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Your Guide to the Cloud

Cloud computing isn’t a magic bullet, but it’s definitely something you should be considering for your business. Today we’re looking at what the cloud really is, and what you absolutely need to know.

If you’ve heard the term “cloud computing” you’ve probably knit your brow wondering what the hell it actually is. You’re not alone: cloud computing is a real thing that can actually help you, but cutting through the spin from everyone selling cloud services can make it hard to zero in on what you need to know. Let’s start with the basics!

Cloud computing isn’t a place
There is no singular “cloud” that your computing goes to when you decide to embrace cloud computing. The entire point of cloud computing is that it’s somewhat decentralized–that means that when you’re relocating the stuff that you need or that you use to the cloud there are usually a number servers in different places that will be hosting your data or providing the services you need.

Cloud computing takes things that you used to do locally and does the same stuff on a remote server
That’s the secret of the cloud: it’s just the internet. The special ingredient is that the internet is now fast enough to stand in for local services. Whether you’re talking about cloud data storage or software-as-a-service (SaaS) it’s just doing what you’d usually do… somewhere else. You don’t need to be scared of the cloud, it’s just better software and better hardware working together so you can work through the internet instead of being stuck with your local intranet.

So why do you want cloud services?
Let’s start with reliability: if you’re maintaining your own server hardware and software you need to worry about how well they’re working, how old they are, and who’s gIt’oing to take care of them. That means maintenance costs, and either having your own IT department or outsourcing it to a local company to take care of your IT needs.

With cloud services you’re handing that entire burden to someone else so that they can shoulder it. When you buy a cloud service there’s an expectation of uptime from the provider you’re buying it from. That puts protecting the hardware and software that you rely on for those cloud services very firmly in the camp of ‘their problem’.

Cloud services can be less expensive. Because you’re sourcing a service that’s being used by other people there’s an economy of scale that helps to keep costs down. Cloud services are generally sold piecemeal, however, which can increase costs if you’re not carefully monitoring the type of plan you’re on and how the service is being used.

Like I said above, cloud services aren’t a magic bullet. Outsourcing your Exchange needs for a team of five can be reasonable; doing it for a team of 20 might just be less expensive if you bring the server in-house. Take some time to price out both options, and factor in the PITA cost of having to deal with things under your roof; the results will always be unique to you, but assuming you don’t just have your head in the clouds you might find that the cloud can save you some money.

 is a Canadian Tech Blogger and correspondent for GetConnected. You can follow him on Twitter at @thetechnogram 

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