How Do You Use The Cloud?

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Cloud. Cloud computing. Cloud storage. Application hosting. What’s the difference?

Cloud Computing

In the most basic terms, the cloud or cloud computing is the process of storing and accessing data and programs over the internet instead of your computer’s hard drive.

Local storage and computing is when you store data on or run programs from a local hard drive. When using local storage and computing, everything needed is in close physical proximity. Accessing data is generally fast and easy for that one computer or others on a local network. For decades, this is the model businesses used to establish their IT infrastructure.

Cloud computing happens when data is accessed via the Internet. As a result, with an online connection, cloud computing can be done anywhere, anytime, and from any device. With the appropriate network and infrastructure, accessing data will still be fast and easy but will be able to be accessed by anyone with access to the cloud.

Two key components of cloud computing include cloud storage and application hosting. While these are often utilized together, either could be consumed independently of the other.

Cloud Storage

Cloud storage is a simple and scalable way to store, access, and share data over the Internet. In a cloud storage model, data is uploaded through an Internet connection to remote servers in the cloud. Once data is stored, it can be accessed from multiple connected devices and shared with others. Cloud storage providers own and maintain the network-connected hardware and software. The consumer provisions and uses what is needed via a web application. This eliminates the capital expenses associated with purchasing this hardware and reduces the costs associated with maintaining your own storage infrastructure.

Some key components of cloud storage include:

Server Management

Cloud storage includes dedicated servers to receive and send information using the Internet. When you store something in the cloud, you are using these servers, which are typically managed by the company offering the service (Google, Amazon, Apple, etc.)

Hard Drive Space

Cloud data is still stored on a hard drive. The servers used in the cloud need large hard drives and cutting edge data management. Thousands or even millions of people may be using the same cloud service. On a technical level, cloud storage drives are divided into public, private, community and private options, based on how hard drives are used.


Most cloud storage allows for syncing, so data updates are shared in real time across devices.

Application Hosting

Application hosting is a solution that allows users to execute and operate a software application entirely from the cloud. It is generally considered a Software as a Service (Saas) and involves a recurring subscription. These applications are hosted and powered from a remote cloud infrastructure, often utilizing the same cloud infrastructure that is otherwise storing data. These applications are accessed globally through the Internet. They provide the same functionality as locally installed software but can be updated in mass more easily. Hosted applications may also be known as Internet-based applications, Web applications, and online applications, although these terms often have a larger scope.

Some key components of application hosting include:

Server Management

Like cloud storage, application hosting requires extensive server banks and top-notch server management. Some organizations have been successful utilizing large cloud providers like Amazon for cloud computing activities. Others prefer to use more specialized cloud hosting providers or a private cloud.

Processing Power

While cloud storage focuses on hard drive space, application hosting is all about processing power. Hosted applications may not require as much hard drive space, but they do need robust processors and networks to keep applications running smoothly.

Virtualization Capabilities

Virtualization refers to many different processes that allow software to control hardware, often at a distance. In doing so, virtual spaces are created on servers for software, data management, desktops and more. While these programs look and act like locally stored programs, they are digital constructs. This is a foundational concept for cloud computing as a whole and allows for new, and more “future proof” approaches to IT management. 

The cloud provides the opportunity to scale and grow with your organization. Have you moved your healthcare organization to the cloud? Are you fully utilizing its capabilities? How can you take advantage of it?

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