What You Should Know About "The Cloud"
Written by Marty Kaufman, as seen in The Business Press

Technology is amazing. It is hard to deal with just how fast things are changing. It was just a year or two ago and the word "Cloud Computing" was uttered. Since the first time one of my clients said the words to me, I have been standing at a white board or scratching sketches on napkins to illustrate cloud computing scenarios. So what is "The Cloud" and how could you take advantage of it?

Definition
The term "cloud" is just a metaphor for the Internet. You generally access your "cloud" via a browser like Internet Explorer, Safari, or Chrome but there are other ways as well. The basics are super simple. You go to a browser, select the site or shortcut you need, and just like that, you are working. Better yet, you can access your data from anywhere in world; a desktop, laptop, or Smartphone. You have the browser; the application provider has the data. Awesome!

There are thousands of great applications available on the Internet from your Browser. Some very popular examples are Facebook, Google Apps, Salesforce.com and Quicken.

The Cloud at Home
At home, you use cloud applications all the time and may not even know it. You just click and go. Over 500 Million of us click on Facebook and Fantasy football is one of the most used sports applications in the world. This is great for us home users because we get amazing new fun applications to use for little or no cost. What a deal!

The Cloud for Business
For small businesses, cloud applications can sometimes be used exclusively and very inexpensively. If your company just needs email, accounting and document storage, there are great options. You can get your email, office applications, and document storage from Microsoft or Google and your accounting online at Quicken. How simple is that! Better yet, the price for these applications can be as little as $5 per month.

Larger or more complicated businesses may have a bit of a challenge. Companies need to find applications that can perform the business functions that they need at a price they can afford. Some businesses have the need for very specific software and integration that may not be available in the cloud. These types of businesses may need to implement a hybrid approach. Email may be provided by the cloud but maybe there will be an on-site server for the custom applications and storage.

Caution Security and Support
Moving your business to the cloud will require a faster and much more reliable Internet connection. This usually means a significant increase in your monthly communications bill. Remember, if the Internet goes down, you will not have access to your applications or your data; so you must make sure the Internet Service Provider is financially and technically solid.

Make sure you implement rock solid Internet Security measures like an updated firewall, intrusion prevention software (IPS), workstation antivirus and patches, and a good web filter. At least you will be locking the door on the growing number of Internet thieves.

IT Support may be a challenge as well. When you have all of your applications and data are in the cloud and something obscure like a printer doesn't print . . . who do you call? You must have a good team of IT professionals looking out for you in case all of the complicated communications somehow gets interrupted.

The cloud is here to stay and will just continue to expand and mature. I can't wait to see what is next!

About Marty Kaufman
Marty Kaufman is the President and founder of Accent Computer Solutions, Inc. an IT Services company supporting companies with 5 to 1000 desktops. He can be reached at 800-481-4369 or MartyK@TeamAccent.com

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