Demystifying the ‘Cloud’

“Cloud” is a popular buzzword that generally makes people wonder, what is it? Where does it happen? Is it actually a cloud? Where is my data stored? Is it safe? It’s totally normal to have these questions when researching potential technology partners! Let’s explore the cloud, and how storing data in the cloud may impact your business.

The Cloud

The “cloud” can seem new and futuristic, but the truth is that the “cloud” has been around for a lot longer than you think. It is hardly a floating mist of files and data hovering high above; it’s a physical infrastructure that encompasses many computer servers in large, secure data centers around the globe. In most cases, data actually “lives” on a physical server located in an isolated cage with secure access; this is a private “cloud.” Private “clouds” are contained within one secure area that houses only one company’s data. If it were on a public “cloud,” then the data would be in a server where it “lives” with data from multiple sources.

But where did the “cloud” even come from? You may be surprised to find out that the “cloud” has been around since the 1950s! However, it hasn’t always been called the “cloud.” In the 1950s, mainframe computers were so large and costly that companies could not afford one for each user so, they developed a system of “time-sharing” methods with each other so each user could access the same data. Today, the premise of the “cloud” is based on this original process of “time-sharing.”

So in fact, the “cloud” is just a metaphor for data living on servers that the internet pulls from when a search is made. When you have a “cloud” you also have “cloud computing,” which, yes, is just more jargon for using the internet to access your data instead of a local hard drive on your computer. Cloud computing is just a process of securely storing and accessing data on, yes, you guessed it: the “cloud.” Cloud computing does not involve your hard drive; when you use your hard drive to store and access data it’s called local storage.

Using the “cloud” offers efficiency, reliability, speed, and security to the business world as well as everyday life. The “cloud” also offers a cost-efficient option for companies who want to eliminate the need for maintaining a large data center themselves. Outsourcing to a data center expert allows a company to focus on growing their business and leading strides in their field instead of wasting valuable resources on services that can be taken care of for a lower cost. Switching to the “cloud” creates direct and indirect savings for businesses looking to increase productivity as well as scalability.

What does this mean to me?

Many technology companies that service the finance industry leverage private “clouds” for code development and client information storage. A solid infrastructure partnered with reliable data center facilities and security providers allow technology companies to offer a secure, speedy, and reliable solution to its lenders. But, the advantages doesn’t end with speed and reliability! Programming in “cloud” environments offers a host of benefits, including scalability and agility. When coding for a cloud environment, the “cloud’s” ability to expand and retract when there is more data traffic is a huge advantage.

When deciding to migrate data to the “cloud,” a technology company must comb through a myriad of qualifications for a potential data center provider. A few of the top priorities to look for are security, audit records, and geographic fencing.

Security is among the tip-top of these priorities. Typically, to get into a secure data center where the “clouds” reside, a technology company usually has to submit a ticket for entry into the building, along with a government issued ID, a hand-scan, and an security access-card for entry into the cage area. If the “cloud” is private, the servers containing the data are located in a isolated cage that is secured with biometric access.

Technology companies are also going to want to seek a provider who complete yearly routine audits and can present audit results from previous years. The results reflect the controls used in the data center facility. Data center facilities should be assessed and vetted by industry standards.

Lastly, most U.S. based finance companies are required to keep customer data within U.S. borders. Therefore, technology companies dealing within the financial sector must select a data center provider who can ensure that the data will be securely stored within the United States. The process of storing data within a specific geographical border is often referred to as “geo-fencing” and should carefully considered when selecting a data center provider.

The “cloud” can seem confusing but with guidance and research it turns out that it is the cutting edge of data storage for technology companies all over the world.

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