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The Cloud

I and my company Alcom Computing have been providing IT Support throughout Buckinghamshire since 1998 and in that time we have seen many changes.

One of the largest changes in that time has been the growth of the Internet and in recent years the most common question I’ve been asked is:

‘Should I trust the Internet with my Credit Card?’

A very good question…  Should you trust a website (which can be set up in a matter of days) with your credit card details?

As time has progressed, however, numerous security measures have been put in place to help build our trust.

And now that the UK is spending more online than any other European country what’s next?

The Cloud!

In a similar fashion to the Internet spending question, I am now asked the following question more than any other…

‘Should I be using the Cloud?’

Well firstly, let’s understand the word Cloud.  In this context it simply means Internet, that’s it!

So where did that word come from?

Well, when us techies draw diagrams we don’t draw every single computer on the internet.  That would take an eternity.  We draw them as a cloud to represent the collection of computers and websites that form the internet.  Apple subsequently coined the word to represent storing your settings, files and other data on their Internet servers.

More broadly, though, it now implies the delivery of IT as a Service instead of a product.

Boring!

What I mean is, instead of buying accounting software you rent the software and use it live on the Internet through a web browser.

The concept that you never OWN the product is the very core of the ‘Cloud’.

And that is the business model that is fuelling the Cloud…

Businesses get regular fixed income for sharing relatively low cost resources with many users (you).  That’s a great business isn’t it?  Earning money for doing very little?  A golden egg maybe?  Hence the EXPLOSION in cloud services and businesses offering the Cloud… Everyone wants a piece of that egg!

With so many providers now offering Cloud Services does that mean that the Cloud is safe to use?

The cloud is great, but very risky and in its infancy. Let’s come back to the original question…

‘Should I trust the Internet?’

Many businesses are putting their data, lock stock and barrel, on the cloud!  We’ve done many installations for clients that insist the Cloud is for them.

Yet they still ask me if it’s safe to give a credit card number to a website, never mind they’ve just given their entire business to providers they’ve never met!

What’s the risk of giving your business data to the cloud?

Well, for a start it’s extremely unlikely that you will find 1 Cloud provider who can do everything you need.

You’ll probably need a provider for

So that’s at least 2 or 3 straight away.

Next you’ll have to sign up to pay the providers regularly each month based on the number of users.  For example, renting an email server with Microsoft start about £5 per user, per month.  So email alone for 20 users will cost £960 per year!

Do you trust the provider?

For example, Microsoft…  Do you trust them to provide you with a faultless email service?  Some say yes, others say never in a million years!

What about 4shared.com (a newish online file storage company).  Would you trust them NOT to look at your files called, for example, Bank Details?

I’ve read their Terms & Conditions and guess what?  They are allowed to look at those files if they need to, for security reasons of course!

And finally, what if they go bust?  What happens to your data, in fact what happens to your business during that time?  Can you survive without email or a customer list?  I’ve not heard of a provider going bust yet, but the Cloud is still young.

Now with ALL this data on the Internet, er ‘Cloud’, is your broadband connection up to the job?  We have users that complain if the BBC website takes more than 4 seconds to load!

Now imagine 20 users accessing their email, files and trying to work on the Internet connection that was barely capable of playing the Radio properly on some days!

Many people say, well I have a 20 MPH broadband line, surely that’s fast enough.

Not so, when using the cloud you need to SEND lots more information and most broadband lines will only allow you to send files TO the INTERNET at just over 1 MPH.

That’s just 0.08 MPH per person if they are all using the Cloud at the same time. That’s about twice the speed of a snail!  Add more users and it all slows down even more!

So, armed with all the facts who IS the Cloud suitable for?

The Cloud is a great idea and it’s proving FANTASTIC for

It really brings these people together to work in a way they could never do previously and at a cost they can manage.  Keeping them connected and in touch with each other even when out and about.

For just a few users, rental costs are cheap so small businesses won’t need to invest heavily in servers and software.

So in summary, we believe that the ‘Cloud’ is a great new service.  If you do consider the cloud be SURE to read the terms and conditions for each provider and keep a BACKUP of your data, just in case!  Even if they offer to do it for you, keep your own copy.  Treat it cautiously and DON’T choose it just because ‘it’s cool!’ (trust me that is a genuine reason I was given last week!).

If you’d like to chat about the Cloud in more detail and whether it’s right for you, call me on 01494 784784 or contact me.

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