If you haven’t heard lately, more and more businesses are “moving to the cloud.” What is this cloud people keep talking about and why should you worry about it? Cloud computing is nothing new, basically it’s been around since the internet started, just in a different form. What cloud computing and SaaS (Software as a Service) have done is move dependency on local servers, to the internet or “cloud.” Instead of connecting to a server that you have to maintain, now it’s someone else’s problem. Instead of paying oodles of money for software and a server specific to you and your needs, the SaaS providers have found a niche to supply this software on their own servers (that they pay to maintain and manage). They resell this to other companies as well, so essentially you are paying a monthly license fee to “rent” the software.
A web site for your business is essentially in “the cloud”. A web site is usually a face for your business, but now add in some features that allow you to connect to your customers (message board, Facebook integration, blogs and comments, interactive forms, vertical integration through to your retail point-of-sale, online billpay) and you have the perfect ingredients for SaaS.
A good situation for SaaS is one with many workers in many different areas. You can use a service like 37signals Backpack to collaborate with your team. Files, contacts, calendars…they’re all in the “cloud” so you can access them anytime/anywhere. Plus you don’t need an IT guy to setup, maintain or “work on” the system. Email hosting is headed in the cloud at an incredible rate.
Many businesses worry about security in the cloud and the old saying remains true, “Don’t put anything out there if you don’t want anyone to get a hold of it.” Software developers do put a lot of thought and security measures in place, but it’s still possible that they may be hacked at some point. A great way to think about it is the roof on your house. You put shingles on it, because you know its going to rain….you even buy expensive “135mph-rated” shingles to give your roof even more strength.. but if 160mph tornado winds come, they may rip your roof off anyway. All we can do is be prepared and do as much work upfront as we can. Just have good backups in multiple locations in-case an “internet tornado” hits.
I’m not completely certain how this “cloud concept” is going to change computing, but I’m certain that it will be dramatic. Let’s keep an eye on it together.