With a conventional computer configuration, all of your data is stored locally on the computer that you are actively using. Cloud computing elevates this to an entirely different level, because it utilizes an expansive network of computers located remotely to store, manage and process data. This data can be accessed via the Internet. There are several advantages and benefits to using cloud computing compared to a more traditional setup. This is true for both private individuals and for businesses.
Seven Cloud Computing Benefits for Individuals
There are many benefits to cloud computing for the individual user. Some of these include the following:
1. Remote Data Access
Even if you are traveling, you are able to access all of the data that you store on the cloud from any Internet-connected computer. This is great for sharing photos and documents, whether you are just across the street at your friend's house or on a trip thousands of miles away from friends and family.
2. Data Backups
It is important to keep backup copies of all your important files, like your family photos or your financial documents. While having an external hard drive at home for this purpose is a good first step, remote data backups via cloud computing can be a much better solution.
3. No Software Administration
Since all the applications and hardware are located and managed remotely, you don't need to deal with updating your programs to the latest versions. The cloud computing service provider does that for you; all you need is Internet access.
4. Share Data
Cloud storage makes it easy to share even large computer files with friends or colleagues. Rather than e-mailing each person individually with large attachments, it is much easier to upload the required files to a cloud storage solution and simply send them the appropriate web link.
5. Redundant Storage
There are typically multiple networked computers that work like one unified unit for cloud computing, as well as multiple copies of every piece of data. This is called "redundancy," and it creates backup copies in case one or more of the remote servers has a problem or is inaccessible. Even if there is a hardware failure on one server, the data is still safely stored on another. This is also true for cloud-based applications, since it means that users can still use access the program if one or more of the remote servers has an issue.
6. Multiple Applications
Cloud computing is just as versatile as local storage and local applications, if not more so. What this means is that cloud computing can be used for email, as with Hotmail and Gmail, as well as project collaboration applications (like Basecamp) and file storage solutions (like Dropbox), among other possibilities.
7. Mobile Access
A cloud computing solution is not limited to access via a traditional computer. Many cloud computing services also provide browser-based interfaces for mobile devices, as well as apps for smartphones and tablets.
Seven Additional Benefits for Businesses
The benefits of cloud computing for businesses include all the benefits that individuals enjoy, as well as several others.
1. Lower Costs
Instead of buying software for every computer that needs access to a program, businesses can subscribe to a Software as a Service (SaaS) solution. In effect, they are renting the software and the resources needed to run and manage that software, allowing multiple employees to have full access without needing to buy multiple licenses.
2. Easier to Manage
The IT department of a company does not need to worry as much about updating the software on every employee's computer, because the software is managed and administrated remotely. The IT professional only needs to update the software on one remote server. Once this is done, every user that accesses the program will use the updated version.
3. Remote Backup
Because the servers are located somewhere off-site, this protects the company's data against local damage from local events. For instance, if the company office experiences a fire or a flood, the data is safe, because it is saved on a server in another building or another part of the world. Redundant data backups further add to this benefit
4. Remote Access
Employees traveling for work can always have access to not only the pertinent data, but also all the necessary software to do their respective jobs. This can dramatically improve the effectiveness of telecommuters and virtual team members.
5. Infinite Scalability
As company needs grow, the cloud computing solution can scale to address these increased needs. For example, a cloud storage solution may start with a set amount of remote data storage. If the company needs more, however, all they have to do is upgrade their plan. This also means that the company will never need to pay for more than it needs at any given time, reducing infrastructure costs.
6. Remote Monitoring
If everything is stored and performed in the cloud, management has greater ease-of-access to monitor the progress of team members on various projects.
7. Save Physical Space
Servers and computers take up physical room. Particularly if the office is smaller, it helps when this equipment and infrastructure can be moved off-site, as would be the case with cloud computing.
Problems with Cloud Computing
Of course, cloud computing isn't without its fair share of problems. Some issues worth considering include:
- Security: As the data and applications are stored on third-party computers and servers, the individual and the business do not have the same level of security available to them compared to what they would have if they were to manage the actual hardware themselves. In the context of corporations, there is an inherent fear that there could be a data breach and private company secrets could be revealed to hackers, competitors and the public.
- Privacy: Since the data can generally be accessed by any Internet-connected device, there are issues surrounding authentication. If a password or account is compromised, so is the privacy of all the data stored within the cloud computing solution.
- Closing down: It is possible that a cloud computing provider can go out of business. If it does indeed shut its virtual doors, what happens to all the data stored on its servers? Can an individual or a company retrieve that data or is it lost forever? This is a legitimate concern, as new companies form and old companies close on a daily basis. In an article on Business News Daily , Todd Benjamin, Director of Enterprise Hosting at Hostway urges businesses to investigate a cloud vendor's stability as well as its redundancies and contingency plans before making a final selection.
Is Cloud Computing for You?
It is difficult to paint the entirety of cloud computing with one broad stroke, because each service provider is unique. That said, there are many benefits to the concept of cloud computing for both individual users and for companies of all sizes. With the ubiquity of Internet access, moving more and more "to the cloud" is becoming an everyday reality.