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What is the Cloud (and where is it)?

What is the cloud?

There is a lot of talk about the cloud. Everything these days seems to have the word ‘cloud’ attached. But what is The Cloud? Don’t worry if you don’t know, you are certainly not alone. Most people instantly look skywards (and confused) when told they should ‘get on the cloud’.

Since the term actually has nothing to do with the white fluffy cotton like things in the sky, let’s lay it out:

In the old days if you wanted to store your data or share programs you would need expensive storage equipment. A few years ago some enterprising IT geniuses realised that they could share their equipment over the internet with other people. All they needed to do was to securely section off a part of their storage and rent it to you. That was the birth of the term The Cloud.

Because this storage equipment is no longer at your home or workplace it’s now possible to access your data from anywhere in the world. This is where the Cloud really took off. Businesses and People all over the world quickly realised two huge benefits.

Work from anywhere

With just basic internet access you can now securely access your files and programs from anywhere in the world. This has brought huge advancements in remote working. Now whatever reason you have to leave the office you can still access your data, easily.

No need for expensive equipment

Businesses often invested thousands of pounds replacing servers and equipment every 5 years. With the advent of the Cloud many have dispensed with their in-house servers.

It’s the future

If that all sounds a bit futuristic, think about how an email service like Gmail works. Emails are not actually being stored on your computer or device. Instead your messages are actually stored on Google’s servers allowing you access anytime you like. This is a form of Cloud Computing.

Netflix is another form of Cloud Computing. Previously you would have to purchase a DVD Player and rent or buy a movie to watch a film. Netflix changed all that by storing the films on their servers and allow you watch the movie over the internet instead.

Storing files on the cloud has a great invention story too. The founder of Dropbox.com, Drew Houston, realised that storing files on USB storage was always just one ‘stupid move away from disaster’. So he and his co-founder created Dropbox as a place for everyone to securely store their files and access them from anywhere. Once you’re done with this article you can watch his founder story.

Is the cloud secure?

That is by far the most common question everyone asks about the cloud. At first glance it does seem to be the most logical question to ask. This is MY data and it’s safer on MY equipment.

But let’s think about the reality for a second. Most small businesses will likely only have 1 server. Most home users just one computer. So if that suffers any problems all access to the files is lost.

What about the internet connection? Most will only have one or two internet lines coming in to the building. So if there is a problem with the building then all access to the files is lost.

Then there is security. So many businesses and home computers don’t have a Managed IT Service plan. There is no-one actually monitoring security and keeping the system secure.

By complete contrast Cloud providers like Office 365 and Google put security front and centre. They have multiple locations just in case 1 building is out of action. Each location has multiple internet providers. They usually have 1,000’s of storage servers in each building just in case 1 breaks. They have 100’s of staff whose only job is monitor and maintain security. Those staff work shifts so the systems are monitored 24 hours per day.

So is the Cloud secure? Nothing is 100% secure but it is exponentially more secure than storing the files on your own equipment.

What does the cloud really look like?

Here is what the Cloud really looks like. This is just one of Microsoft’s 100 “data centres”. This one is in Dublin.

Cloud Data Centre outside view

Those are enourmous buildings spanning some 20 acres. Inside they are just rows and rows of cabinets that can hold up to 40 servers per cabinet. Microsoft have over 1 million servers in operation.

Cloud data centre inside view

Lastly, this is super cool – literally. Microsoft has recently plunged one of their mini data centres into the deep icy waters just off the Orkney Islands. Why? To reduce the amount of energy required to keep it cool!

Cloud data centre under water.

Having all these locations and this many servers helps to increase the speed of access as well as keep your data safe. But more than that, you can work anywhere, anytime with whoever you want.

So what is the Cloud? Well now you know.

If it’s time for you to take your business on to the Cloud? Give us a call on 03333 055 055.


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