“The cloud: a mysterious new technology that magically fixes all my business problems.” While that’s probably what you’ve heard over and over, we’re sure there’s still the nagging voice in your head saying, “But really…what is the cloud?” That’s a fair question, as countless definitions of cloud computing appear everyday. Let us clear up some of the confusion by revealing five mysteries of the cloud.
Where is my data, really?
A common misconception about cloud computing is that your data is magically floating around, making it accessible to you whenever you need it. While the accessibility part is true, the magical part is not so much. The name “cloud” implies that your information is being stored somewhere in the sky above, but the truth is, it’s still physically located in hardware, within data centers. The difference is that it’s stored in an off-site location that is both managed and maintained by a third party provider. Traditionally, data was simply stored directly to computer hard drives or in-house servers – with cloud, this is not the case. A business uses the Internet to access its data and computing resources that are managed by the cloud provider. While it’s not as easy as picking your data out of the air when you want it, this new technology saves businesses a lot of time, money and space, while making constant access to data and software a reality.
Is my data safe?
There is constant talk that businesses should not trust their data in the cloud, but as the cloud has matured, the answer to this question is most often “Yes.” If you carefully pick a cloud computing provider that is certified and can demonstrate its security protocols and practices, as well as meet various compliance regulations, you will most likely experience better security than you’d be able to provide yourself with. It’s simply fact that your on-site security and IT staff might not have all the skills necessary to fully protect your data. A cloud provider, on the other hand, is expert in this area, with fully trained staff on-hand for the sole purpose of securing clients’ information. Cloud providers are constantly under scrutiny and therefore work extremely hard to over-perform in terms of security – this urgency leads to strict security measures, while in on-site situations, the staff may not be monitored very often. While it can be scary to move your information into someone else’s hands, this might be the best decision for your business.
Can I control my data?
Data control really depends on the cloud provider you work with. You have to determine from the get-go what administrative rights you have when you move your data. Will you truly lose access to control your own information? With a great cloud provider, the answer is no. In particular, look for access authorization. You should be able to ensure that only users who are authorized to access and change your data can do so. Sensitive data should be encrypted in-flight and at rest, ensuring that it’s always protected. Make sure the provider’s facility is properly protected, adding physical security to network security. Additionally, think about data destruction. If you need to delete information, make sure you can permanently delete it from all locations, including backup sites. Cloud providers like RapidScale have a Control Panel that gives the determined administrator access to their cloud services. The administrator can determine the authorization controls for other users, as well as manage and assign computing resources as necessary.
Is the cloud really cheaper?
Again, this is a circumstantial question. If you are working with a provider that properly manages the cloud environment and scales it based on demand, chances are you really will save money in the long-run. Think about the costs of on-site infrastructure: hardware, maintenance, support, power, cooling, security and other costs that constantly pop up here and there. Additionally, on-site hardware is underutilized more often than not – this means that equipment like servers continue to consume resources and space while actually not working very hard. On top of that, technology is evolving so quickly that equipment becomes outdated almost immediately. When you think about these costs over a five-year period, it’s overwhelming. Cloud computing, on the other hand, uses a pay-as-you-go method to ensure that companies receive the up-to-date resources they need, when they need them, avoiding waste and overspending. The cloud has matured enough that it can offer the best of both worlds: budget efficiency and high-quality computing resources.
What does weather have to do with cloud computing?
Okay – this question might not be as technical as those above, but it’s a valid one. Many people still think that cloud computing actually has something to do with the weather. Some are even concerned that a rainy day will affect their data. Fortunately for everyone, this is not true. The name “cloud computing” simply came from the symbol that was often used to represent the Internet visually – can you guess what that symbol was? A cloud, of course! This metaphor for the Internet became popular as the futures of business and Internet quickly converged.
There are plenty of people that still don’t understand what the cloud is – many fail to realize that they probably use the technology on a daily basis. Things like online banking, online shopping, social media, gaming, photo sharing and even email all involve cloud computing – and that goes to show just how convenient and easy to use the technology is today. When the mystery is cleared away, cloud computing is the obvious choice.