apache 2.0.
5. Windows Azure http://www.microsoft.com/windowsazure/
Microsoft offers a number of services within its cloud offerings including storage, virtual machines, a marketplace for applications and a secure network for access control. While its tutorials, case studies and articles are targeted specifically for Microsoft’s cloud, it still answers many questions on the general idea of operating a business in the cloud.
Soak it up. The best way to find out if a new technology will work well with your business is to read and ask questions. Do your own research to find out if the cloud will help you cut down on costs in the long run.
Jamie Scott is a social media advocate for CreditDonkey, a business credit card offers website. She says, don’t be afraid of new technology, but be cautious to make sure it will help and not harm your company.