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There seems to be nothing but misapprehension surrounding the Cloud, a concept that somehow has everything to do with technology. To many, the cloud seems more an enigma than a practical tool for small businesses. Even Larry Ellison, Oracle’s CEO, claims he doesn’t know what the Cloud is. Fortunately, it is a rather simple concept to comprehend.

The Cloud, most simply put, is a space to store digital data. Not the built-in storage on your phone, but a place with much grander storage capacities. A place probably owned by a large tech company like Apple, Amazon, or Google, and constructed of computers with vast amounts of storage capabilities.  These computers enable customers to access a plethora of information without having to store any of it. Creating a speedier and easier internet-using experience.

Think of the sewage system.  You start to fill up a glass of water, but somehow that thirst escapes you, so you dump the water down the drain. Where does that water go? Clearly the water has to go somewhere. Throughout this storage process the water joins a massive amount of other H2O and is re-implemented into the water cycle. The point of this being that the water does not just disappear, it goes somewhere, where it remains until retrieved again. Which is exactly how the Cloud operates. Data is sent to giant warehouses, full of servers and hard drives, where it remains until beckoned.  In its most basic sense, the cloud is essentially an area of potentially unlimited storage for data like files or images, but also for software — allowing you to use software on your computer, without having to take up space on your hard drive.

What this means for small businesses is that now tools that would be exclusively available to larger corporations are now available to you as well. In the scenario that your business requires a server, you could be facing a ten thousand dollar purchase. With the cloud, your business can acquire the needed equipment at a fraction of the price because the equipment is owned, operated, and managed by an organization that exclusively focuses on cloud computing — allowing your business to compete with larger corporations and have all the available tools of those companies.

The cloud also offers many other ways to keep your small business competitive. For example: real time document editing, allowing teams to work together no matter the location they may work from. For that same purpose Google Drive is used by small and large companies alike. Another feature of the cloud is software that doesn’t take up any space on your hard drive, like the Adobe suite which recently became cloud based software, giving users full access to the programs without downloading a thing. Again, this shows the cloud keeping business expenses down, and productivity up. The cloud is the next big business tool that many have been using for years, whether they realize it or not.