There was a time when managing company data was a simple matter of keeping everything on a secure server, only to be accessed from within the walls of the company. In today’s fast-paced mobile world people are spending less time working in traditional office buildings. You have sales staff that need to be on the road, face-to-face with clients; you have marketing and advertising people who work from home on a contract basis; and you have administrators who need access to secure information, such as bank accounts and social security numbers, so they can pay the bills, order the supplies, and otherwise keep the company running.
A company could still run everything from a server bank in the basement, but that can be very expensive – especially if you have a lot of data and processes. While large companies might have the dough to pull something like that off, smaller companies often don’t have the resources or pace to support a larger server farm. Instead, smaller companies are looking to creative ways to get the functionality of a huge, in-house, server bank, without the cost.
Colocation involves keeping your servers in a shared space with other companies. This solution works well if you have the money to invest in multiple servers, but don’t have the physical space or the resources to support a server farm on-site. You would provide the servers and the colocation facility would provide the space, electricity, security, and other things you need to access your data and keep those servers running.
There are colocation facilities all over the country, but because you own the hardware, it would be best if you choose a facility in the same city in which your business headquarters are located in case you ever need to actually touch the physical machines. For example, if your headquarters are in San Diego, then you would want a San Diego colocation facility.
Advantages: Colocation facilities are designed to run 24/7 and to have backup systems for emergencies, like power outages, that can take your server off line. They also handle all of the logistics of maintaining the server hardware and providing connectivity. Users can access the servers from anywhere that they have an internet connection, so long as your server is setup for that type of access. The servers can be used solely for data storage, or for more advanced tasks like running high-end software processes like virtual machines, or running a single application on multiple user machines.
Disadvantages: You have to purchase the hardware. You may also have to install, configure, and administrate the software required to grant remote access. However, hiring one person as network admin is still cheaper than having an entire IT department taking care of your server bank.
Cloud computing involves storing your data in a single location on the internet, instead of on individual computers. Instead of purchasing several server machines for storing your data, you would purchase storage space from a cloud service provider and give people access to the storage over the internet. Each person who has access would have a folder on their hard-drive that links to the cloud server. Anything they create or move to that folder gets stored on the cloud. If they make changes to any documents, or other data, those changes are also transmitted to the cloud.
Cloud computing is the easiest and cheapest way to share information because you don’t need to purchase or configure any equipment or software. All you have to do is sign up with a public or private cloud service, then designate whom you want to give access to and send them a link to the could drive. Each person can set up his own username and password and access the cloud drive from anywhere there is an internet connection. Some cloud services even have mobile apps that allow you to access the cloud drive from a phone or tablet.
Advantages: Cloud drives are cheap and easy to set up, and you can grant access to multiple users. They are also easy to upgrade – if you need more space just purchase more storage.
Disadvantages: Cloud drives are mainly designed for storage, so you can’t really do advanced software tasks. You have little-to-no control over security – you are protected by whatever the cloud service provider chooses.