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What is the Cloud?

You’ve definitely heard of the Cloud, but might not be all that sure as to what it actually is. The Balance succinctly describes the Cloud as:

‘a centralized location on the Internet that stores data, making it accessible anytime, anywhere, from any device’.

Make sense? If it seems kind of abstract that’s because it is – but that’s kind of the point. It’s a general term that encompasses all the different Cloud-based network systems. A Cloud system is centralized in the way that all the information it stores is, for all intents and purposes, in one place. You can use the Cloud for business and for your own personal needs.

For a more tangible definition, we need to use some examples. The main Cloud network you definitely know of is the iCloud. Every time your iPhone backs up your data to the iCloud, it’s backing up data to your iTunes account and sending information into Apple’s cyberspace. Even if you’re a devout Android user, you’ve probably still used the Cloud in some form. Online banking uses the Cloud. As does Facebook. Google Sheets. Etc. These are examples of public clouds as the body using it isn’t responsible for the management of the data, the Cloud provider is.

Businesses also have the option of developing their own private cloud. A private cloud is internal – within a company’s intranet or data centre. The main difference here is that the data stored on the Cloud is protected behind the company’s own firewall. It’s down to the business to manage and control – which can be both a good and bad thing depending on how you look at it.

Do Businesses Actually Use the  Cloud?

Yes. RightScale’s 2017 State of the Cloud Report found that 95% of respondents were using the cloud in some form.

What are the Benefits for Using the Cloud for Business?

There are a lot of genuine Cloud network benefits, whether you opt for the public or private infrastructure. Here are some facts about Cloud storage and how it can benefit your business.

Data backup

It’s a tale as old as time – or computers, at least. Countless individuals and businesses have lost valuable data by not backing up as much as they should. One of the driving forces behind the Cloud is the incredibly convenient way that it seamlessly backs up your data.

Mobile working

The Cloud is all about convenience. Employees can access business data from anywhere and from almost any device. This has not only revolutionised mobile working but has completely changed the working landscape, allowing businesses freedom and flexibility like never before. Ultimately Cloud based networks give employees greater autonomy and can increase productivity.

Cohesive collaboration

The Cloud’s facilitation of mobile working has enhanced the ability for employees to collaborate and work cohesively. For example, more than one employee may require access to a document. As long as all participating parties have access to an active internet connection, then using something like Google Sheets, which updates instantly and automatically, will help ensure that everyone is always looking at the same document. This minimises the likelihood of errors and keeps everyone informed and up to date.

Increased storage

Another main selling point of the Cloud is the notion of unlimited storage. Businesses can continue to grow without worrying about actual space to store files, or hardware or the need to purchase new computers right away.

Scalable packages are cost-effective

Rather than fishing out the money for physical hard drives, many businesses owners are moving over to the Cloud as a lot of Cloud packages are highly scalable to suit business needs. They can be scaled up to accommodate growth and data accumulation, or scaled down so that businesses aren’t paying for space they’re not using. This makes them more cost-effective than some of the more outdated options.

Automated updates

Those using public cloud services will benefit from the convenience of automated updates more than those utilising a private cloud hosting solution. If you use a public cloud network to store your data, then you’re not the one monitoring the storage database. It’s your provider’s responsibility to create regular updates that will keep your data secure. This provides major appeal to a lot of business owners as it means they don’t have to shell out for an IT department to the same extent that they would have to if they managed their own business data storage.

Environmentally friendly

The scalable nature of Cloud packages means that they can be a lot better for the environment than the purchasing of more and more physical hardware that accrues with data accumulation. You only ever use – and pay for – what is necessary.

Transparency

This goes hand in hand with the collaborative ease of the Cloud. Employees feel more in control of the data they use and have access to the same data base. True, you can – and should – employ administrative privileges so that people can only use what is relevant but using the Cloud means those employees who should have the same level of clearance do and are aware of that.

Cloud Security Risks and Concerns

As with any new technologies, there are Cloud security concerns that we’ve never had to face before.  Here are some of the main Cloud network disadvantages.

Data loss and theft

Network security is a big concern and Cloud breaches have been a hot topic for the last few years. Remember the mass iCloud attack which resulted in the release of private celebrity photos? You probably do – it’s the ultimate fear. And yet, a lot of the professionals who are apprehensive about using the Cloud for business still let their iPhone automatically backup to the iCloud.

Data is always at risk so the best thing you can do is research which system is the best for your company. Here are 7 Infamous Cloud Breaches to get you started.

Compliance violations

The approach of GDPR is scaring a lot of companies and deterring them from using the Cloud for business. Those who are considering adopting the Cloud need to seriously look into the terms and conditions of public Cloud providers, as well as their own private systems, otherwise they could be in violation of the oncoming GDPR security requirements. They need to take network security precautions to ensure they are protecting their data in accordance with the new guidelines.

Another major oversight a lot of businesses face is the fact that some Cloud providers can actually claim the right to the information uploaded to their servers. This can create an abundance of problems for companies uploading personal client and employee data.

Contract breaches

Businesses with a lot of clients will have a lot of different contracts. Some Cloud providers share information with third parties which means that businesses are unknowingly in breach of their contracts. Once more, read the fine print before employing the Cloud for business.

Loss of control

When you use the Cloud for business you’re simultaneously given more and less control. Employees have the ability to be more involved and more productive as long as everyone is on the same, digital page. On the other hand, some employees may share company data on other Cloud networks unbeknownst to the company. This means that they could access this data post employment and potentially steal clients or leak valuable information to competitors.

Malware infections

Malware poses a risk to pretty much any network security system, so it’s not surprising it poses a threat to companies using the Cloud for business. One breached Cloud account could compromise the whole system, whether it is a public or private cloud network. This is also true for connected apps. Businesses must ensure they make the right choice for their business, look into their internet security and check in on updates regularly. Of course, one of the main benefits of adopting a public Cloud network is the convenience of its automated security updates, but this does not mean businesses should become complacent; they should know the systems they’re using.

Business Storage System: Is the Sky Really the Limit?

The Cloud isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. It’s expanding and developing at a rather alarming rate. Businesses run the real risk of being left in the dust while their competitors reach new heights among the Cloud.

You definitely should consider using the Cloud for business and introducing it into your network storage strategy but, as with all new ventures, read everything carefully, be informed and stay up to date. It’s your business, you can’t afford not to.