What's a Cloud and how can it help me?

What's the cloud?

The Cloud is a marketing term for a service that's available over the internet. It's something you can get to from anywhere on the internet. Cloud services require a host, a server or a group of servers, that provide the services it sells to it's customers. With the popularity of non-windows computers on the net, like smartphones and tablets, the market for services that work regardless of what kind of computer the customer is using has grown. People prefer to work from wherever they are, not just from their office pc, and it's a big boon to productivity if you are able to work on your files anytime, not just when you're at your desk.

What's the Catch?

There are two, as I see it. The first, is privacy. When you upload your work to a third-party's web service, they may promise all the security in the world, but there's no guarantee their services are secure. Anyone can access their service from the web, so hackers may decide to target them, or they might have a disreputable person working at the company itself. You just don't know, and if the information you're working on is, in any way, sensitive material, you just can't trust them.
The second, is control. Like many users of Megaupload.com discovered in early 2012, you'd best have a local backup of your files. Megaupload.com was a file-sharing site, somewhat like dropbox or box.com, where users can sign up for an account and upload files to the web (Cloud), and many other people were able to download them. Megaupload was shut down due to multiple copyright infringements, but there were many other users, including some US Government agencies, who were using the site for totally legitimate purposes, but they lost their files when the site was taken down.

What's the Advantage?

The advantages to using cloud services are mainly the cost. You can operate without purchasing licenses for productivity software, in most cases you only pay a small monthly fee, and some services are completely free. As well, you have the ability to work from anywhere that you're connected to the internet....although if you're already using virtualization technology, that's no different from what you have now.

How is this different from Virtualization?

It's not very different at all. The one glaring difference is that with a virtualization setup, you have more control as you have to provide all the hardware & software. Think of it as a Cloud service, but one that privately owned and hosted by your company. Yes it's more expensive to maintain, but you control how it works, and who has access. This is the preferred setup for most businesses.

What should i do about it?

Well, if you're already a client of Informative Technologies, not much. Chances are you already have the ability to remote into your office network from your home machines, or your tablet or smartphone....and there you are, your own cloud service, safe, secure, and in place well before the marketing people even came up with the term 'Cloud services'.

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