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“The Cloud” has become a major buzzword in business for very good reason. Small businesses and large enterprises alike can take advantage of cloud computing to build and expand the computer based infrastructure behind the scenes. Follow this guide to better understand what cloud computing is, how it works, and how you can take advantage.

The cloud is more reliable than traditional servers

In the old world of web servers and internet infrastructure, websites and other online assets were typically limited to one main server, or a few linked servers using tools called load balancers, to process and send data, whether it be a customer facing website or internal facing application. The advent of content delivery networks (CDNs) powered up those servers to host and serve data from the edge of the network for faster serving and sometimes lower costs.

As computing demand exploded with the rise of the smartphone and high-speed internet, consumer and business needs downstream of those servers continues to creep upward. Cloud computing has emerged as the best option to handle an array of computing needs for startups and small businesses due to the ability to start at a low cost and scale, almost infinitely, as demand grows. Advances in cloud technology at Amazon, Google, Microsoft, IBM, Oracle, and other major cloud providers is making cloud computing more desirable for all businesses.

Costs are going down

When cloud computing first emerged, large enterprises were the only businesses able to afford the cost of elastic, flexible computing power. Now, however, those costs are more likely a drop in the bucket for small businesses.

For example, I use the cloud to store and serve videos for Denver Flash Mob, a side hustle business I run with my wife. Our monthly bill is typically around a dollar or two, and heavy months lead to a bill around five bucks. No big deal! My lending startup Money Mola is also cloud based, with costs to run both a development server and public facing server running us around $30 per month.

Ease of use is going up

The first time I logged into Amazon Web Services (AWS) it seemed like I needed a computer science degree to use it! I had a hard time doing even basic tasks outside of uploading and sharing videos. Thankfully Amazon has made using AWS much easier, though it is not without its challenges.

I’m a pretty techy guy, so my skillset is a bit more advanced than the average computer user. I have setup AWS to send outgoing transactional emails, automatically backup websites, and more on my own. If you are willing and able to hire a cloud expert, the possibilities of the cloud are endless. Anything from web hosting to artificial intelligence and big data analysis can run in the cloud.

Backups are vital

The most basic way to get started with cloud computing is website and computer backups. If you use WordPress for your website, setting up cloud backups is simple with one of a handful of plugins like Updraft Plus. If you can use the WordPress dashboard, you can setup cloud backups with Updraft plus. It is quick and easy and includes out of the box support. Easy from companies like AWS, Drobox, Google Drive, Rackspace Cloud, and other services. The paid plugin version adds access to Microsoft OneDrive and Azure, Google Cloud Storage, and other options.

I run several backups of both my laptop and my web based assets. If my home were to be burglarized or burned down, the cloud has me covered. If my laptop is stolen, I have a backup at home and in the cloud. Redundant backups are not optional, they are a must in 2017.

Improve the customer experience

In addition to safe, secure backups, the cloud can reach far corners of the planet. Utilizing cloud based CDNs, you know your customers will get every video and web page they want with near instant speeds.

Let’s say your business has a popular video you want to share around the world. With a cloud CDN, you upload your video once to the web. Then the CDN takes over and creates copies of that video file in data centers around the world. Whenever a customer clicks to view that video, they are served a copy from the closest data center to their location.

Thanks to the power of a CDN, you don’t have to send viewers in Australia, London, Bangkok, and Buenos Aires a video from your web server in Texas. Each one gets a local copy so they get their video even faster, offering a better customer experience. App based businesses can even run multiple versions of their app in data centers around the world. This will nsure every user has the same great experience.

Every business belongs in the cloud in 2017

It doesn’t matter what your business does, there is some way the cloud can help you achieve better results. The cloud is only going to grow and become more prominent in business. Older computer methods will go the way of the fax machine. If you want serious computing success with scalability and flexibility, the cloud is your best option.