By Sebuh Haileleul
The cloud has become an integral part of most businesses – in fact 95 percent of businesses use the cloud in some form. However, what many people don’t realise is that cloud isn’t only for businesses. We use the cloud almost every day, sometimes without even knowing it.
In its simplest terms, “cloud computing” means storing and accessing data and programmes over the internet instead of on your computer’s hard drive.
With that in mind, here are six ways you’re probably already using the cloud
- Online storage and file sharing
Many businesses choose to store their data in the cloud rather than using their own servers. However, cloud storage services like OneDrive are a lot broader than that and are not exclusive to business use.
Cloud storage is like using the internet instead of memory stick. Instead of loading up a little device with files, only to forget to bring it with you, the cloud lets you upload your files directly to the internet. You can then access these files – be they documents, photos or music – from any device, anywhere.
Once you upload your files, you can also give your friends and colleagues access to them. This is particularly useful if the files are too big to send via email.
- Social media
It’s no secret that social media has changed the way we communicate and share information. What you may not know is that social media is one of the largest and most-widely used cloud-based services.
This is because most social media sites act as a repository of information on the internet, gathered every time you or your network share content.
- Online shopping
Thanks to the latest link your friend shared on social media, you finally found the shoes you’ve been wanting, in one of your favourite online clothing stores. Because you’re a frequent customer, when you select the boots, the website automatically suggests your shoe size.
That’s because many online retailers use the cloud to store important information about their customers to enhance the buying experience. “Recently viewed” and “purchase recommendations” and other features that make online shopping easier are all because of the cloud.
- Web-based email services
According to the IDC, 80 percent of smartphone users check their phone within 15 minutes of waking up. One of the reasons for this is web-based email services.
Whether you log onto the internet to access your email or have an app installed on your phone, you are relying on the cloud to receive, send and store your email communications. When you use a service like Office 365, it makes it even easier to access your Outlook mailbox regardless of device –without visiting a website or downloading an additional app.
- Entertainment services
Streaming services for movies, TV series and music provide fast and easy on-demand entertainment.
With 98.7 million Netflix users streaming an average of a billion hours of video every week worldwide, there is a lot of data involved to ensure you can access whichever content you want whenever you want. This is why the cloud is such an important tool for services like this to provide instant, high quality content directly to your device.
The world of gaming has also begun transitioning to the cloud. For example, Xbox Live gamers can connect remotely to servers managed by Microsoft and game developers to compete with other gamers from around the world in real time.
- Instant messaging and video calls
In the same way that gamers are able to compete online with other gamers all over the world, so too has it become the norm for us to be able to speak to our contacts wherever we are. Tools like Skype have made it possible for you to continue collaborating with your colleagues on the go, or keep in touch with your family on the other side of the world.
What is often overlooked is that services like Skype are cloud-based, allowing you to access all your chats and shared images on any device, meaning you can continue to communicate from anywhere.
Without even noticing, you have probably implemented the cloud into your routines of communicating, working, sharing and even relaxing. The cloud already plays a huge role in our personal, daily lives.
Just imagine its impact on business.
(Sebuh Haileleul is Microsoft’s Country GM for East & Southern Africa).