Cloud computing has become incredibly popular over the last few years. The idea of farming out processor intensive data processing tasks to large, remote servers is nothing new, but it is only recently that the technology to do so has become affordable enough for SMEs and even consumers to take advantage of it.
The Benefits of The Cloud
Cloud computing has opened up a number of opportunities for businesses of all sizes. Thanks to the affordable and flexible nature of the cloud, even small businesses can process huge amounts of data and harness the power of servers so powerful that they would have been called super computers a couple of decades ago.
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The cloud makes remote working a genuine possibility for anyone whose job is primarily knowledge based. In addition, it makes it easy for businesses to process huge amounts of data. Jobs that previously would have taken humans days or weeks to do can be completed in minutes.
One thing that has held many companies back from embracing high-tech solutions is the support and maintenance burden. Deploying and maintaining sophisticated computer software, and training your employees in how to use it, can be expensive and time consuming. Cloud technology transfers the responsibility for deployment and maintenance to the cloud service provider, and reduces the support burden for you too. This means that the total cost of ownership, over the lifetime of the application or platform, is greatly reduced.
Another benefit of the cloud is that it is “elastic”. A small business can purchase some server time and deploy their applications to it. If their needs expand, or their app is more popular than they expect it to be, or they find that demand for their service peaks, then they can simply rent more server processor time, rather than having to invest in an expensive new server for a temporary surge in demand.
The Data Protection Dilemma
Cloud computing has revolutionized remote working and given small businesses access to big data, but the technology poses its own challenges. The law, particularly in the UK and Europe, is not evolving quickly enough to keep up with changes in technology. If you use cloud storage or cloud-hosted applications, then you need to give careful consideration to your privacy, security and data protection policies. Who “owns” the data you put in the cloud? Do the policies of your cloud service provider comply with data protection laws? It is your responsibility to evaluate the quality and safety of cloud service providers and make sure that their security practices are to your satisfaction.
What Does The Future Hold?
The main use for cloud solutions at the moment is cloud storage, and Software as a Service solutions were common apps such as accounting software and office applications are moved online. As internet connections get faster, and more workers become mobile, we can expect to see more and more products move to the cloud.
Imagine being able to generate sophisticated reports that combine data from multiple sources with just a few mouse-clicks. Imagine being able to generate those reports using your mobile phone, and look up information about the client you’re visiting, or the product you’re considering purchasing, without needing to call back to the office to have them do the work for you. Cloud computing is the starting point for a location aware, context sensitive world where computers serve you, instead of keeping you a slave to their maintenance and management.