In my previous article
, I explained what this “Cloud” thing is that everyone keeps talking about. I talked a little about its history and how it works. In this article, I’ll show you some practical uses for Cloud Computing, and tell you how you too can take advantage of this awesome technology.
Pros & Cons
So what’s the downside to cloud computing? A few things come to mind, but I’d say they’re almost always out-weighed by the benefits. For one, you need to have an Internet connection to use any form of cloud computing. This used to be an issue in the days of dial-up and dumb-phones, but nowadays our phones, tablets and computers are almost invariably online 24/7.
The next downside is that cloud service tends to be priced using subscription models, rather than one-time payments. This is because the cloud hosting company whose service you want to use has to pay a very high Internet bill every month, so by using a subscription model, they can price according to actual usage.
The final downside is privacy. It can be a matter of concern that if you store documents in cloud storage, essentially your file is sitting on someone else’s computer and can technically be accessed without your knowledge or permission.
I believe the upside of cloud services outweighs the downside. Yes, you always have to be connected, but that also means you have access to the same services from all your connected devices. You can access the same files, photos, music, etc. from your phone, your laptop, the library, etc. Yes, paying a monthly subscription can seem to add up, but often it ends up being cheaper to pay a little each month vs. a large price tag on a product. The other pricing advantage is that with most cloud services you only pay for what you use, making it very affordable. And on the matter of privacy, many cloud services offer encryption so that your data is 100% secure.
Another great advantage is the uptime guarantee, which is how stable the service is going to be for you. Microsoft, for example, has a 99.9% uptime guarantee in their SLA (Service Level Agreement). If the Broadway show Rent has taught us nothing else, we know that every year contains five hundred twenty-five thousand six hundred minutes (aaaaand now you’re singing it in your head… you’re welcome) and Microsoft financially guarantees that their cloud services will be full functioning for at least 525,075 of those minutes. That’s less than 9.5 hours of downtime for an entire year. That’s probably more reliable than your brand new computer.
What are Some Things You Can do in The Cloud?
So you may be asking what are some actual Cloud services, and how could they help you? The biggest category is probably Cloud Storage. This is where you have a folder on your computer that is constantly synchronized to the Internet, so that whatever you store in there is available on all your devices. Dropbox is one of the most recognizable companies in this space, and they offer anywhere from 2GB to 1TB of storage, depending on how much you want to buy. Apple’s iCloud and Microsoft’s OneDrive are both great cloud storage solutions. OneDrive, however, is by far offers the best value for the money and is integrated directly with Windows and Office, making it almost transparent to you, the end user.
Another cloud service you may not be as familiar with is an intranet. Different from the “internet”, an intranet is a private hub for businesses to have a central location to store shared documents, calendars, etc. and for communication. The leader in this space is Microsoft’s SharePoint Online, which provides a powerful intranet to any sized business, all hosted in the cloud, which means accessible from anywhere.
A recent cloud service that’s proving incredibly useful and popular is Office 365. Apple and Google both have similar cloud products, iWork, and Google Apps respectively that have fewer features and different price structures. You’re probably very familiar with Microsoft Office and have been using Word, Excel and PowerPoint for as long as you’ve been using computers. Microsoft has moved this service into the cloud. Now, instead of spending several hundred dollars every few years to get the latest version of Office, you subscribe to Office 365 for around $7 per month… About the cost of a decent foot long at Subway. With this, you always have the latest and greatest version of all the Office apps. As Microsoft invents cool new features in Word, Excel, and their siblings, you get them automatically and instantly. But the best part is because it’s a cloud service, all your files, and spreadsheets, etc. are accessible on all your devices. You can even edit them in a web browser from someone else’s computer. No more “crap… I forgot to email myself that file” issues. Your files—and the applications to edit them—as well as all your emails, are with you wherever you have internet access… including your smart phone!
How to Join The Cool Kids and Get in The Cloud
If you, as an individual, want to get started with cloud computing, I can’t recommend Office365 highly enough. You can get a subscription for less than $80 per year, and that lets you install the full office sweet on 5 devices (PCs, Macs, tablets, phones) AND it gives you unlimited storage space on OneDrive. In fact, if you buy an HP Stream 7 from the Microsoft Store right now, it comes with a year of free Office 365!
If you’re running a business, you should definitely use the power of the cloud to your advantage. By signing up for Office365 you get full licenses of the Office Suite for all your employees, cloud storage, SharePoint intranet and robust email that won’t go down right when you’re expecting that important reply! In fact, our wizard Kaitlyn created a great infographic to show you just how you can use the cloud to make your life easier and save you money.
I don’t want to brag, but here at Bit-Wizards we are pretty much experts in cloud migrations and Office 365 implementations. If all of this cloud stuff sounds great, but you just don’t have the technical expertise to execute it. We can help! We’ll make sure the whole process smooth and painless, we don’t use a bunch of technical mumbo-jumbo, and we can get you up and running in no time.