Cloud computing is a term used to refer to the trend of moving computing to the Internet. Beginning with the widespread adaptation of home computers and continuing until recently, applications or software would be downloaded onto a physical computer or installed on a nearby server. When you clicked on the icon to begin a task, you were manipulating information directly from your computer.
With cloud computing services becoming more standard, users are having to shift the way they think about computing. Now, everything seems to be moving to the cloud. Here are five interesting angles to the concept you might not have thought of.
It used to be that the IT department of a company drove themselves crazy trying to meet the fluctuating bandwidth demand. Bandwidth is a cost, sometimes an expensive one, and nobody wants to pay for more than they need. Even worse might be money lost because you don’t have enough bandwidth to meet an increasing load demand. Shifting computing operations to the cloud might be an underappreciated savings to a manager still used to thinking of computing in the old way.
Computing in the online arena allows a company to add or subtract bandwidth needs on the fly. Operational agility is the term IT directors use to refer to this ability. These days, being able to quickly reduce costs during a slow period and just as quickly ramp up capability during busy times is a distinct competitive advantage.
If there is one single advantage to working in the cloud that the layperson can easily understand, it is the ability to recover from a data disaster. A large company can more readily absorb the cost of setting up independent servers in diverse geographic locations. Automatic backups are part of the daily routine. Setups like this are expensive, though, and out of reach of many small to medium sized operations – not to mention your average home computer user. That’s where the cloud comes in.
When you move computing online, local disasters like floods, broken laptops, and faulty hard drives might wipe out a physical storage medium, but data stored off-site remains safe and secure. We’re in the midst of making the switch of thinking of software as a product to software as a service.
Wouldn’t it be great to never have to update your software again? The headache of maintaining the software system has been a thorn in the side of IT managers everywhere since the beginning of widespread computing. It seems that the updates are continuous as bugs are fixed and security issues addressed. Multiply these regular updates by the number of software packages that a company uses and, suddenly, you’ve got to pay someone who spends their day just keeping the software functional.
Running your business in the cloud removes the update problem completely. Now the vendor who sells you bandwidth and access to software is charged with keeping everything running in good order. You will never even know when the updates are applied. This adds up to a significant cost savings. It also frees up more time that you and employees can devote to doing whatever you do to turn a profit.
Say Goodbye to Hardware
As recently as five years ago, companies were stuck with the unpleasant reality of purchasing high-end software as either old hardware became obsolescent or operational requirements demanded more computing capacity. Ever priced a large-scale server and all the accessories? It’s a lot of chocolate chips. The cloud offers business owners an opportunity to ditch all that expensive circuitry and switch to a subscription-based model where you only pay for what you use.
Additionally, there’s no need to supply employees with the fastest, most expensive computer on the market anymore. All you need to access the Internet and online computing is a computer that is little more than a browser. An example of this is the Chromebook, a jazzy little $200 machine that boots up fast, thanks to a small solid state hard drive, and offers automatic rock-solid security. Large local hard drives are becoming pointless as fewer people store anything on their home computer. Even our entertainment, music and movies come to us via streaming services these days.
The Mobile Office
And here’s the biggie, probably more important to the average worker than esoteric concepts of cloud backups or endless online storage. When it gets right down to it, it’s all about the telecommute. As work shifts more to the cloud, business owners begin to see the wisdom in allowing employees to work from home, at least part of the time. Maybe all the time. What’s the sense in paying for a large physical office space, and the accompanying utilities and insurance, when you don’t have to?
Cloud computing may finally provide the elusive work-life balance that people have sought for generations, and without businesses having to sacrifice productivity! A company able to offer work from home as a benefit is a popular company indeed. According to a study by SalesForce.com, 42 percent of workers would be willing to trade part of their pay (6 percent) for the ability to telecommute.
There you have it. Cloud computing has already made significant inroads into the public lexicon. It will only become more popular in the coming years as workers and employers alike begin to see the obvious benefits of moving work into the cloud.