An Introduction to The Cloud

April 2012

Most likely you have heard references to "the cloud," "cloud services," and "cloud computing" in business and technology publications or blogs. The cloud is now a dominant topic of discussion when it comes to information and communications technology. Typing "cloud services" into Google search, for example, returns over half-a-billion results.

To help you understand what this new technology means and what it can do for your business, we answer five fundamental questions about "the cloud."


1) What Does "The Cloud" Really Mean?

The cloud refers to one or more offsite computers that store, manage and process data and software applications that are accessible via an Internet connection. One of the most common examples of a cloud technology is Google's Gmail application. Very simply, cloud computing allows a business to use the Internet to run applications like email or store data.

(See these links for additional background information. What cloud computing really means, Gartner Highlights Five Attributes of Cloud Computing)


2) What Are The Business Benefits From Cloud Services?

Cloud computing is appropriate for any size business that could benefit from not having to internally manage company hardware technology and software maintenance. The benefits include:

- Cost-effective alternative to investments in computer hardware

- Elimination of extensive software licensing fees

- Flexibility to you pay only for the service your business needs

- Reduction in software application maintenance expense

- Ability to store data

In sum, the cloud can give increase the flexibility of your business technology, while minimizing investment in hardware and software.


3) Is Business Data That Is Stored in The Cloud Safe?

Yes. Data security has rapidly become one of the top concerns of information technologists in the United States and globally. Numerous methods for protecting business data from hacking, corruption, and outright theft have been developed and successfully instituted in the past few years.

Cloud service providers are among the leaders in applying these safeguards, which include technologies like firewall protection, data encryption and military-strength authentication of users. They have also adopted proactive monitoring processes and physical access controls.

Keeping your data safe and secure is at the core of what cloud service providers do. Protecting your business is essential to protecting their own business.


4) Do I or My Employees Need Extensive IT Knowledge To Employ Cloud Technology?

Because most of your technology infrastructure is offsite when you adopt cloud computing, the amount of IT expertise required is actually lower. The one area of IT expertise required of a business is knowledge of its Internet access requirements. This will help identify if additional bandwidth is required for cloud access.


5) Is The Cloud A Fad My Business Would Be Better Off Ignoring?

This is no fad. Wall Street and technology analysts like UBS, Gartner and Forrester predict the market for cloud services will double in just the next two years, exceeding $10 billion.

As another indication of the staying power of the cloud, leading technology vendors IBM, HP, Microsoft, Dell and others have launched major strategic initiatives to provide cloud computing capabilities to their clients. Specifically for smaller businesses, a 2011 IDC survey found that penetration of cloud services by small business has already doubled from 7% in 2010 to 13% by mid-2011. Similarly for medium business, 36% reported using cloud technology as of mid-2011, up from 17% in 2010.


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Topics: Cloud Services