Q: I’ve heard a lot about Cloud services. What is the Cloud?
A: The Cloud is a concept. Its the idea that a person’s or business’s software needs are entrusted to a 3rd party company to store and host. What does that mean exactly? Read on for more details.
Q: How does the Cloud work?
A: There’s nothing special about how the cloud works. At its core, the Cloud is just a server somewhere to which clients connect to process requests. By this definition, every website on the internet is its own little Cloud. This is very important to understand and to keep in mind when you think about the Cloud.
Q: That’s great, but how does the Cloud really work? We’re looking for more details.
A: This is best explained using an example. One of the better known Cloud services is Google Drive. Google Drive stores files which are accessible by anyone with your username and password from anywhere with an internet connection.
Google Drive is simple to use. The user signs up at Google.com. They click on the”Drive” icon. Then click on “Create” or “Upload.” That’s it. Your files are sent over the internet to a remote server owned and housed by Google. When the user wants to access those files again, it is a simple login with username and password with Google and one click on Drive.
In short, the Cloud works the same way the internet and networking have always worked. Information is pulled from a server on which it is housed for your viewing and access.
Q: So how is the Cloud different?
A: One word: Marketing. Anyone who has ever had an email address has used a Cloud service. Before the Cloud “existed” of course, it was just email. The technology for the Cloud has always existed in one form or another. It wasn’t until in recent years that it was labelled as such. However, marketing the client-server relationship (with a snazzy user-interface) as the Cloud has made it possible for the general public to buy into the idea, even if they don’t fully understand it. While this idea is not a bad thing, it certainly isn’t something to be taken lightly. There are many pros, cons and risks in handing over your data, software, business and trust to another company’s Cloud service.
Q: So what can the Cloud do for me? What are the “pros”?
A: Depending on the type of Cloud service, there are many things that it can do for you. The most popular use of the Cloud is file storage and sharing while the most practical use is redundant backup. Being able to share files with anyone at anytime is a great tool that has great potential to increase productivity. Using the Cloud for backup is also a great idea since you can never have too many backups.
There is also a type of service called “Software As A Service” or SaaS, which revolves around using the Cloud. An example would be a business which runs specialized software for that industry. To run this software, you have it installed on all your workstations and probably a server. Now imagine not having to do all that installation and instead subscribing to a Cloud service. For a monthly fee, the Cloud service would provide your company with a web portal to login to do all your work right there on the internet rather than housing the software and files on your workstations. You could even take it a step further and outsource your entire Operating System (like Windows or MacOS) with all included programs to a Cloud service. That way the Cloud service provider would manage all your software for you.
Q: Wow, that all sounds perfect! Is there a catch? What are the “cons”?
A: Cloud services absolutely has a catch. Whenever you use a Cloud service, you are in essence trusting that provider with control of your data and/or software. You may be using it, but they have to maintain backups, avoid viruses and hacking attempts and prevent data corruption all while making sure you have access no matter what. Just because you use a Cloud service doesn’t mean that these problems go away, they just are handled by someone else. The chances of data being compromised via hacking attempts actually goes up, by a lot, when you use the Cloud. Since the Cloud is very user friendly by nature, it means anyone (not just hackers) can access your data if they figure out your password. To us, this is a big “catch”; you’ve just made your business files much more vulnerable.
Downtime is another issue with a Cloud-based solutions. While the actual amount of downtime directly caused by the Cloud provider is low, when it does happen you are out of luck. There’s nothing you can do but wait and hope they resolve their issue. Also, since everything with the Cloud is internet-based, if you ever lose your internet connection you and your business are also dead in the water. The same can be said for the Cloud Service itself. If they ever lose their internet or if there is ever a natural disaster in that part of the world (and there have been more of them lately), you’re out of luck.
And if losing the control to deal with problems yourself wasn’t enough to make you question this service, you may also lose any control in the future to move your data to a different Cloud provider or away from the Cloud altogether. No matter what, migrating data from one system to another is always frustrating and time consuming. This is also the case when the Cloud is involved, but exponentially so since you don’t have control over a number of factors. In some cases its not possible at all, and by that time you and your business are locked in with that Cloud provider.
Q: That doesn’t sound so perfect. Knowing all of this, what should I do?
A: The Cloud certainly has its uses and is great for short term work or small projects. Redundant Cloud backups are also great. But if you have any long term goals, I would not recommend involving the Cloud very much. When problems arise (and they will), being able to have the control to fix the issue yourself or even call in some hired help is best; like many projects, the fewer people involved in the process, the more efficient it will be to fix or change. Having on-site, face time with the person resolving your issues ensures that things are done correctly and in a timely fashion.
I recommend using an MSP (Managed Service Provider) for all your tech needs. They will give you all the same benefits of the Cloud service without the downfalls of outsourcing your data to a company far afield from your location. Remember, the Cloud is just a server-client relationship and MSPs are experts in that field. If you so desired, they would be able to setup your own “Cloud” for your business that only you and your employees have access to but with the support of an in-person MSP service. If anything ever goes wrong, the MSP is just a call or email away 24/7. An MSP would also be able to help achieve your long-term vision with technology and if using a Cloud service makes sense, then they could recommend which service to use.
Of course, choosing an MSP is an important decision. Contact the team here at True Blue Network Solutions and we will help you make the right choice.