Cloud computing

Is your head (and your data) in the clouds?

Chances are, you’re already using cloud computing without knowing it.

Do you use Gmail, Hotmail or one of the other web mail services available? Maybe you make use of Google Calendar to keep track of appointments or events. Even if you don’t, chances are you have Facebook profile which you or your friends use to share news and photos.

All of these services live ‘in the cloud

Cloud Computing – definition

A service which you connect to online; generally one where you store information or data which can then be accessed from anywhere you have an internet connection.

Rather than your data and information being stored on your computer’s hard drive, it is instead held on the service’s network of computers.

Cloud computing – the benefits

The main benefit of cloud computing has already been mentioned: you are able to access a service in the cloud from anywhere you have an internet connection.

You will have a password and user id for any cloud-based service – with that, you can connect to it from your computer at home, at work, in an internet cafe or – increasingly – from an application or browser on your smartphone.

So, rather than have to carry about expensive laptops or storage devices for your data; or wait until you get home before you are able to work on something: cloud computing services let you access your information on the move.

Another benefit is the ease with which information in the cloud can be shared with others. Although your information is protected by your password, most services allow you to easily share individual bits of information with others – or, as with Google Apps – actually work on things like documents or spreadhsheets at the same time.

So, no more unwieldy attachments cluttering up your inbox – with cloud-based services, you can just send a link to someone you want to share a file with and they’ll be able to access it.

Cloud computing

Cloud Computing for your business

As a small business, cloud computing can help provice you with cost-efficient and convenient solutions for a number of needs:

  • Storage: services like Dropbox and Evernote allow you to keep files and notes on their services, freeing you from the need to store them on your own computer. Sites like Flickr and Picasa are dedicated photo sharing sites, which you can also use as cloud-based storage solutions for photographs and images
  • Collaborating: Google Apps, Google Calendar and other services allow you to share diary appointments, documents and discussions with your clients, suppliers or colleagues. Previously, expensive and cumbersome desktop tools were the only alternative – now you can do these things quickly and cheaply (often for free) using cloud computing
  • Sharing: As mentioned, information you have stored in the cloud is easily and securely able to be shared with people you give access to.

Cloud Computing: things to consider

Although cloud-based services have been around for some time and are mature, there are some things you should still bear in mind before using them:

  • Security and privacy: With cloud-based services, your information is stored on someone else’s network, such as Google. Although these companies take great pains to ensure your data is secure and private, some may use the information to target adverts or other services to you. And you probably shouldn’t store confidential client information in the cloud, certainly not without asking first.
  • Availability: Cloud computing is fantastic, when you have an internet connection. But what happens if you’re somewhere where you can’t get online; or if your internet connection is lost; or if the service you’re using goes down for a period of time? It’s a good idea to have anything important to you backed up on your own computer just in case.

Cloud computing

See you in the clouds

So, armed with that information, why not consider using a cloud computing service the next time you want to store or share information.

Be aware of the things to remember above and keep your feet on the ground, but why not consider putting your head – and your information – in the clouds!

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