What is the Cloud Anyway?

The “cloud” and “cloud computing” are buzz terms, yet many people are unclear as to what they mean.  In a word, the cloud is the Internet. Cloud computing simply refers to resources and applications that are available on the Internet from just about any Internet connected device.

It is essentially a clever repackaging of an old word to refer to a service that is entirely located online.  That service can be a database, an online CRM like Salesforce.com, your email server like Gmail and Yahoo and other web-based tools that you need to conduct your business. SimplifyThis’  own online invoicing and appointment scheduling tool live on the cloud—meaning you can access them from any computer or device with an Internet connection. How’s that for freedom.

No Longer Tied to an Office

By using software in the cloud, or online, you have access to these tools from any web-enabled device, whether you are sitting at your office or under a palm tree at the beach.

Most office networks today are still physically connected to a file server located on your office’s premises. In order to connect to this server you will need to be physically located at the office. Though there are other methods of connecting to your office network from outside, like a VPN or remote desktop, the concept that your file server could start off by being located in the cloud is tantalizing for many new companies getting started today. That means that you are not bound to a physical office address, and the rent often associated with that. It also means that your team can be located anywhere as well with access to your cloud-based server.

Being in the cloud also implies that you are somewhat virtual. Not too long ago, the term ‘virtualization’ was big because it meant that even if your building were destroyed because of a tsunami or a terrorist attack, your virtual company and its computing resources were in the cloud and no longer dependant on a physical premises of your own company’s office.

Cloud Behemoths

One of the first cloud-based solution providers was Google. When they introduced Gmail in 2007, they included a then whopping storage space of 1 gigabyte or 1000 megabytes, for free. Google figured that it had an enormous supply of storage space that was not being utilized, and they figured at the time, people were unable to meet capacity.

Another cloud computing giant is Amazon.com known mostly for being the world’s largest bookseller. In addition to being the creators of the Kindle, Amazon offers a comprehensive cloud computing platform. They not only provide storage capacity but they also provide rentable computing power. For  some applications where number crunching is as important as storage, having access to more computing power when needed, which may not be all of the time, is essential. Cloud computing offers this and is an effective way of renting computer power versus investing in all of the infrastructure required to do this in-house.

Like many new tech terms, the word cloud is often name-dropped all over the place and often it’s wrapped in some form of hyperbole. Fundamentally, it offers all of us something to look forward to.

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