What is the cloud and why does your business need it?

In the fast-paced world of information technology, it can be difficult to keep on top of new products and software, not to mention afford the latest downloads. Yet one essential service your business shouldn't be without is cloud computing. Gloucestershire IT service provider, ReformIT, tells SoGlos exactly why...

By Sarah Kent  |  Published
ReformIT believes all businesses can benefit from transferring to a cloud-based server.

We've all heard of the cloud and we know that our files, photos and videos upload to it from our phones, tablets and PCs. But if we're being honest, do we really know exactly what it is?

Cheltenham-based managed IT service providers, ReformIT, explains what the cloud is and why a business should subscribe to one.

What exactly is cloud computing?

The cloud refers to a network of powerful computers (servers) that are connected together and store and manage data and applications over the internet. Instead of keeping data and software on a single physical server or computer, the cloud allows you to access and use them from anywhere with an internet connection.

The cloud doesn't have a specific physical location like a building. It is made up of data centres spread across various regions worldwide. These data centres can be in different countries or even continents, and they work together to provide reliable and fast services.

Does one company own a cloud, or do many?

Many companies operate their own cloud services, like Microsoft Azure and Google Cloud Platform. Additionally, some companies have private clouds that they own and manage for their internal use. So, there isn't just one cloud; there are many clouds managed by different companies.

What benefits does it have over a traditional physical server?

Cloud services offer several advantages over traditional physical servers. Firstly, scalability — you can easily increase or decrease the resources (like storage or computing power) you need, based on the business's requirements. It's also cost effective, in that you only pay for what you use, which can be more cost-efficient than maintaining and managing physical servers; and it saves on electricity bills, too.

You can also access data and applications from anywhere with an internet connection; with reliability being a massive win too, as cloud services often have redundant systems, reducing the risk of downtime or data loss.

And with a cloud service, you also get automatic updates — cloud providers handle software updates and security patches, so you don't have to worry about them.

What would a company do if it used an old server but wanted to transfer to the cloud?

To transfer from an old physical server to the cloud, a company would typically follow these steps: first, it would need to assess its current infrastructure and data to determine what needs to be moved to the cloud. Then the business would need to choose a suitable cloud provider based on its needs and budget.

Once a provider has been agreed on, then all data and applications would be migrated to the cloud, which may involve some adjustments to make them compatible. At this stage, you can then test and verify that everything is working as expected in the cloud environment. Once this process was complete, it would be best practice to train employees on how to use the new cloud-based systems.

And what would happen to the old server?

A business has a few options for its old server. It can repurpose it for other tasks within the local network; or it can be recycled in an environmentally-responsible manner; or, if it still holds value, it can be sold or donated.

Can documents and files ever be lost in a cloud?

While cloud services are designed to be highly reliable, no system is 100 per cent perfect. In rare cases, data loss can occur due to technical glitches or human errors. However, reputable cloud providers implement robust backup and redundancy measures to minimise the risk of data loss.

If something did go wrong, how would it be fixed?

Cloud providers have technical teams that monitor their systems around the clock. If something goes wrong, they work to fix it as quickly as possible. They also have backups and failover mechanisms to ensure data and services remain available, even if there are issues with some parts of the system.

What type of business suits using a cloud server? Can anyone use it?

Cloud servers are suitable for various types of businesses, from startups to large enterprises. Small businesses benefit from the flexibility and cost-effectiveness, while larger companies appreciate the scalability and ability to handle high workloads. Almost anyone can use cloud services, including individuals who want to store their personal files securely.

How much storage can you get with the cloud?

The amount of storage you can get in the cloud depends on the cloud provider and the service plan you choose. It can range from a few gigabytes to many petabytes (one petabyte is equal to 1,000 terabytes).

In a real-life example, if we consider one terabyte of storage, it's equivalent to around 500 hours of high-definition video, 200,000 high-quality photos, or about 250,000 songs. Imagine having rows of hard drives stacked together in a room, and each hard drive can store several terabytes of data. That's how much storage can be provided by cloud services, but it's all managed virtually over the internet.

In partnership with ReformIT  |  reformit.co.uk

More on ReformIT

More from Business