How Cloud Computing Works: The Essential Guide for Businesses 

With roughly 92% of Canadian businesses having integrated it in some form, you may have heard a thing or two about cloud computing. But what is cloud storage, and how can you leverage it for your small business? This article aims to demystify cloud computing and help you identify the best cloud storage solutions for your business needs.

What is cloud storage?

Before cloud computing came along, you could only access your digital files on the physical device they were stored on. That means if your laptop crashed and you didn’t have a backup copy of your data on a harddrive, you could kiss your files goodbye. Thankfully, cloud storage came along to save the day. 

Cloud computing is a model of data storage where digital information or assets are stored on remote servers accessed via the internet. It's a secure, flexible, and cost-effective solution for storing files, which can be accessed and shared across devices. Cloud storage eliminates the need for physical storage devices and provides a way to back up data to prevent loss due to hardware failure—like the same kind we mentioned above. 

How cloud computing works 

Cloud computing allows you to access and store data over the internet, rather than on physical hardware. This technology relies on a network of remote servers hosted on the internet to manage, process, and store data. So rather than having a centralised location for storing your data, it exists “in the cloud”—which simply means there are multiple servers holding the data rather than one. Now when your computer crashes, you can still access your files, as long as you’ve uploaded them to the cloud. 

Key components of cloud computing

Let’s visualise the basic components of cloud computing: 

  • Front End: The user's side, which includes your computer and the application required to access the cloud system. 
  • Back End: The cloud section, comprising various computers, servers, and data storage systems that host the data.
  • Central Server: Administers the system, ensuring everything runs smoothly. It follows a set of rules known as protocols and uses a special kind of software called middleware to communicate between different devices.

Where cloud data is stored 

Cloud data is stored in data centres located around the world. These centres are equipped with numerous servers that store and manage data. Data centres are typically owned and maintained by cloud service providers who ensure high levels of security and data protection. The distributed nature of these data centres ensures data redundancy and reliability, reducing the risk of data loss. Some common examples of cloud service providers include Microsoft Azure or Amazon Web Services (AWS)

Types of cloud storage 

Here are three cloud computing models that you or your business might use: 

Public Cloud Storage

Where services are provided over the internet by third-party providers to multiple customers. Public clouds leverage vast networks of servers and storage resources, offering a shared infrastructure that spreads costs and resources across a wide user base, making it a popular choice for businesses seeking efficiency and ease of integration.

Private Cloud Storage

Unlike public clouds, which deliver services to multiple organisations, a private cloud is dedicated to the needs and goals of a single organisation. This setup ensures higher levels of control and privacy, making it a preferred choice for businesses with stringent data security and compliance requirements.

Hybrid Cloud Storage

A versatile computing environment that combines public and private cloud services. This approach allows for greater flexibility and more deployment options, enabling businesses to store sensitive data on a private cloud while utilising the public cloud for less critical resources. About 41% of all Canadian organisations plan to invest in hybrid and multi-cloud technology, indicating a shift towards more flexible and diverse cloud computing models​​ in the future. 

Which cloud storage is best for your business? 

Choosing the right cloud storage depends on several factors including the size of your business, security needs, budget, and scalability requirements. Here are some considerations:

1) Assess Your Needs

Begin by thoroughly analysing your company's data storage requirements. This includes estimating the volume of data you need to store, understanding how often it needs to be accessed, and gauging the sensitivity and confidentiality of the data. 

2) Security

Prioritise the security features offered by cloud storage providers. Look for services that offer robust encryption, compliance with relevant data protection regulations, and strong access controls. CSPs (cloud services providers) like Microsoft Azure are built with security from the ground up, and offer extended services like Microsoft Defender for Cloud and others. 

3) Cost-Effectiveness

Compare the pricing models of various cloud storage providers to find the best value for your investment. Consider not just the upfront costs but also long-term expenses, including data retrieval fees and costs associated with data transfer.

4) Scalability

Ensure that the cloud storage solution can adapt to your business’s growth. The provider should offer the flexibility to scale up or down based on your changing data storage needs. 

5) Reliability

Investigate the provider’s track record for uptime and reliability. Check their service level agreements (SLAs) for uptime guarantees and review their history of outages. 

Cloud computing can offer your business flexibility, efficiency, and security, among other benefits. Now that you have a basic understanding of cloud storage, you’re better equipped to make an informed decision for your business. But cloud computing can be a vast and complex topic—so our team is here to listen to your needs and help point you in the right direction. If that sounds like a fitting next step, reach out to us for more advice.

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