Cloud computing is defined as using remote servers to store your data outside of a local physical hard drive. You’re basically storing all of your information in a digital “cloud” that can be accessed by you from anywhere in the world, as long as you have a computer and a decent internet connection.
How has cloud computing already changed the way we store data — and how is it continuing to shape the business world?
1. Increased Flexibility
Traditional data storage techniques are rigid and require constant hardware updates to keep up with a growing or changing business. If you utilize in-house servers, a bandwidth or storage upgrade requires a large-scale overhaul which could potentially take your entire system offline while it’s being completed.
But by utilizing cloud computing, if you need more storage, all you need to do is purchase more storage space — there’s no hardware installation to worry about. All you have to do is upgrade your account, and the space is available immediately.
This flexibility is essential for growing businesses, especially those that are data-driven or are incorporating big data into their business practice. The more data you have, the more space you’re going to need to store it and the more processing power you’re going to need to sift through it all.
2. Reduced Costs
In-house servers and data storage can be a money-sink. You pay to purchase the servers, to hire specialists to maintain them and to replace them when they fail or are damaged. You pay to upgrade them, to add more storage when needed and to program them. Nearly all of these costs are eliminated when a business switches to cloud computing. All the responsibility for programming, upgrades and maintenance falls on the cloud company rather than the business itself.
This cost reduction isn’t just an option for large businesses — small companies can also save money by switching to cloud computing. There are a number of options that make these services affordable or even essential for small businesses. It’s much easier to save capital that can be reinvested into the company by utilizing cloud services, which is an essential tool for small businesses or those just starting out.
3. Data Protection
In-house servers are vulnerable to both hackers and natural disasters. If a fire sweeps through your office and destroys your servers, you alone are responsible for the cost of replacement and the money that may be lost while your system is down. Cloud computing programs aren’t vulnerable to local natural disasters, theft or internal hacking.
On the digital side of things, cloud servers are protected by the highest level of encryption commercially available, and can be further protected with passwords, IP and MAC address filters and even geolocation tags that prevent the information from being accessed until the person accessing it is in a specific location.
4. Lossless Laptops
Lost laptops, aside from being a cost nightmare, create one of the biggest opportunities for a data security breach. One study found that more than 10,000 laptops were being lost every week in airports across the United States. By storing your data in the cloud, there’s little to no risk of information being compromised due to a stolen or lost laptop. Cloud-integrated hardware can even be remotely wiped to keep any sensitive information from getting into the wrong hands.
This also reduces the problems that arise when it comes to what kind of information can be stored on a business laptop. The data can be accessed remotely, but it’s not stored on the laptop itself. There’s no need for additional encryption on the device itself.
5. Global Collaboration
Business is by nature a global creature, but before the advent of cloud computing, collaboration with colleagues across the world meant conference calls, files emailed back and forth or waiting days or weeks for mail to be delivered so you could continue work on a project.
Cloud computing enables instant global collaboration from team members across the globe. You can work with other individuals or teams anywhere in the world, working simultaneously on the same project or even the same file. You can, quite literally, take your office anywhere.
There’s a huge push in most industries to go green, in spite of the Republican Party’s recent hobbling of the EPA and other agencies designed to protect the environment.
Cloud computing can become a big part of “going green” by:
- Reducing local electricity use: A study done by the Lawrence Berkley National Laboratory found that switching to cloud computing on a national scale could save enough energy to power the entire city of Los Angeles for a full year. On the smaller scale, this reduces individual power consumption by around 87%.
- Higher utilization: Private data centers for individual companies are not utilized to their full potential because, in most cases, they’re only being used by a single business. Cloud computing creates the opportunity to utilize these servers to their maximum potential, while allowing multiple businesses to use the facilities.
- Hardware refresh: Hardware technology advances almost faster than we can keep up with. For small businesses, this means spending more capital every time a hardware upgrade is required, as well as finding ways to dispose of the obsolete hardware. Cloud servers can refresh their hardware quickly and cost-effectively, because there are so many different companies utilizing the storage.
Cloud computing is easily becoming one of the most cost-effective ways to reduce your company’s carbon footprint.
7. Improved Availability
Server downtime is sometimes inevitable when you’re dealing with a private data system. Software and hardware updates can take your entire system offline while they’re being completed. Data center downtime is costly — one study found that unplanned outages can cost a company more than $8,000 per minute in lost revenue.
One of the biggest benefits that cloud computing offers is the fact that, barring some massive international disaster, it's always available. This prevents the potentially massive loss of income that always accompanies an outage, either planned or unplanned. Cloud servers are masters of redundancy, and there are always other data centers that can pick up the slack if one goes down.
This isn’t possible with private data centers. A strong thunderstorm can knock your service out for hours, costing you thousands of dollars every minute while you wait for the power company to restore your service.
8. Predictive Analytics
We’ve already mentioned big data briefly. Essentially, it just means your company is collecting as much data as possible. This data can later be paired with predictive analytics and used to predict industry trends, customer behavior and even sales with varying degrees of accuracy.
Predictive analytics require large amounts of data storage and processing power, both of which can be easily procured through a cloud storage service. As the algorithms behind predictive analytics continue to evolve, cloud storage will become an essential part of big data.
Cloud computing might be one of the newest innovations for businesses of any size, but it’s quickly becoming an essential tool for every just about every industry.