Cloud computing: is it right for you?

cloud computingBy now, you probably have heard the term Cloud computing. It’s fast becoming the new norm. But, what is Cloud computing? Generally speaking, it can be defined as having one or more technology-related function occurring offsite or off premises. A very common form of Cloud computing is email. Many of us use some form of web-based email such as Gmail, Hotmail, or even AOL. There is, however, vastly more functionality to Cloud computing than email. Broken down to its basics, there are three main areas of Cloud computing, each with its own variations.

The three main areas are:

  • Offsite data backup and storage
  • Hosted email
  • Remote applications or desktop

Let’s look at each area to determine if Cloud computing is right for you and/or your business.


Offsite data backup and storage

Assume, for a moment, that you are a small business owner with a computer at your desk; a lawyer, an accountant, pick an industry. You are busy typing away when, all of a sudden, you see a blue screen. Sound familiar? Now, all your information–your contacts, your billing information, your Web favorites, everything–is gone. What do you do? Well, the first category of Cloud computing, offsite backup, would protect you from such a disaster. And, it is a disaster. No question about it.

What if you are a salesperson on a business trip and need to make modifications to a contract? You discover you left your computer back at the hotel and cannot access Microsoft Outlook to check your email. What now? The other benefit of offsite storage is collaboration. A colleague could make the modifications for you and upload them to a Cloud storage service such as Microsoft’s Skydrive, Google Docs, Dropbox, or a slew of other storage providers. Then, all you have to do is access the service from a client’s computer and print the modified contract.


Hosted email

Email. You can’t work without it.

Email has become so entwined with our daily work activities that without it our productivity almost comes to a standstill. When a company hosts their own email servers internally, they are susceptible to many interruptions, such as power outages or hardware failure.

What do you do about that important email you had to get out right away when the email server does crash?  Relax. The Cloud has you covered. Business owners understand the need for reliable, functional email.  That is why more and more companies are either moving their email servers to a datacenter or transferring email functionality to a Cloud-based service such as Microsoft’s hosted Exchange or Google’s mail services. Either solution offers anytime, anywhere access.


160366814Hosted Apps / Desktop

Let’s go back to the computer that just crashed. Not only did you lose all your data, but you lost all your applications, as well. How many of us actually have the original disks to install that 10-year-old program we have been using? Probably not many of us. More likely, we downloaded a program from the Internet and have now lost the program and installation file.

With Cloud computing for hosted apps or a hosted desktop (also known as Virtual Desktop Interface, VDI), losing our applications is a thing of the past. Service providers are offering Cloud-based applications for a variety of tasks. Microsoft offers their Office365, which is Word, Excel, etc., in the Cloud. Intuit offers QuickBooks Online, and companies such as Thompson Reuters offers all their tax programs, including Microsoft Office online in a virtual office. Additionally, there are companies that actually offer a complete desktop. So, if your computer crashes, you have lost nothing. You just grab another computer, even a tablet, log into your VDI and continue as if nothing happened.

What do you do when you set your laptop down for a moment at a café, walk away, and when you come back, it’s gone? That sudden, bewildering moment of fear overwhelms you, knowing everything was on that laptop. Now, consider how different you would feel if you used your laptop to access a computer in your office or at your home? All is not lost!  You have only lost the cost of a new laptop. All your “stuff’” is still sitting on your desktop. This is a very easy and economical advantage of Cloud computing.

Where does this leave us? It leaves us with the knowledge that Cloud computing has many offerings. There is a Cloud solution that fits most business needs and budgets.  The best place to start is to contact an IT consulting company that can help guide you through the process. Without an experienced consultant by your side, some Cloud solutions can turn into storms. But, with the assistance of a consultant, there can be billowy-white Cloud solutions that cover all your IT needs. It only takes some careful planning and execution to get the most out of your Cloud computing. Remember, implementing Cloud computing can be sophisticated and expensive, or simple and economical. It all depends on what you want from the Cloud.


Larry LevyBy Larry Levy

Larry Levy is the Director of the ALM Group, a Jacksonville-based company servicing businesses with technology and marketing solutions. Mr. Levy’s experience spans 20 years of technology evolution. He is an expert in small business consulting and a published author. You can connect with him at

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