Cloud Computing

Send In The Clouds

Two things come to mind when discussing cloud computing. Where exactly is this cloud? And how secure is it?

Cloud computing is defined as internet-based or offsite computer services that support your business.  There are public clouds that are free and private clouds where security features usually include SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) for encrypting information.

At first glance, one would think that cloud computing belongs to the domain of the big
7corporations. However, there are numerous advantages for small to medium businesses including:

     Economies of Scale – There’s a cost savings in terms of web/email hosting, virus protection and back-up systems. Since everything is in the cloud, power surges, computer theft and breakdowns that could potentially ruin a business are significantly reduced.

     Access to Services – For storage and computing power that you might not otherwise be able to provide at your business.

     Little or No Hardware Investment – Services can be easily scaled up or down and are charged based on usage, often without a contract.

     User Accessibility – Unlimited access for multiple users to company files with protected file options.

There are some excellent examples of cloud-computing services and platforms that are well suited for medium and small businesses.

 Dropbox.com is a file sharing, backup service that is extremely easy to use. 2GB comes free and with a subscription you can reserve as much as 100GB. Dropbox.com also speaks easily to WordPress for backing up your blog or website.  Toggl.com is an excellent time management tool for multiple users.  MailChimp.com is ideal for newsletters and storing all your email addresses in one spot.

Basecamp.com is a project management and collaboration tool, perfect for companies who have staff working all over the country. Email large files such as photos or ads via Box.com. Load up the files in a private folder and invite users to download files whenever they are ready.

As with all internet protocols there are outstanding issues that have yet to be resolved. When purchasing a cloud service take the time to ask good questions on data ownership, data transfer to another cloud company, security and of course service levels including speed of data recovery.  After all, a back-up system is only as good as the recovery.

What is really exciting about cloud computing is the endless creative possibilities. Cloud-SaaS , a customer service program for marinas provides an application that can be accessed by marinas and boaters alike from all over North America. With those types of platforms, even the smallest marina can provide top-of-the-line service to its customers for a reasonable fee.

With mobile hardware becoming the way of the future, cloud computing allows businesses to perform a host of services – including credit card transactions or email transfers – while on the on the go.

Next time you require a business solution, such as a company newsletter, check the cloud for a software tool. It might not be perfect, it may require modification or a work-around but the benefits far exceed the cost of purchasing or creating a program on your own.

Have I got my stuff in the cloud? You bet.

– Heather

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