Cloud computing is more than just a trend - it's a new way to store data and access software that can save you money and help you streamline the way you manage technology.

The term “cloud computing” refers to accessing software and data storage services that reside on servers around the world - no need to run software or store data on your own computer or server. You simply connect to a centralized host that stores your programs and files on a network of computers, known as the “cloud”.

Many business activities can be conducted in the “cloud”. For example, you can:

  • Access accounting, human resources management, and other types of business software.
  • Store data such as sales records, personnel files, and lists of suppliers and distributors.
  • Share documents and work collaboratively with colleagues over the internet.

Benefits

Affordable, convenient and easy to use - these are some reasons why many organizations are turning to the cloud for some or all of their IT needs. Cloud computing can help your business:

  • Reduce hardware costs - you can benefit from a large infrastructure with little or no capital investment.
  • Pay less for software - instead of buying a software package and a license for each employee, you can access the software you need online.
  • Lower your IT costs - your service provider will be responsible for system maintenance and troubleshooting.
  • Improve accessibility and collaboration - cloud computing lets you and your colleagues share files and applications from any location with an internet connection.
  • Add capacity as you need it - cloud applications are scalable, so you can easily increase services as your business grows or during peak periods.

Challenges

There are also challenges to consider regarding cloud computing:

  • Security - you will need to ensure that your data is protected.
  • Privacy - understand the terms of your privacy contract and make sure that information belonging to your business and your clients is secure.
  • Speed - you will need an internet connection that is fast and broad enough to handle heavy internet use.
  • Data mobility - will you be able to move your data to another service in the future?

Now that you know a bit more about cloud computing, the next step is to do your own research. Can your company benefit from moving all or some applications to the cloud? Do the benefits outweigh the risks? What risk-management solutions can you implement?

Check out the Privacy Commissioner of Canada's website for more information on Privacy Issues related to Cloud Computing. For more information on managing risk, check out our section on Risk management.