What Exactly Is “The Cloud”, And Does Your Business Need It?


Ah, the cloud.

Alluring. Mysterious. Trendy.

Every few months or so, I get this question: “Do I need to be in the cloud?”

This always takes me aback. I don’t know if you need to be in the cloud or not. What do you mean by “the cloud”, anyway?

Generally the answer goes something like this: “I was at a conference/read a trade journal where the keynote speaker/article said I should be in the cloud. He said it is more secure, more cost efficient, and way sexier.”


At this point in the conversation, I have to take a step back and “tech-splain” the cloud.

The cloud is a nebulous term. It can mean anything, from Google Drive, to iCloud, to offsite backups, to Amazon Music in the Cloud. It has come to mean any internet-based services. It’s a fancy new term for things that people have been doing since 1996.

To compound the confusion, companies are rebranding what they have already been doing as being “in the cloud”. I’ve had online banking for 11 years, but last year, it suddenly became, “banking in the cloud.” Because cloud computing is trendy, they just rebranded to take advantage of the buzz. This just creates confusion.

What is the cloud?

Let’s define the cloud. Technically, the cloud is a way of rapidly deploying computing resources (storage, servers, desktops) in a distributed manner.

These resources typically live at a large data center and are accessible over the internet. Those resources could be used for storing documents or music, or entire networks with servers and desktops.

When people ask me about the cloud, what they are really asking is, “Should my server and desktops be offsite at a data center to mitigate the risks of having them at my office?”

And the answer is: it depends.

Every so often I price out a complete server and virtual desktop environment for a client who is interested. When I present the quote, the universal answer has been, “Never mind.” It’s not just more expensive than an onsite server and desktops; it is 200-400% expensive over the lifetime of the equipment.

What are you trying to accomplish?

Want to be a trendsetter in your industry? Probably not worth it.

Want true business continuity in the face of disaster? Then the cloud is the way to go.

If your business is located on Highway 90 in Biloxi, the cloud is your best friend. You can have your server and desktops at a data center in CO and when the next hurricane hits, your business will continue on from a hotel suite in Memphis while you rebuild.

The cloud is great, and should be used wherever the benefit justifies the expense.

For example, our backup solution is a cloud based solution. If you have a service contract with us, your data is backed up to the cloud every night. The antivirus we use is cloud based. This allows us to schedule virus scans and create exceptions; not just for one client, but for all of them. If we find a new virus at Client A, we can instantly scans clients B-Z from the cloud.

That is the power of cloud made manifest.

Related reading:

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Chris Chamberlin

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