The cloud. A term used so much with modern technology and yet we so often see it misunderstood by the end user. So what does it actually mean?

Well the term "Cloud" is simply a marketing word. It isn't actually a thing or a place – and it isn't up in the sky (you may laugh, but some users do think it means their data is in satellites or some other aerial technology!) The simplest way to explain the term cloud is to understand the technology behind it and how it is in fact different to what you may have been using. Let's examine a traditional email or data store where your company had everything on their own in-house server:


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So all users in the office would connect directly to the in-house server for emails and files, and any user working from home would have to remote in (normally VPN) via the internet and access the physical server that is in their office. This setup requires server maintenance, open ports to allow remote access, and a working broadband connection to the office for incoming email and remote users.

Now, let's see the difference with a cloud email solution such as Office 365:

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So when a cloud solution is in place every device, whether in the office or at home or even on your mobile 4G connection, access their data / emails from data centres located all around the world. And these 1000s of servers are secured, maintained and backed up by the company you buy the service from, such as Microsoft for Office 365.

The term "cloud" is simply a marketing word to describe services that are hosted and managed by larger organizations and not by your own company. Your data is still stored on servers, but instead of being in your office where you are fully responsible for their upkeep the servers are in a data centre.

Now we know all this, what are the benefits? The three I would identify as the main advantages for most cloud solutions are:

Reliability – Most cloud companies will offer 99% up time.

Scalability – Whether you have 3 users or 3000 users a service like Office 365 can support both.

Cost – Cloud solutions are likely to be more economical for your company.

With cost, try not to simply consider like-for-like. Bear in mind that the reliability and scalability benefits of a cloud based service, as well as lower setup and support costs as well as reducing staff downtime add significant value. An on-premises server is bound to require support and downtime due to maintenance, all of which can be costly.

And how new is "the cloud"? Well the very principal of storing your data on servers managed by another company rather than yourself has been around for decades. Even your old POP mailboxes had the ability to store your email on the suppliers managed servers and the Hotmail service has been available since 1996, with others coming before them. So when considering what "the cloud" is, it helps to understand the technology behind and you soon realize that the concept and use of it has been in our lives for a long time, we just may have never realized!

Cloud services and solutions are undoubtedly the future of IT but it is important to implement the right cloud product that suits your business. If you want to find out more and discuss cloud options for your business please contact us here at Qdos. Or attend our introduction to Office 365 training course.

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