I know you may be thinking, what in the world is the Cloud? Cloud computing software and services are delivered over the Internet and accessed mostly through web browsers. The difference between cloud-based and traditional software is that when we access the cloud, our computer or mobile device isn't doing the actual computing. Most of the information processing happens in a large datacenter.
Benefit #1: Cost
The pricing structure of cloud services is really different than traditional software. Many of my customers think it’s closer to renting than buying software. Instead of a one-time cost, cloud providers usually charge a flat fee per month per user, which initially can make it look more expensive.
Lots of cloud services, such as DropBox and OneDrive are free or very low- cost and many companies such as Adobe and Microsoft offer donated or deeply discounted options to nonprofit organizations.
In the long run, cloud-based software tends to save you money and you don't have to buy as much networking hardware or software. In a business environment, using cloud services means you won't need to spend as much on IT staffing costs to maintain local networks.
Benefit #2: Access from Anywhere
With cloud services, users can acces their work and communicate nearly as easily at home as they can in the office. All you need is a computer or mobile device and the Internet. For many individuals and businesses that work in the field, that this really is a significant benefit.
Benefit #3: Security
One of the true headaches of modern IT is the danger of hacking, malware and viruses. Cloud-based applications tend to be more secure from cyberthreats than a typical desktop or local server environment. Cloud applications are updated more frequently, and teams of skilled cybersecurity engineers use sophisticated software to monitor datacenters.
Datacenters perform multiple backups to other datacenters in different locations around the world. No data is 100 percent secure, but the major cloud services are probably the best security we have.
Is There Anyone the Cloud Isn't Right For?
The answer is yes. Cloud-based software and services aren't suitable for users that don't have reliable broadband Internet access. If you have sensitive data that cannot or should not be shared I warn you to be careful about choosing your cloud provider or to keep your data under your sole control.
All providers have different privacy policies regarding using your data themselves and allowing governments to have it on demand.
I've been watching the development, growth and progress of cloud computing since around 2007, and I've been largely pleased with how it has affected various industries. I was skeptical of whether the pricing model would be good for individual users. But as the field has matured, I think things have largely worked out. The cloud is designed to let us work from anywhere on any type of device. So, if you haven't already, it's high time to embrace the 21st century — and along with it, the cloud.
Willie E. Brake is a Computer Expert and Industry Analyst at All About Technology, a Certified Minority Business Enterprise and Microsoft Authorized Refurbisher, based in Detroit, Michigan.