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What is the Cloud? A Guide for Small Business Owners

As a small business owner, you probably hear a lot about the cloud. 'The cloud is changing computing.' 'Cloud-based storage.' 'We keep your information safe in the cloud.' But do you really know what the cloud is? We found out recently that many of our customers don't. So we're here to help you out with a simple explanation that will get you up to speed.

Data Storage

Death of a Hard Drive

When you store something on a computer, it's saved to the hard drive (or solid-state drive, depending on what kind of computer you have). If you have a Windows computer, this is the C drive—it's the physical storage space where your electronic files are stored.

Usually, when you save something, you'll save it to your computer's hard drive, or you might save it to an external hard drive that you plug into your computer, or even on a USB stick or CD. However, there's a risk in doing this.

Your computer could get stolen. It could be destroyed in a fire or a flood. Your hard drive could just die. There are loads of different things that can be disastrous for whatever you saved on your computer. Transaction files, customer information, even family pictures can all be wiped out by bad luck.

That's why we use the cloud.

Remote Storage

Clouds

'The cloud' is a phrase that usually stands in for 'remote storage.' What this means is that you take your important files, whatever they are, and send them to someone else's computer to keep there. They usually back up those files to other hard drives somewhere else, as well. That way, if you computer gets destroyed, you can still get your files back.

And with redundant backups, if the first cloud drive that your data is on gets wrecked, it'll still be safe on yet another drive somewhere else. That's why the cloud is so important for safe data storage. It's not on your computer, where it can be easily lost or stolen. It's somewhere safe, stored by a company with a solid reputation for data security.

Why the Cloud is Important

As a small business owner, the implications of storing your data in the cloud are probably clear. You have a lot of very important electronic data—customer records, invoices, receipts, staff payroll information, work schedules, and countless other types of crucial documents are used by small businesses every day.

And if a business loses access to those files, even for a couple days, it could cause a huge amount of problems. By storing your information in the cloud, you can access it from any computer, no matter where you are. If yours goes up in flames, you could even go to a public library and access your information from there. You could do it from your mobile, too.

By using a cloud storage service, you move the responsibility of data security from your shoulders to someone else's (at least mostly). The convenience of having all of your files easily available and the added peace of mind from having a data security team on your side make cloud storage a fantastic addition to your business tools.

Where Do I Get Cloud Storage?

There are many cloud storage providers, and you've probably already heard of a number of them. Dropbox, Google Drive, Box, iCloud, Backblaze, Crashplan . . . these are all cloud storage providers. Some of them have specialities; Backblaze and Crashplan, for example, are usually used as backup services. iCloud is only used by Apple owners. Dropbox, Google Drive, and Box, however, are used by a wide variety of people for all sorts of services.

Most cloud storage services offer a limited amount of space for free, so if you haven't done it yet, sign up for an account with one of the providers above and start moving your files to where they're safe. There's no reason to risk customer and business data because you're not sure if the cloud is a good idea. Get started today!

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