Cloud Computing

 Cloud computing, despite all the hoopla and mystique, is nothing more than using storage and services on the Internet to supplement the storage and services on your computer.

Many people use Google’s Gmail for email and Apple’s iCloud for backup of iPhones and iPads. Those are just two of many cloud services, services that can do far more than most people know.

Cloud services fall broadly into four categories: email; storage; synchronization; and software services.

Email: Email is the cloud service with which most people are familiar. AOL, Gmail and Hotmail are mail programs that run on someone else’s servers. The email on one of those services can be read on multiple devices, whether a Web browser, a smartphone or an application on your local computer.

: Cloud storage can be used just like the hard drive on your computer with a big difference -- you have access to the files stored in the cloud not just from your computer but from any Internet-connected device. Many cloud service providers -- Google, Dropbox and Box, for example -- give you several gigabytes of free storage and can provide more for a fee. Files stored in the cloud can also be shared with other people, whether family, friends or co-workers.

: Services from Apple, Google and Microsoft will synchronize contacts and calendars across multiple devices. Those same services allow you to share some or all of the information with others. Those services providers, along with others such as Dropbox and, synchronize your data, allowing you to keep up-to-date versions of your data on multiple devices so you always have the latest version, whether you have an Internet connection or not. Services such as Evernote help you organize documents, notes, photos and other files and synchronize them across multiple devices. Easily as important is that all these services have redundant servers scattered across the country so your data is always safe.

Software services:
Most computer users are familiar with Microsoft’s Office suite of products, Word, Excel, Powerpoint and their brethren. Google’s cloud storage service comes with free counterparts that you can use instead. Microsoft has Office 365, an online counterpart to the version of Office that runs on your computer. New copies of Office include Office 365 and related cloud services and storage, with versions available for home users, students and more comprehensive versions for small businesses all the way up to Fortune 500 companies. Programs such as Quickbooks, Neatreceipts and even Adobe’s Creative Suite, the industry standard for design and publishing, are all moving to cloud services to supplement or even replace the traditional desktop software model. This is known as Software As A Service, or SAAS. Using SAAS applications can significantly reduce maintenance and management costs, since the bulk of the software runs on somebody else’s servers and they handle the updates, patches and fixes. It typically means lower up-front costs, too, but can mean you have a recurring annual fee.

All these services have minor differences and you may want to use just one or a combination of them. Contact us to learn how these services can reduce downtime, make you more efficient and protect your data.

Steven Brier