Computing in the cloud: Option gains popularity

Robert Benjamin

When Rob Benjamin talks about being in the cloud, he’s not alluding to a foggy mindset.

Quite the contrary: The cloud is a technological term for access to the universe of the Internet through virtual servers and can include access to information that’s not available to all Internet users.

“We’ve been in the cloud, and we’re seeing more businesses moving toward that,” said Benjamin, director of managed services for Networks Unlimited in Grand Junction.

Cloud computing and virtual computing are popular trends — not new, but more refined than they were a few years ago. Many users are on the second or third revision of the software used in the systems, Benjamin said.

“The cloud and virtual computing go hand-in-hand,” he added.

A common example of using both is online access to Quickbooks, Benjamin said. “You can give your accountant your password and they can look at your books.”

The accountant then can work on the books from anywhere there’s Internet access.

With access to the cloud, a user can log in on an iPad, link to his or her main computer desktop and have full access to productivity tools from remote locations.

But what kind of protection against information theft can a person expect while in the cloud? The security is implanted in the design, Benjamin said. “There’s a layer of security you put around it,” he said, adding the security includes more than just the backup storage of hard drive information.

Networks Unlimited offers such basic storage, however. It also offers a service called Replicate IT, which connects business computers to off-site servers and backs up information there. “It provides for a redundant server off site,” Benjamin said.

The industry is still trying to develop password-sensitive security systems that will pass muster with the Federal Communications Commission and federal regulators who oversee protection of medical records. Meanwhile, customers need their own servers before Networks Unlimited can help companies use the cloud and virtual computing.

Benjamin’s company continues to offer a no-down-time guarantee. It tells customers that services such as network monitoring, help desk and virus filtering will work flawlessly. If they don’t, the company pays the bill for down time. During a time when some companies have downsized their IT staffs, such a guarantee seems to be important.

“The no-down-time guarantee is more popular than ever both for contracting and expanding businesses,” Benjamin said.