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Every cloud has a silver lining...or at least a vast amount of room to store information with access from all computing points possible. However, just like the traditional clouds, we often fear what they might bring.
“Cloud Computing” has existed for many years, but has gained popularity over the last few years due to the higher reliability of file retrieval and services, instant program updates, less potential for harmful viruses and mobility of workspace.
Businesses have been able to benefit from the features that the “cloud” has to offer. According to research by North Bridge Venture Partners and GigaOM, 75 percent of businesses are utilizing cloud computing to increase efficiency within their organization.
Cloud computing is the process of accessing programs and storing data via the Internet. The applications used and the data stored is saved on a server that is externally located from the computer being used. The programs, files and information must be retrieved online rather than from the hard drive of the computer.
There are four main segments of cloud computing. Data storage is the simplest and most basic form of cloud computing. Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) and Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) are more in-depth and advanced offerings that are usually used by programmers and application developers.
Common users are more familiar with Software-as-a-Service (SaaS). With SaaS, it is typical for users to create accounts that allow them to become part of a user group like: Facebook, Google Drive, MS Office 365, Skype and Dropbox.
Many of these services are offered free to the user, while some require the user subscribe to an application over the Internet and pay a fee. Amounts can be based on usage; or a subscription fee in order to access the service.
The concept and practice of cloud computing does not come without potentially harmful aspects. Many argue the risk of security breaches and information leaks due to hackers and phishing schemes is increased.
Although that may be true, precautions can be taken. By selecting companies that have very high security ratings and are protecting the information of similar companies, your data is more likely to remain secure.
Users should do their homework and make sure they are dealing with a reputable provider who has not had security issues in the past.
There is also potential for systems to crash, in which case, workflow could be delayed or production could be lost. However, this is a risk on a local computing system as well. Companies conducting online business or storing secure information in the could should look into purchasing cyber insurance.
The need for a reliable connection to the Internet will also be something users must have in order to work from mobile locations. Some experts argue that we are creating a forum for intellectual property to become compromised by using cloud computing, as many providers are not clear on the ownership of material that is created, uploaded and stored through the cloud. Be sure to read and evaluate the provider’s policy on IP ownership.
Whether you are using Quickbooks online for accounting, BaseCamp for project management or MediaFire for data storage, the productivity and efficiency that can be increased by using cloud computing is limitless. If you are considering using cloud computing in your business, be sure to take the necessary steps to educate yourself before jumping in.
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