Everyone is talking about cloud computing these days and for good reason. The cloud is revolutionizing how computing power is generated and consumed. Cloud refers to software and services that run on the Internet, instead of locally on your computer. When tech companies say your data is backed up “in the cloud,” it has nothing to do with those white fluffy things in the sky. Your data isn’t actually up in the cosmos or floating around in space. It has a terrestrial home. It’s stored someplace - lots of places, actually - and a network of servers find what you need, when you need it and deliver it. 

Cloud computing, if done properly can make your business much more efficient. However, a cloud solution is only as good as the quality of the research, the implementation, and the follow-through. So, how do you know if moving your business applications and data to the cloud is the right answer for you? There are few things you need to know about the cloud first. 

 What exactly is the cloud? This is a tricky question in and of itself. Just like the clouds in the sky, there are many clouds when it comes to technology. In the simplest terms, cloud computing means storing and accessing data and applications over the Internet instead of your computer's hard drive. It is using a network of computers to store and process information, rather than a single hard drive.

Public vs. Private vs. Hybrid? Not all clouds are the same. You have options with public clouds, private clouds, as well as hybrid clouds. Choosing the right options for your business comes down to the needs and the amount of control you would like to have.

·      Public clouds: owned and operated by a third-party cloud service provider, which deliver their computing resources such as servers and storage directly through the Internet. With a public cloud, the hardware and software is owned and managed by the cloud provider. You access these services and manage your account using a web browser.

·      Private clouds: unlike the public cloud, the private cloud is used by only one organization. A private cloud is one in which the services and infrastructure are maintained on a private network. Some companies also pay third-party service providers to host their private cloud.

·      Hybrid clouds: combine public and private clouds, that allows data and applications to be shared between them. Data and applications can move between public and private clouds as needed, offering better flexibility and more deployment options. 

HaaS or Saas? Just like there are different types of clouds, when it comes to cloud computing, there are also different types cloud services. Most commonly used cloud services fall into two categories: HaaS and SaaS.  

·      Hardware as a Service, or HaaS, basically refers to leased computing power and equipment from a central provider. The HaaS model is very much like other hardware service-based models - clients rent or lease, rather than purchase, a provider's hardware.  

·      Software as a Service, or SaaS, utilizes the Internet to provide applications to its users, which are managed by a third-party. Unlike HaaS, this is web-based model where software providers host and maintain the servers and databases - eliminates hardware investment costs. 

Is it safe and reliable? As mentioned before, cloud computing is the way of the future. We know it is easy and inexpensive – but, is it safe and reliable? What good is saving money and switching to a cloud solution if it will bring additional risks to my business? Most cloud service providers offer encryption features such as service-side encryption to manage your own encryption keys. So, in reality, you ultimately decide how safe your solution is. As far as reliability goes, in many cases, cloud computing can reduce the amount of downtime right down to seconds. Since there are multiple copies of your data stored all throughout the cloud, there is no single point of failure. Most data can usually be recovered with a simple click of the mouse. 

In the end, though, companies shouldn’t make decisions entirely based on what they are comfortable with, or what with what is cheapest. What should be most important is deciding whether or not transitioning into the cloud will work for your business. 

To cloud, or not to cloud? The choice is all yours. Do your research and ask the right questions.