“Cloud computing” is a phrase that’s on everyone’s lips these days, but what does it really mean? Simply speaking, cloud computing means that all your information is stored in a system that’s essentially always in flux. It only exists out there on the Internet, not on your computers. Sometimes not even on the same set of computers provided by the service from moment-to-moment, as new and different ones are brought online or taken down as needed.
If you’ve ever used a web-based email system, you’ve been using a basic version of cloud computing. You can log in from any device and have all your email right there waiting for you. Google Docs is another well-known version of cloud computing. While you wouldn’t want to store your entire business in a Google Doc, you might be thinking about storing it all in the cloud. There are pros and cons to this, the same as there are for anything, so here are some of the most common perks and faults. Depending on what you’re willing to live with and what you really want, cloud computing could be the answer you’ve been looking for.
Google Docs is another well-known version of cloud computing. While you wouldn’t want to store your entire business in a Google Doc, you might be thinking about storing it all in the cloud. There are pros and cons to this, the same as there are for anything, so here are some of the most common perks and faults. Depending on what you’re willing to live with and what you really want, cloud computing could be the answer you’ve been looking for.
The Pros and Cons of Cloud Computing
Pro: Easily Adjust and Expand
As we, and the reviewers on our site, will often tell you, flexibility is a key factor in selecting a web host. This is the best asset of the cloud. Because it’s linked computer-to-computer like a spider web, it’s easy to bring more connections online or take them down if that’s what you wanted. This means that you won’t really notice a quality change when you’re working on a cloud, while a single, dedicated server will strain when it’s near capacity. Any time the cloud needs more space or power it can simply take it – like you’re in a sci-fi story about intelligent machines. Pretty cool, right?
Con: Not Easily Fixed When Down
Of course, when you have a problem with your dedicated server you can send a technician “under the hood” to take a look at it. Fixing a problem in a cloud is much more complicated that swapping in a new piece of hardware, and there’s often very little that you as an individual business owner could do about it. It’s all up to the person you’re leasing the cloud from. Even on their end, it can be very difficult to track down a problem when it’s spread over what could be a large geographical area. Expect problem-solving to take a while.
Pro: Short Setup Time
Because clouds are so easy to scale up or down, you can count on a pretty quick start up time once you’ve got one. Once the right web hosting information has been passed along, marking you as the correct owner of the website, you’ll see that your needs are being taken care of quickly. The cloud can come online at the drop of a hat. If you’re looking to get your space set aside and your business’ website up and running in a week, look to cloud computing. It can make that happen for you.
Con: Your Files Are Only Online
If you’ve ever been using Google Docs when the Internet cuts out, you know how frustrating it can be to your files without notice. If you’re the kind of person who needs to be able to work on the go and can’t count on always having an internet connection, this is not the situation for you. It’s great to be able to access your files from any computer. The drawback is if you don’t have the files you’re working on saved somewhere accessible without the internet, you’re going to suffer when the connection goes out (or maybe you will actually have to leave the coffee shop you’ve been holed up in, working like a fiend for the last four hours and six cups of coffee.)
Pro: No Need for an IT Tech Team
Hiring people really eats into a company’s cash. And if you want to set up your own server, or even just lease space from an already established company, you have to have an IT tech. With a cloud, you already have pretty much all the web hosting information you need to run it to its full potential. With a small investment of time and energy into learning the ropes, you can cut out the need to hire someone just to babysit a web server.
Con: Harder to Estimate
One big problem with cloud computing is that it is so flexible that it will scale up or down, but you still have to lease a certain amount of space. If you lease a set amount and then go over it, the cloud will meet your needs—and you might be stuck with a terrible bill. On the other hand, if you don’t use enough you’re going to have a bill much larger than the amount of space you used. It can be tough to find the right balance.
Pro: Top Tech for Small Businesses
One of the great things about the cloud is that you can use it to have access to the newest features and technologies, but you don’t have to pay for all of that in your own server. You can use a fraction of what a company has without paying out the nose for it. If you have a small business or a startup that you’re hoping to grow, a cloud is the best way to get your hands on all those new goodies out there.
Con: Privacy Concerns
On the one hand, you’re able to access your files from any computer. On the other, having this feature means you have to worry about security a little more. Because the cloud has so many potential points of legitimate entry, it’s that much easier for a hacker to get their claws into the site. Yes, it’s an issue, but it’s also one of the ones that are most frequently corrected. There are plenty of people who use them, and companies that host them stay vigilant. Still, if you’re working with very classified information or company secrets, it is a concern.
Pro: Easy Collaboration
Cloud computing lets you work anywhere, but it also means that your employees and colleagues can work anywhere. You and a coworker can edit the same document side-by-side and see each other’s changes. You can also, instantly share files just by adding them to the network and then finding them on your own. It’s the best way to keep in touch with other professionals. It also stops the constant flood of emails where you send files back and forth with minimal changes being made each time.
Con: More Susceptible to Data Loss
Of course, there are clouds without backup. You’re not saving all those files to every machine you use them on, so there’s a greater chance that if the cloud loses data it’s going to be gone forever. This is a real concern that bogs down the cloud movement a lot. Flexibility, scalability, and opportunity mean nothing if you can’t keep the work that you’ve put in. Constantly backing up your cloud defeats the purpose of having a cloud in the first place, most people agree. This leads some businesses to take a gamble and hope everything goes well.