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One of my favourite Joni Mitchell songs, Both Sides Now, released in 1969 on the album Clouds was a deep and angsty examination of how our perspectives change over time. Well, now clouds are changing the business perspectives on the best way to store, transfer, access and use files and project details.

Computing in the cloud is changing the way we use the internet and industry watchers predict that the industry of supplying services in the cloud will grow by billions of dollars. Yes, billions.

So what’s the Cloud all about? Let’s look at it from a few sides and see if we can pin it down.

Every Fairy Tale Comes Real

For small business, the savings in the cloud can be like a fairy tale.

Imagine having a subscription service based on the number of users that is completely scalable, requires no complex software or hardware upgrades and increases your productivity. From small things, like PayPal for your online consumers to big things, like Zendesk, an online customer relations service, online business services are convenient and everywhere.

Sounds like a dream come true for businesses that need to reduce their overhead.

Storing data online rather than on servers not only frees small business from hardware, it also allows instant accessibility from anywhere with an internet connection. Cloud services are amazing for telecommuting, traveling for work or even eliminating the need for an actual office space.

Well something’s lost…

The Cloud is changing the way businesses work. It’s not all sunshine and roses of course. There are downsides, including privacy and security risks. You have to count on the service provider to keep the data you put in the cloud secure. As a business, you put faith in another company to keep your data accessible when you need it.

Login points can create other problems. You need to access your data so there has to be an access point. Usually a login with a username and password. While generally safe, these points are not impenetrable. If you have multiple employees each with different logins, it gets more difficult to ensure your data remains secure.

…but something’s gained

You can stay in the past with all your data locked down on internal servers or file rooms. But today’s technology and demands from clients, suppliers, partners, and even employees means that working in the cloud is going to be necessary for at least some transactions.

Despite predictions that the cloud will become the only way business gets done, most businesses opt for a hybrid of the two. Some data remains internal on private servers or intranet. Really important documents have a hard copy in a filing cabinet.

The benefits for reducing the hardware you need, though, cannot be ignored. Imagine storing your digital files on an online server like Rackspace rather than in the crowded file room. You could turn that room into a gym. Or a bigger lunch room. Or a nap room.

I’ve looked at clouds from both sides now

There are some really good articles if you are interested in more about Cloud computing. Check out Jonathan Strickland’s article in How Stuff Works for a good basic rundown. Mike Foreman in the Huffington Post connects the Cloud with small business and Brad Peters in Forbes talks about big business missing out. Finally, here’s an article on the potential bandwidth problems we could encounter as internet applications continue to grow.

What are your thoughts on the Cloud? What Cloud applications do you rely on every day?


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