Cloud Computing 101

Cloud computing is a term which was once reserved for folks in the know; it has made its way into the lexicon of everyday conversation. But what is cloud computing, really? Where did it come from and why is it important for you and your organization?

The truth of the matter is that cloud computing is nothing new. In fact, cloud computing has been around for decades, but what has changed within the last seven years is the scale.

From a customer’s perspective, cloud computing is simply the idea that your data is being stored and accessed from systems that you do not own, or may not even know where they are located.

An example of cloud computing is your personal email. Whether you are using Gmail, Yahoo, Hotmail, or AOL, your email is stored and maintained on servers that you do not own. You just log in to your email on any computer that can access the Internet. All of the general upkeep and maintenance including making sure that the email system is functioning, data backup, and hardware upgrades are all done by your email provider.

In fact, you probably never gave a second thought as to where your personal email is hosted or how you’re able to store and recover old emails maybe even decades old. Everyday we open a web browser, type in our username and password, and expect instant access to our email.

Consumers have grown accustomed to instant access to their mail, pictures, music, and files from anywhere. Employers and employees are now expecting the same access to their corporate data.

In the past, organizations that needed to implement a business application in-house usually purchased expensive hardware to run the application and hired costly technical staff to maintain it. In today’s cloud computing model, all applications are subscription-based – meaning you pay a monthly or annual fee for the resources that you use for that application, instead of large upfront costs for equipment or software.

To illustrate this idea within a different industry, think about your monthly energy bill. As a customer you are not generating the power – you are consuming it. Likewise you do not own the transmission lines that bring power into your house or organization. You simply tap into the existing power grid and pay for what you use.

We live in an app centric world, which means that most businesses can find or are already using cloud-based applications to help them more easily achieve their business goals. The great thing about cloud applications is that they require a minimum upfront investment while being able to be implemented within hours or maybe a few days.

The cloud computing renaissance is helping organizations grow and expand in ways they never knew were possible. We see examples every day of how cloud computing is changing the nature of business. For example Owia Technology helped:

  • One local nonprofit adopt cloud technology to provide their field workers access to the same set of real-time data used at headquarters.
  • A charter school in SE Washington, DC cut annual IT spending by tens of thousands of dollars and used the surplus to purchase tablets for every classroom.

Cloud computing can be a transformative force for most small businesses, nonprofit organizations, associations, medical practices, law firms, and educational institutions looking to save money, reduce the complexity of their internal network, and give their staff greater access to the information they need to perform more efficiently. However, in order to get the most out of your cloud technology you first need to learn how to properly assess your requirements and other implementation factors, plus learn how to select the right cloud vendor for your business.

Be sure to read our additional content on cloud implementation and vendor selection.