The cloud is a term for a series of data centers that allow you to access software and services via the internet. With cloud computing, you can back up your files, access programs, and manage your data from anywhere in the world. That means you get on-demand access to your files and programs without having to store any of it on your local computer or network. Before cloud computing, you had to buy all the hard drives that you needed to store your data and run your programs. Also, businesses had to hire in-house IT experts to maintain their servers and protect the company from getting hacked. But, with cloud computing, businesses can easily get their hands on the hardware, software, and security services they need via the cloud. Here’s everything you need to know about how the cloud works, and the benefits and disadvantages of cloud computing:
How Does the Cloud Work?
The cloud is a cluster of data servers, each of which is made up of physical hard drives, just like the ones found in your computer. These servers are stored in giant data centers that are programmed to combine their computing capabilities and resources.
For example, Google has more than a dozen data centers around the world. Each of these huge data centers has thousands of servers that all work together to store your old emails, so you always have instant access to them. Plus, you can use Google’s data centers to store your data with Google Drive or the Google Cloud Platform for businesses.
Aside from Google, tech giants such as Amazon, Apple, and Microsoft offer cloud services from storage to infrastructure able to accommodate complex programming capabilities. Amazon has Amazon Cloud Services (AWS), while Microsoft has Azure, and Apple has iCloud.
What are the Benefits of Cloud Computing?
Although cloud computing has more than enough benefits for almost anybody today, its benefits are more obvious for businesses. This is because the cloud makes it easy for a business of any size to scale up.
Businesses that wanted to scale up their IT infrastructure in the past had to invest in expensive hardware, software, and an IT team to handle it all. This means IT upgrades were not very affordable, especially for small-to-medium enterprises. With cloud computing, however, businesses can get the hardware, software, and other resources they need with a pay-per-use business model.
Aside from being able to have data storage that you can access wherever you are, you can also set up a virtual office in the cloud. For instance, with Google Drive, you can work with text documents, spreadsheets, presentations, and other programs online. With Apple iCloud, you can pick and choose the features you want to access across your Apple devices. This is especially convenient for Digital Age workers, such as freelancers.
Cloud technology basically works by creating multiple backups of your data, each of which is stored in a different location. This is done in case one of the servers housing your data goes dark or gets destroyed. No matter what happens, there will always be another copy of your data on another server. On top of the default contingencies, most cloud services also come with very strict security measures. In fact, all cloud services require account credentials with multiple verification processes before a user can get access to their data.
Speed & Efficiency
Since the cloud eliminates the need to buy lots of physical hardware, you don’t need to invest as much to scale your business. Moreover, having cloud services makes telecommuting much more efficient. Sharing files and programs on the cloud also means that communicating and collaborating will be instantaneous. For example, freelance professionals can chat with clients, and employers can communicate with employees in other countries quite easily with Google Hangouts or Amazon’s Teamwork.
What are the Disadvantages of Cloud Computing?
While there are many benefits to cloud computing, there’s also a flip side. Here are some of the most common complaints that occur when using cloud computing.
Loss of Control
Putting your data in the cloud means entrusting that precious commodity to that cloud service provider. You’ll get access to your files, but they’ll be stored on servers owned and controlled by your cloud provider. And, as a user, you are obliged to obey their policies, which may limit your control over your own data. This is why it’s important to actually read the end-user license agreement (EULA) before signing up on any service, so you’ll know what you’re getting into.
Despite strict security measures, storing data on remote servers always comes with risks. Aside from unfortunate incidents that may occur in data centers (such as natural disasters), there’s also the threat of hackers. If a hacker breaches your cloud provider’s security measures, they might be able to access all your data.
You can minimize these risks by using strong passwords, encryption methods (such as VPN services), and keeping up to date with cloud computing best practices. If you want to know more about the benefits of a VPN, check out our article on everything you need to know about virtual private networks here.
Since you can only access the cloud via the internet, you’ll need a reliable internet connection to access your files. That means if your internet goes down, you might experience data loss.
Fortunately, you can also minimize these risks by keeping local copies of your data or files. For example, if you’re using Google Drive, you can download your entire drive folder to your local hard drive. This way, you’ll also have a local copy of your files. Take note, though, you will need enough space in your local drive to be able to do this. If your Google Drive is already 10GB, then you’ll need more space than that in your local drive to be able to download your files.
In spite of the probable headaches you might encounter, the cloud is still one of the most innovative tools available today. If you’re simply thinking of storing family pictures and videos for posterity, then purchasing a good external hard drive can work almost as well as a cloud. But if you’re a freelancer who’s always traveling, then the cloud can offer you some advantages.
So you shouldn’t miss out on its benefits just because there may be risks. And so far, the benefits definitely outweigh those risks… for now anyway.