What is cloud computing and how can it help you?

I have a friend who emails every important document he has on his computer to his Gmail account. He’s been doing this for years and I’ve always thought it’s a clever way to ensure his important information stays safe no matter what happens to his computer!

Luckily, big-name software and server companies think the same way, and they’ve come up with something similar that’s a lot easier to do. It’s called cloud computing, and like my friend’s emailed documents, it puts all your important information on the web where you can access it anytime, anywhere using a username and password.

Cloud computing is essentially a service that gives you online storage space for your documents and other information. It can be as simple as a free service like GoogleDocs, which also allows you to share your documents with others, or one of the paid online storage systems.

Because companies offering these types of services focus on providing quality server space, their security is often far greater than anything you could achieve in your own business, and their servers are usually fast and responsive, which means that This is not fantastic even on your local network, you can exchange information quickly and easily.

When it comes to the benefits for the business owner, many come to mind when it comes to cloud computing.

The first is that your information is safe and accessible no matter what happens to your computer, your server or anything else. I’ll never forget that back in the early 90’s, before backups became the norm, a friend’s computer was stolen. Nine months of work lay on the computer’s hard drive, and with no backups, everything had to be redone. Fortunately, paper copies of all data existed, but it was still a tedious and time-consuming process to recover this information.

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But there is an even worse scenario. What if your computer is damaged, destroyed, lost or stolen and you don’t have hard copies or a backup? Everything you worked on would be lost and you would have to start over.

Another important factor for many businesses is disk space. When you look at the type of data being created today—videos, animations, presentations, photos, and graphic-heavy documents—it’s clear that companies are constantly needing bigger and faster computers to process all of this data. Using cloud computing allows you to essentially work on a tiny computer, but still store and access very large files quickly and easily.

Then there is accessibility. We’ve already talked about sharing files with other users on platforms like GoogleDocs, but the concept scales easily with any of the larger cloud computing services. You could create two accounts, one for public access by employees and one for confidential information. Then, simply by sharing credentials or providing access credentials to key employees, you could collaborate effectively with employees in different states or provinces, or even across the world.

The ability to access information from anywhere also gives you and your employees greater mobility – whether you’re watching a presentation at a client’s office or working on finances while abroad. With a laptop and an internet connection, you and your employees have all the comfort of being in your office while being anywhere in the world.

If you decide to embrace the cloud computing phenomenon in your own business, you have several options. You could decide to test the waters with a free service like Google’s, or you could look for a service provider that offers smaller “starter” packages with fewer users and less storage. Make sure you choose a provider that offers a monthly service so you’re not locked into a contract if you switch.

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Cloud computing truly solves all of the storage, security, and data integrity issues that small businesses face, and it’s entirely possible that it will become the norm rather than the exception in the next few years. So make sure your business is future-proof and move your information to the cloud!