What’s the Point of the Cloud, Anyway?

New technology is surging along at an unprecedented pace, and it is leading to new ways to disperse information and to process that information. The cloud is one such network receiving plenty of attention from businesses. But although the term gets thrown around a lot, there is often a lot of misunderstanding about what the cloud actually is. What does it mean to be in a cloud-style computing environment in our new digital age?

It means, among other things, that the imaging industry is discovering new connections.

It used to be that offices had a central server located nearby, and with a WAN or LAN, documents could be passed around with ease between all who were authorized to have access to that central server. These days the world is even more mobile. Salespeople, project managers – people in all roles and positions are out on the road or traveling, keeping the company flourishing as they do. This mobility has brought up a new need for sharing documents in a way not limited to the office setting.

A connection to the internet now provides data flow from a server that is operated online, bringing in the ability to share with more people. This means that all who are in the office or outside of it can share a document. The company data has been put online — into the cloud. This promotes the sharing of  documents and even prints with people around the world. There is no need to be in a particular place to receive a document since the internet is so ubiquitous in this modern era.

How is the technical type of cloud analogous to the meteorological type? People who are far away from each other will at times be able to see the same clouds in the sky — in a way, they are connected by those clouds. In a similar way, cloud technology connects the data flow to and from a modern company. The ease of use is creating a wide adoption because of the convenience of not having to be in a particular place to do business tasks.

Smartphones, another ubiquitous piece of modern technology, are a critical component of the cloud as well. Essentially computers in their own right, smartphones can use apps to access and even print documents from the cloud, and multiple documents can be prioritized from that same smartphone.

An advanced form of sharing is to give customers access to the same shared networks as employees have. This will be at a restricted level, of course, but all the same, inviting customers to input how things are done in a business they have yet to be a part of creates a level of transparency that could be a boost to profits, making a company seem more honest. It will give new credence to the term, “Customer is king.”

The printer in the cloud

The physical printer that is located in the office can itself be connected to the company’s web server. This brings a remarkable level of control to businesses. A company can have a worker in Beijing who needs to get a hard-copy document to a salesperson in Miami. With a server and a printer that are both online, this is no problem. The worker in Beijing simply tells the printer to print up a document that he or she has already uploaded. The printer in the office in Miami gets this command at the speed of light and starts printing up the document.

Being unencumbered by a lack of mobility is the main reason for the newly gained acceptance of cloud-style solutions. There is no more having to drive for a half-hour or more simply to print up a document or image from the web. The company office can now be physically away from the hustle and bustle of the city. Time clocks can be online instead of at a physical location. Sales and staff can spend more valuable time on location at customer sties. The printer can be shared even to the point of documents being sent to the printer of the traveling salesman. The web server can be used to integrate new and upcoming systems faster. In practically every way, cloud-style computing surpasses the old LAN and WAN method of sharing of yesteryear.