What the heck is a cloud anyway?

Everyone is talking about the cloud! 

We’ll just move our servers to the cloud. Why don’t we store it in the cloud? Which cloud are you using?


In plain English… a cloud is a place to store data or software on the internet. While it may sound like something that’s flying above our heads. In reality, it’s just a bunch of computers sitting in a building somewhere. They are connected to the internet, and that’s how you (and their other customers) access data or software.


Picture the cloud to be like a self storage business.  Someone built a large building with individual units inside. You can hire one or more of these units to store anything you like, even your Elvis memorabilia collection!  Now, there are other units all around yours.  You can’t see what’s in their unit, and they can’t see what’s in yours. The building owner is responsible for maintaining the building and monitoring the general security of the area.

That’s exactly how a cloud works!

!elvis impersonator

Why do people want to store things in the cloud?

The main reasons why organisations decide to migrate to the cloud include:

  1. Because it’s usually easier to pay a monthly “rent” than to buy the servers upfront;
  2. Someone else has to worry about maintaining them;
  3. If you need more storage space, you can easily add more;
  4. If you have multiple locations or virtual workers, systems are often faster for the remote sites; and
  5. The cybersecurity is usually better than if you maintain these devices yourself.

Are all clouds the same?

No. A few things to ask.

1) Where will the data be stored?
This is not just a question for security reasons, it’s also a question about the speed. After all, grabbing a doc stored halfway around the world will take longer than one stored domestically.

2) What are the storage fees?
This is one thing that surprises most orgs when they move to the cloud. It’s not hard to go over your limit with a few videos created by your marketing team. So, be aware of how much storage you are utilising now versus the amount you’re willing to pay. Also – do a data clean-up exercise first. It will save you heaps of money!

3) Who’s responsible for security, and which aspects?
Chat with your potential cloud provider to confirm who’s responsible for putting up the roadblocks to keep the “baddies” away from your systems and data. Then ask, “does our team have the skills to do our part?” If no, formally train your team or outsource that work or pick another cloud provider that can help with this.

4) What about back-up?
No cloud can guarantee 100% uptime. So, what’s the plan when something breaks? How will they ensure your organisation can continue to do business when that happens?

5) Is it a private or public cloud?
If you really, really don’t want to share your space with anyone else, you can have your own private cloud…but it will cost you just like your own storage building.  Even some of the largest banks choose to use (shared) public clouds now for this reason.  And you don’t really compromise security with this choice.


Tammy Ven Dange is a former charity CEO, Not for Profit Board Member and IT Executive. Today she helps NFPs with IT decisions.

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