Tech Ali: Cloud Computing Basics

tech-abbySo what’s up with technology these days? It seems like everything is going virtual. From Google Glass to cloud-based services, the sky is certainly becoming the limit. The tech world can be a bit confusing at times, that’s why it’s important to be selective about what kinds of technology you choose to simplify your everyday life. That’s why Tech Abby from BendBroadband is here to break it down for you, and today she is answering your burning question:

What the heck is a cloud-based service anyway?

TA: I’m so glad you asked. Let’s pretend for a moment that data is like storing photographs in a shoebox. You like to take pictures, but the more you take, the more shoeboxes you need for storage. Pretty soon your entire closet, where your shoeboxes live, is a bit cluttered. There’s not enough room for everything you need to store! That’s where a cloud-based service comes to the rescue.

It’s bigger than a shoebox, that’s for sure. Cloud-based services are like renting a physical storage space for your shoeboxes full of data. It’s the digital, more organized equivalent of that physical storage space. The data lives on a server external to your local device. You can access the server with a high-speed internet connection, so it’s not stored on any of your local devices like your computer, phone or tablet.  Common examples of cloud-based services are Dropbox, SkyDrive, Google Drive and photo sites like Flikr and Shutterfly. I’ll get to why the cloud is a more secure option for your data in a minute.

What is the ROI for a business transitioning to a cloud-based service?

TA: Businesses can save a ton of money by moving to the cloud. First, they can eliminate on-site server systems that consume power and resources. Second, they can avoid capital costs associated with purchasing new hardware. They’ll also save an investment of time and energy into maintaining their own server systems.

Many business applications are moving to the cloud because it provides ease of access for the user. Quicken is a great example. Instead of buying the software and installing it on one computer, Quicken users can log in from any computer using a cloud-based service. Medical practices are also adopting this system for a better means of securing patient information. Overall, it’s a big thumbs up.

How safe is my information on the cloud, and will it ever crash?

TA: The cloud is as safe as rest of the Internet—and in many cases, more so, though I can’t speak for every cloud application. The data in cloud applications is not susceptible to crashes because it’s backed up on a regular basis and housed within secure, stable data centers staffed by trained IT professionals. But just like the early days of the Internet, you should follow precautions to keep your data safe. Ensure sensitive data sent to and from cloud-based computing systems is encrypted with strong security methods to keep hackers at bay. Next month, I’ll talk about how to ensure security on the cloud, on your own computer, and in common applications like email. If you have a technology question for me, please send it to techabby@bendbroadband.net

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