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“Cloud computing”, or more simply “the cloud”, are probably terms you’ve heard thrown around.  In this short post we wanted to try to make a little sense of what the cloud is and why you should care.  In a nutshell, if you’re a small business owner and you’re not taking advantage of the cloud you’re doing things the hard and expensive way.

What is the cloud?

The easiest way to explain “the cloud” is to explain where the term came from.  Way back in the early days of computing (think 90’s), technical folks used to create diagrams to explain their architecture, and invariably they would include a little cloud icon in their diagram and label it “the internet”.  Here’s a typical example:

Diagram of a network, showing "the internet" depicted in a "cloud"

Simple diagram showing “the internet” represented with a cloud image

The idea behind these types of diagrams was to depict all the detail within the organization, and to refer to “the internet” with this little pretty cloud picture.  As though to say “and everything else connects to the internet.”

Pretty soon techies started saying “well wouldn’t it be neat if we could do x, y, or z in the cloud?”  In other words, we have all these computers and servers and network pieces and what-not to do things, but what if we could simply do that on the internet.  So now they drew pictures like this one:

Diagram showing different apps run in the cloud

Diagram showing features and functionality managed in the cloud

“The cloud” meant simply “on the internet”.  It’s really not much more complicated than that, and the term came from those little diagrams.

What you can do in the cloud

As things have evolved, the numbers of things that can be done in the cloud has gone exponential.  You can check your email in the cloud (think GMail), you can check your bank account balance in the cloud (think Chase), you can pay your credit card in the cloud (think Citibank), you can store your files (think DropBox), you can book your travel (think Delta), you can navigate your car (think Google Maps), and the list goes on and on.

There really is no mystery to “what the cloud?” is if you simply replace “in the cloud” with “on the internet”.

Why you should care

As a small business owner, you probably run around a lot doing your work from wherever you happen to be.  On your desktop computer, on your laptop, on your tablet, or on your phone.  In the old days, this was a pain because invariably a system you needed to access (email, accounting, contacts, etc.) was not on the device you had in your hand at the time.  And if you tried to solve this problem you were constantly sync’ing devices to make sure everything was on every device at all times.

When you embrace cloud computing, all of that headache goes away.  Now everything you need is on the internet.  Yes, on the internet.  But not in full public view for anybody else to see.  It is in accounts, safely stored behind passwords that only you should have.

By moving your computer needs up into the internet, you no longer have to buy servers, networking equipment, tape backups, and all that other stuff you might have done in the past.  Much more important than saving that money, you don’t have to spend all that time managing all that stuff.  And as a small business owner, time is your most precious commodity.  That’s why you should care about the cloud.

In future posts, we’re going to talk about lots of different ways you can save time and money leveraging the cloud.