Over the last decade, cloud computing has evolved from a niche market to a service that most people use, even if they don’t realise it, and it has become a fundamental part of many business structures. At its heart, cloud computing is about making services and networks accessible remotely so that individual users don’t require physical access to a specific computer in order to access files stored on its hard drive.
Cloud computing also makes collaborative work much easier. When all the members of a team have access to the same files and can see changes others make in real time, a simple spreadsheet can become a powerful tool for improving productivity and delegating tasks. As cloud services become more sophisticated, and ever-increasing bandwidth and connection speeds allow users to exchange large amounts of data with those services quickly, the scope for cloud computing applications continues to broaden.
During the early years of business computing, when companies were just beginning to catch on to the potential that computers offered to them, networking was in its infancy and as such a file created on one computer was only accessible on that computer.
Now, cloud computing is sufficiently advanced that multiple users can access a file and see any changes other users make in real time, making it possible for users to work collaboratively and remotely. Most modern cloud services automatically back up any data they hold so that in the event of a catastrophic storage failure, hard drives can be restored.
Cheap Access to Infrastructure
By migrating services to the cloud, providers can make them accessible to businesses for a fraction of what it would cost them to purchase and maintain the necessary hardware themselves. Because these services are hosted offsite, the client doesn’t have to worry about software updates and patches, which are instead handled by the service providers. Similarly, if there is a problem with the service then it is the provider who absorbs the costs of technical support. This brings an ever-increasing number of otherwise expensive services within the financial reach of smaller businesses. Companies such as Certa Hosting, for example, offer access to top-of-the-line systems remotely through a virtual private server (VPS).
Cloud storage offers two slightly different forms of security. Firstly, the use of dedicated remote storage with automatic backup procedures makes it very unlikely that any data will be irretrievably lost. Secondly, by connecting to remote services through a virtual private network (VPN), all data sent back and forth will be encrypted and secure from snooping. Of course, continuing security requires that the service provider regularly updates and patches their systems, but this is still often preferable, particularly for small businesses, to maintaining such systems in-house.
Cloud computing is one of the most exciting frontiers of current computing technology and is already revolutionising the way we access data and services. It looks set to continue to open up new avenues and possibilities for businesses of all sizes.