Everybody’s head is in the cloud nowadays. The phrase has shifted its meaning, however. Where it once implied daydreaming, now it is the realm of innovative businesses and forward-thinking leaders.
The cloud, of course, is not the fluffy ethereal thing its name suggests. Rather, it’s a technology that supports online business tools and helps drive today’s industry. Think of it as steam to the Industrial Revolution: it’s the stuff that lets modern businesses drive change.
But what is cloud storage, and how are companies using it as more than a warehouse to store data?
What Is Cloud Storage?
There’s a lot of data out there, and it’s only growing. Think of your personal computer. When you had only text files there was plenty of room for storage, but once you started collecting images, movies and music, your data was quickly gobbled up.
The old technology was to expand your hard drive or invest in an external hard drive, which was dedicated to storing all those space hogs to free up your computer to do its work faster.
With faster connections to the internet, however, cloud storage has become not only possible but a preferable means to store data. Cloud storage is a digital storage depository that is made up of multiple servers, often in multiple locations, which are owned and operated by a hosting company.
These third-party vendors are responsible for the physical environments of the servers, as well as maintenance and accessibility, which they provide for a fee. It might seem counterintuitive to give your precious data to an organization instead of holding onto it yourself, where you personally care for its privacy and security but think of the cloud as you would a bank. You don’t keep your cash under your mattress.
Additionally, the possibility of a systemic collapse of the cloud storage you use is far less likely than that of burning out your computer or external hard drive. Even if you have the space to store all the data you need, the cloud is like making a digital copy. Think of it as insurance.
History of the Cloud
Cloud storage isn’t the shiny new toy much think. It has been around since the 1960s and was believed to have been invented by Joseph Carl Robnett Licklider, who was working on the Advanced Research Projects Agency Network (ARPANET), an early packet switching network to connect people and data, anywhere and at any time.
By 1983, the technology was being used by CompuServe. The company offered it to users who wanted to upload and store small files. By 1994, AT&T had PersonalLink, an online service for individuals and businesses to store data via the web.
But the elephant in the room is Amazon Web Services, which launched in 2006, and has since become the recognized leader in cloud storage. However, it is not without strong competition from services such as SmugMug, Dropbox and Box, among others.
Pros and Cons of Cloud Storage
While cloud storage has become a given for both personal and business use, before exploring how organizations are using the technology in innovative ways, it’s important to take an unbiased look at the service.
Some of the advantages of using cloud storage include:
- Having to pay only for the storage you need
- Reducing your energy usage
- Adding storage and protection to your data
- Removing the need for maintenance
- Enabling immediate access and various resources and applications from the host
- Backing up your files for loss prevention
- Accessing a central server for organizations with multiple locations
Some of the disadvantages include the risk to security and the potential of unauthorized access to data. This includes the number of people who have access to the data, which further compromises its protection. Then there is the fact that you’re sharing storage with other individuals and companies, so there is a chance that your data will be unduly accessed by others.
Companies that Innovate with Cloud Storage
The obvious use of the cloud is to store data, but it also offers benefits such as increased efficiencies. When you’re working from a cloud server, your data is accessible anywhere, any time and by anyone who you give access. This makes for collaborative environments and creative solutions, examples of which are below.
NextChapter is a service for attorneys that provides an efficient, intuitive and affordable way to serve their clients better. It has been set up to help with the complex filing of Chapter 11 or bankruptcy.
Because of cloud storage, it is compatible with any device or browser, and operating systems from iOS to Windows, and requires no downloads. The service simplifies the process to make case preparation often take half the time it would on paper.
With dashboards, task lists, document checklists and integration with other case management software, the product is seamless for those in the legal industry. It can even be customized to fit the needs of a specific firm.
CEO and founder, Janine Sickmeyer has extensive experience in the field of bankruptcy as a paralegal and found cloud storage an ideal tool to manage those administrative tasks more efficiently.
The video-streaming service, Netflix, was first mostly a rental service where you would rent physical discs. But between late 2007 and 2015, the number of hours of content streamed increased 1,000 times. Its customer base grew exponentially. Through cloud infrastructure, they were able to meet this demand.
The traditional server racks in a data center were not capable of handling their increased traffic. By 2010, they needed to find a solution that worked and saved them costs, so they could remain profitable. But at that time the cloud was not the trusted partner it is today.
Netflix began taking small steps migrating its services over to the relatively new Amazon Web Services to test the waters. Amazon offered the company the features they needed and the scale to support their rapid expansion.
Netflix was one of the first companies to place its fortune in cloud storage. This was a time when most people were ignorant of the cloud. It was a risk that paid off handsomely for the company, but it involved innovative thinking. The company was blazing a trail in the digital wilderness.
One of the things Netflix did to aid their transition was built a tool they christened the Chaos Monkey. It was built to wreak havoc on the cloud, so they could see where there were weak links and strengthen them. It was not easily done, but the company had to take bold initiatives because its whole business model rested on cloud storage.
As security becomes an issue with cloud storage, many companies are becoming more cautious about who they partner with. A survey on cloud storage services by the Digital IT platform Spiceworks, revealed that 80 percent of the 544 North American and European companies questioned were using some cloud-based data storage, and for 97 percent the most important factor in choosing a cloud service is security.
Microsoft OneDrive saw this as a strategic way to differentiate itself from the competition. While companies like Dropbox had many more users, they also had many more data breaches. Microsoft used its reputation for strong security in the IT community, and the fact that many (especially larger companies) were already using Windows services, to offer OneDrive as a seamless fit.
One thing Microsoft did was provide every Office 365 subscriber with 1TB of OneDrive storage, which made it financially advantageous to partner with Microsoft for cloud storage. Because of Microsoft’s size, they were able to broaden its footprint in the cloud by bundling products that already have a loyal and large following.
Cloud storage is an established practice in the business and at home. Because of its flexibility and ease of use, more and more companies are depending on the cloud to work more efficiently. ProjectManager is a cloud-based project management software that is accessible anywhere and at any time. It features tools such as a real-time dashboard to know exactly where you are in a project and an online Gantt chart that makes scheduling simple. Try it today with this free 30-day trial.