'The Cloud': Demystified

It is rather unfortunate, perhaps, that one of the most important and beneficial technological developments of the last 20 years has been given a name which is not only extremely inaccurate but which also tends to incite apprehension among non-techies.

Allow us to dispel some myths. ‘Cloud computing’ does not mean systems and data are somehow floating about in the sky. Neither does it have any connection to the weather, in the UK or anywhere else.

The term ‘cloud computing’ means using extremely sophisticated, highly secure servers (physical pieces of IT kit which hold data and software) which are located in specialist buildings away from your offices. These remote servers are considerably more secure than servers housed in ordinary computer rooms – and much safer than holding data on any personal computer, laptop, tablet or smart phone, any and all of which can be stolen, hacked into, lost or damaged at any time.

Using these remote servers with the right software allows managers and their staff to exploit all the features and benefits of systems (such as the Microsoft Office 365 suite, customer relationship management systems, intranets and extranets) and data (including prospect databases, documents and spreadsheets) at any time, from any internet-enabled device.

Security and privacy

Neither the system nor the data are stored locally, so there is far less danger of it being lost, corrupted or, worse, getting into the wrong hands. The key here is to assess relative risk. With ‘cloud’ hosting your information is stored within a purpose-built data centre with the resources and expertise to manage it: specially-designed cabinets within very safe, temperature-controlled, fully monitored buildings. Compare this with your current on premise server arrangements.

‘Cloud’ hosts invest heavily in surveillance, monitoring and the latest security updates, using the most advanced methods to protect customers’ data and ensure the maximum possible ‘up-time’. The data is yours and yours alone.

Established, trustworthy, cost effective

‘Cloud’ computing is not a new kid on the block, by anyone’s standards. Google built its empire on it! Hotmail, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and g-mail are all ‘cloud’ based and the technology has matured perfectly in line with the needs of even the most robust and established business. Microsoft Office 365 is testimony to this.

In terms of your investment, ‘cloud’ computing eliminates server hardware replacement or repair costs, bringing down maintenance and storage costs and contributing significantly to your corporate social responsibility targets: you won’t have to shred discs, degauss tape drives or scrap hardware.

Another myth you should eliminate from your worry list concerns down-time. Remote (cloud-based) servers are top-of-the-range. Microsoft’s up-time, for example, is 99.96 per cent. This is not perfect, but as near to perfect as you will currently get anywhere.

Hybrids welcome on the cloud!

Using ‘cloud’ computing for your data is not an either/or solution: you can store all your data remotely, or keep some of it on site. This is known as a hybrid cloud solution. There are a number of aspects to consider in evaluating what’s best for your organisation. They’re too numerous to include in this guide but feel free to ask us with no obligation whatsoever.

Knowledge leads to power

If you’re still nervous about ‘the cloud’, please don’t be. It could significantly empower your business’s (and your own, personal) use of technology, so it’s worth gaining the knowledge and reassurance to exploit it. Chorus is a Microsoft Cloud Deployment Partner so you can rely on us for the latest advice. Simply give us a call or an email and we’ll run through it with you.

You can also learn more about ‘cloud’ myths from Microsoft’s interactive guide or have a look at Microsoft’s Office 365 Trust Center.