Corralling the Cloud: Getting Started with Cloud Computing

Clouds are beautiful—and not just when they’re in the sky. Cloud computing offers so many options that simple local data storage on desktops and laptops could never touch, such as the ability to access files from any computer, anywhere that you have Internet access. You can also add or modify files from your mobile device and conveniently share files with colleagues and external vendors without worrying about whether your message is caught in email limbo.

Fast Online Data Backup

Remember the days when you were reminded to back up your PC or server on a regular basis to ensure you don’t lose your work? Or storing large files in a central server or repository—and then the days-long wait if you accidentally deleted something and need to have it restored. The good news is that cloud storage can alleviate all of these user pain points, as well as offer additional benefits such as:
• Incremental backups capture file changes between physical saves
• Nothing is ever truly deleted
• Data is device independent; you can access it no matter your physical location
• Data sync is user-friendly—simply appears as another file folder on your system
• No limit on file size transfers

Cloud v. Internet

Sure, cloud-based computing is accessed via an Internet connection, but is everything on the Internet part of the cloud? Yes, and no. Cloud computing is technically a shared service that allows you to perform specific functions (saving a file, accessing a database) that is also available to other users in a similar way. Software and data are still stored in a centralized location when you’re using the cloud, it’s just not central to you and could be stored on a number of different server farms. Perhaps the best way to understand the difference is that the Internet is an enabling infrastructure, while cloud computing is the way that the infrastructure of the Internet can be utilized in order to provide continuous services without concern for scale, capacity or management. Simply stated: Internet is the ‘how’, and cloud is the ‘what’.

Security

While companies are migrating their business operations to the cloud in increasing numbers, security is still a prime concern both for individuals and for businesses. Since cloud computing by nature is a way of bypassing the standard controls put in place by technology departments and allowing users a measure of anonymity, there are additional layers of controls that need to be implemented in order to maintain acceptable security levels. Cloud providers store an unbelievable amount of data; making them very attractive as a potential target for hackers or anyone trading in sensitive information. Accounts can be hijacked, APIs can be hacked and authentication can be broken—but these are all issues that the cloud computing community is well aware of and which is receiving a great deal of concentrated focus.

Consider the Cost

When looking at whether or not cloud storage is right for you or your business, it’s important to understand your needs. Do you have multiple devices, work in the field a lot, and need to access files and ensure that you always have the latest version? Then cloud computing is probably a good bet for you—even though the cost is going to be greater than an expansive 2TB local hard drive. However, if you or your employees primarily access files within your home or office setting, and you seldom need to share files with others and just want a way to back up photos and videos for instance, then a local hard drive may be a more cost-effective and attractive option—at least for now.

Cloud computing has come a long way in a very short time, and continues to expand into the realm of infrastructure, platforms and software as well as the storage solutions that are more familiar to more casual users.