What is Cloud, and should I use it?

Premise

Our industry has always been full of buzzwords, jargon and in general, language that is effective at confusing the end user as to the real facts. The cynical among you may conclude that this is done to beguile, confuse or outright deceive and we suspect that sometimes this has been true.

Well, Nemark has been making efforts to right this wrong and use plain language to explain things to “ordinary” people; we don’t use that term in a derogatory sense here, only to describe those who have better things to do than immerse themselves in geekdom! We don’t ever presume that people unfamiliar with IT are stupid, only that they are unfamiliar with IT and need help in that regard!

A super-short history lesson

Years ago, users would simply store information on their own computers and back up to whatever backup device they had lying around; tape, floppy disk or some other backup system. Worse still, they didn’t back up at all. This was a bad situation and thus, the trend emerged to centralise business data on a bigger computer called a Server.

Servers allowed business management to administer backups and in general, control and manage essential business information. This worked well for decades, actually, and has only relatively recently given way to the next stage with the arrival of much faster internet speeds.

Modern times, modern solutions

Instead of business information being stored on a server in an office, we now see more and more firms use servers based in data centres (imagine secure “bunkers” full of servers, redundant power and internet connections, maximum physical security – sort of like Wargames but for commercial use!).

The normal office internet connection is used to access the same information, but rather than this being on a server in the corner of the room, it’s on a server housed in a secure facility. “What is our internet goes down?” we hear you ask.

Don’t worry; there are ways to ensure that in the event of an internet outage, key files / email is still available for you to work on and refer to. You can’t always say that about a local server as users would traditionally access their files via a drive letter such as “Z:\” which is basically a share on the server where the firm’s files are. Thus, if the server is down, those files are unavailable.

Why the shift?

Ah, now we’re getting to the crux of it. In understanding why other businesses are moving in this direction, you’ll be able to determine whether or not their motivations are applicable to you and your firm, and make an educated choice, rather than being guilty of blindly following the masses. The below reasons represent many of the key reasons behind the move;

  1. Budgeting. Servers are relatively costly, and need to be replaced ideally, every 3-5 years. Cloud-based solutions don’t have these “blips” in costs and instead, have a fixed per-user price, usually charged monthly. This is not to say Cloud is cheaper (it depends on how long you risk keeping your servers) but it does make it easier to plan
  2. Scalability. Cloud services are generally delivered on a per-user basis meaning it’s easy to expand the provision as required. It is true that the same can often be done with a normal server, but there is downtime associated with it, and the expansion possibilities are not limitless in the same way that Cloud solutions are.
  3. Physical Security. Common sense tells us that if you don’t have a physical server in the office then it can’t catch fire, be drowned in a flood, or get stolen.
  4. Cyber Security. “Cyber” is a term used to describe anything to do with computers – it’s also used to describe a mortal enemy of Doctor Who but we digress. Getting back to the point, good Cloud solutions have end to end encryption (meaning data can’t easily be “read” by hackers). Such solutions also have something called two-factor authentication which means that as well as a password, users may have to enter a code received by text (for example) before gaining access to the system from a new location.
  5. Availability. Okay here’s an admission. In the interests of keeping things simple we’ve been talking about Cloud Servers as single-machine instances when in fact, they’re many; when you store your data on a good Cloud solution, it is effectively copied across multiple secure servers meaning a failure will have no interruption to your work.
  6. Accessibility. With the right permissions and authorities in place, you can access your data from anywhere in the world, via most popular devices (smartphone, tablet, laptop, PC or even just from any web browser). It is true that this can theoretically be done via a server in your office, too, but think of it as a 10/10 difficulty to truly set this up properly, versus 1/10 for Cloud Solutions. After all, the data is already outside your office so it’s not such an alien concept as it is for the more traditional, office-based solution.

Okay I am convinced. What can I put in the Cloud?

In short, EVERYTHING. There are different technologies and solutions for varying use cases but the short answer is that whatever you do, there is a Cloud equivalent. The below is not an exhaustive list, but to give you a flavour…

Data TypeExample of Cloud Storage Solution
Word Documents, Excel Spreadsheets, Photos, Videos, i.e. e.g., “Stuff”Dropbox Business (recommended)Sharepoint / OneDrive
EmailExchange Online via Office 365
SQL / Database ServersNemark Cloud NX – a complete managed server, in the Cloud

Next Steps – treading carefully but deliberately

So you’ve decided that Cloud might be right for you. What do you need to do now? There is lots to consider but your first step would be to contact us. From this first meeting we will be able to;

  1. ascertain your true business requirements and help you determine if this is the right approach (well sell servers too so we’re not biased)
  2. minimise downtime through carefully planning the migration to Cloud
  3. minimise operational costs by optimising your Cloud products (we’re Yorkshiremen at heart, and hate waste!)
  4. plan introductions to the new technologies so that you and your staff can hit the ground running and get the most out of it from day one

Summary

Whilst it is true to say that Cloud is not for everyone, it’s also certainly true to say that it’s right for most businesses, to some extent. Nemark can help you determine what (if any) Cloud Services would be right for you, and help you to get up and running with these powerful and exciting technologies.

It’s not a one hat fits all situation, and nor do you have to go fully into the Cloud! Jump right in, or take baby steps – the choice, as ever, is yours. You might also decide to try it with one business function first, for example, and then add to the Cloud portfolio at a later stage, or when your on-premise servers reach the end of their scheduled lives.

Whatever direction and speed you decide to take, taking it with Nemark Professional IT Services Ltd. is the right choice; we remove the pain, anxiety and confusion, leaving you with a clear picture of what is, and what needs to be. Cloud Solutions are not simple, but we can make them easy!

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