What does "cloud" mean?

The definition for the cloud can seem murky, but essentially, it’s a term used to describe a global network of servers, each with a unique function.

This one is straightforward to answer but nuanced in the application.  First, let us start with a little history.  

The internet itself is just a collection of interconnected networks. In the early days of the internet (the 70s through the early 90s), it was mostly government, military, and college/university networks.  One aspect of proper network management was mapping your network, so you knew what hardware was where, and how it was connected.  But, how do you represent a connection to an outside network not under your control?  Well, you use a symbol for it.  The usual way to represent the outside internet was a cloud, as seen in the picture below.

That is what it still (mostly) means now, but marketing hype can stretch that definition a little bit as we will see.  Anything that advertises cloud simply means that some (or all) of that service is run on someone else's equipment.

For example, cloud backups (which we offer as part of QuickWatch) store your backup files on external servers to keep them safe. That's the cloud.  Office 365 provides programs you install and run on your PC but also uses the cloud to share files or give you access to all your documents wherever you are (like Onedrive).  

Some things stretch the definition, though.  If a company claims to provide cloud email service... Well, all email is stored on other peoples servers, so it's always been "cloud." That's how email works. Regardless of marketing buzzwords, what does it mean for your computer, your data, your business?  

The primary consideration is trust.  

Do you trust the vendor?  
Do you think they will keep your data secure?
Do you think they will be around in the future?
Will they let you move your data elsewhere if needed?  

The answers to these questions will vary depending on what you're storing. For just file storage, getting your data out if needed is easy.  For other programs, such as customer management, billing, accounting, and others,  each provider stores and manages things in a database behind the scenes.  Converting that to another provider is often a difficult, time consuming, and expensive process, so choosing a provider for those things should be done with care.

At QuickFix, we understand how important your systems are to you.  That is why we will take the time to help you when you are looking at various cloud solutions. Whether it is just email services or a sophisticated business management application suite, we can help you make the right choice.

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