In my previous article, I explained what this “Cloud” thing is that everyone keeps talking about. I talked a little bit about the Cloud’s history and how it works. Now, I’ll explain some of the pros and cons, show you some practical uses for cloud computing, and tell you how you too can take advantage of this awesome technology.
Cons of the Cloud
So, what’s the downside of cloud computing? A few things come to mind, but I’d say they’re almost always outweighed 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 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 charge according to actual usage.
The final downside is privacy. If you store documents in cloud storage, your file is essentially sitting on someone else’s computer and can technically be accessed without your knowledge or permission.
Pros of the Cloud
The upside of cloud services far 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. With the Cloud, you can access the same files, photos, music, and more from your phone, your laptop, the library, etc. Yes, paying a monthly subscription seems to add up, but it often ends up being cheaper than a large price tag on a product. The other pricing advantage is that most cloud services allow you to only pay for what you use, making it very affordable. Additionally, on the matter of privacy, many cloud services offer encryption so that your data is 100% secure.
Another great benefit of the Cloud 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). Microsoft financially guarantees that their cloud services will be fully functioning for at least 525,075 minutes in a year, which is less than 9.5 hours of downtime over a 12-month span. That’s probably more reliable than your brand-new computer!
What are some things you can do in the Cloud?
The biggest benefit is cloud storage
With cloud storage, you have a folder on your computer that is constantly synchronized to the Internet. Whatever you store in there is available on all your devices. Dropbox is one of the most recognizable companies in this space. Apple’s iCloud and Microsoft’s OneDrive are both great cloud storage solutions as well. OneDrive, however, offers the best value for the price. It’s also 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, and more 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 it’s 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. 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. With this, you always have the latest and greatest version of all the Office apps.
As Microsoft continues to invent cool new features in Word, Excel, and their siblings, you’ll get them automatically and instantly. 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.
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 suite on up to five devices (PCs, Macs, tablets, phones). It also gives you unlimited storage space on OneDrive.
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 Office Suite licenses for all your employees, cloud storage, SharePoint intranet and robust email (that won’t go down right when you’re expecting that important reply)!
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 entire process is smooth and painless, we won’t use a bunch of technical mumbo-jumbo, and we can get you up and running in no time.