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How to Tell if your Business is Using Cloud Services

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The cloud is a very scary word for many business owners. They’re often unfamiliar with exactly what the cloud is and have a big fear of making a switch. The reality is that 98% of business owners who say that they’re not using the cloud actually are using the cloud. If you knew that you were already using cloud applications in your day-to-day business interactions, it would probably seem a lot less confusing and give you a little clarity on things. This might help you to have a clearer vision of how your own data can live in the cloud.

What happens with cloud solutions is that the server that stores the data or application that you’re looking for is hosted somewhere other than your office location. An interface is established that allows you to access this information. There are different types of interfaces that tell you that you’re using a cloud application.

Here’s how to tell if your business is already using cloud services:

Browser-based applications.

All web-based applications are hosted in the cloud. These are applications like Quickbooks Online, Salesforce.com, or any other web-based software. How can you tell if your business is utilizing the cloud in web-based applications? You’ll go to a browser in order to access this type of application. Whether it’s Google Chrome, Firefox, Safari, Internet Explorer or Opera – going through any of these browsers to access your data is an indication that you’re using a cloud application. This browser is where you’ll enter your login information, including your username and password.

What makes this option so great? You can literally access your information from anywhere that has internet access. 

Desktop or Mobile Device Applications 

evernote-1It can be a little less clear when you use an icon on your desktop to access an application, but many desktop and most mobile device applications live in the cloud. These are applications like Google Drive, Dropbox, hosted e-mail, and Evernote. 

To explain this further, we can look at your mobile device (iPad, Android, iPhone, Kindle). Your mobile device, in my opinion, is the perfect example of cloud services. You download an application from the app store and it lives on your phone locally, occupying a certain amount of your phone’s memory. While the copy of the application is stored on the phone, all of the data for that application lives in the cloud. This is why you can delete an app from your phone to free up memory, but still re-download the app and access all of your information.

To give an example of when a service on your phone or computer isn’t cloud hosted: Your mobile device photos are stored locally on your phone – which is why sometimes you go to take a photo and your phone tells you there is no available memory. If you delete that image, it’s lost. This is the reason that Apple came out with iCloud – to allow you a place to back up your phone’s data and be able to remove it from your local device. Why? It bogs it down. You can lose your device or it can be stolen… anything can happen. These reasons might be getting your wheels turning on why your organization could use Cloud services, but let’s move on.

Remote Desktop or Citrix Cloud 

Another widely utilized (particularly in Medium and Enterprise organizations) cloud service is Remote Desktop or Citrix. This is when you use another application to remote into a server that holds your information that isn’t local. While a physical device still exists somewhere housing all of the data, nothing is required to be downloaded onto your computer. So where with Google Drive or Evernote you’re required to download a version of the application to your phone or device, with remote desktop all of the data is exclusively hosted outside of your computer. This allows organizations to have much more control over how their data is being used and rather than a local application syncing data to every user’s desktop, a user logs in, works on the files that they need, and then logs out, but has no access to those files anywhere but that cloud server.

All of these options require login with a username and password. This helps to beef up the security around your data or application and prevent others from accessing it. If you didn’t understand the what and why behind the cloud – hopefully this clarifies it a little by offering some real-world examples to show you how you might already be using the cloud or how it could benefit you to begin using the cloud. Ultimately, your data needs protection. It’s up to you to decide how to secure that data, but with BYOD (bring your own device) and mobility becoming an increasing requirement, my vote is the cloud. It’s going to offer you significantly more flexibility without opening up unnecessary security holes.

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