Ah, the elusive 'cloud'. What does it mean? And why is it replacing servers?
But first, what is a server? There are many different 'types' of servers, and they come in a physical or virtual form. Physical servers are those big, clunking devices that once sat in racks in the IT room, where fans whirled and access was understandably denied to most staff members. Servers can be for databases, files, mail, printers, web, games and applications - the list is endless. But the essential function of a computer server is to store, retrieve and send computer files and data to other computers on a network. Many businesses use a local network to connect a number of computers - like when you save to a 'Drive'.
So, knowing what we do about what physical servers are, where does the Cloud come into this? The Cloud refers to software and services that run on the Internet, instead of locally. Most cloud services can be accessed through a Web browser such as Google Chrome or Edge, as well as dedicated applications. Your iPhone's iCloud is an example of a cloud service, it may have been your first introduction to the Cloud, even! iCloud is used as a storage/syncing system for your photos, documents, movies, music and a whole lot more. This type of cloud storage means you can access all of this content across any of your Apple devices using the same 'Apple ID'. This can be particularly helpful when setting up a new device, as all the data from your old device can be retained and redeployed!
In a business environment, a cloud-based solution offers many benefits. You are able to set up what is essentially a virtual office, to give you the flexibility of connecting to your business anywhere, anytime. t reduces the cost of managing and maintaining your IT systems as there is no need for onsite hardware or capital expenses, like those overwhelming server rooms and their electricity bills! A Cloud solution is scalable based on your operations and storage needs, and you only pay for what you need. Business continuity gets a big tick with this solution. Natural disasters, power failures or any other crisis could completely destroy your servers and data. But having your data stored in the cloud ensures it is backed up and protected in a secure, safe location. Not only this, but being able to access your data quickly means there is less down-time, and you can continue to conduct business as usual from anywhere. In a less extreme sense, cloud environments encourage a culture of collaboration and shys away from more traditional methods of teamwork. You can work a project from a different location to your employees, and they will still have access to the same files as you, and all changes are made in real-time so you can watch what your staff or colleagues are typing as they type it! Lastly, you have access to automatic updates to your cloud solution. Your system is regularly updated with current software, upgrades and processing power. Which means your data is less likely to be compromised or unusable.
Like anything, there are some cons to going forward with a cloud-based solution rather than a server-based environment. A server keeps critical data in-house rather than out where (unlikely) a third party can access it. But like we mentioned above, a server requires space in your office in addition to dedicated IT support, and cloud companies have strict security policies in place to ensure your data does not become breached. A cloud solution relies on internet connection for access to data, if the internet goes down you don't have access to your data. Although in the environment we live in today, this loss of connection is usually for a short period of time, and can be avoided with use of mobile data. Cost can be a factor for smaller businesses, but as cloud-based environments become more and more appealing, costs will become less due to more competition.
As you can see, we are big believers in the 'Cloud', it is the way of the future and we encourage everyone to consider this solution when it comes to their IT. Our partner company, Technology Tree, can help with any queries about a cloud-based solution. For those of you in need of servers, check out our products, or send us an email with what you require and we can see what we can do!