In a nutshell, cloud computing is a method of accessing and delivering computer services – from servers, to databases, storage, software, networking, intelligence, and analytics – via ‘the cloud’, an ethereal, mystical force that… just kidding.

It’s the Internet.

Cloud computing has essentially taken all the essential elements of computing and put them online to offer more flexible resources, faster innovation, and economies of scale. Since you usually only pay for cloud services you actually use, your operating costs are lowered, while your infrastructure is more efficient and capable of effortlessly scaling – both up and down – as and when your business requires.

To be clear, ‘the cloud’ is not a physical thing. It’s a colourful way of describing the virtual hub that’s capable of hosting pretty much anything you and your computer systems require, to run a modern business as effectively and profitably as possible.

That was the short version. While cloud computing is a simple enough concept, there is a lot more to it in terms of its benefits and uses, the various types available, and exactly how it works. So, here’s everything you need to know about cloud computing and the ways it can help your business…

The Benefits Of Cloud Computing…

Depending on the specific type of cloud services in use, the exact benefits your business will reap from cloud computing will vary. Broadly speaking though, cloud services save companies from having to purchase and maintain their own internal computing infrastructure. This produces a number of great benefits:

Reduce Your Costs…

Say goodbye to the need to buy servers, update your operating systems and applications, and having to decommission and dispose of your software and hardware when it becomes outdated. When you’re on the cloud, all of this is handled by your supplier. 

Access Higher Levels Of Expertise…

When you’re working with a commodity application, like email, it makes a huge amount of sense to switch it to the cloud instead of depending on the skills and systems you have in-house. When a company specialises in cloud computing and IT services it’s highly unlikely you’ll be able to match their skills and experience with your own staff.

Few small businesses can afford to hire a dedicated tech guru, let alone an entire department. Your cloud service provider gives you direct access to an entire team of highly skilled individuals without the need to pay out the exorbitant amount required in salaries to hire the equivalent as full-time employees. 

Not only does this mean you have a far more experienced team for considerably less money, but that extra level of skill ensures the user experience you’re delivering is more efficient and more secure.

You Only Pay For What You Use…

One big benefit of cloud services is the ability to test new concepts, develop new methods, and make progress on projects much faster. This is because the cloud cuts out the need for long procurement periods and paying out large sums upfront to cover costs.

This is done, very simply, by ensuring your business only ever pays for resources it has actually used. The ‘pay as you go’ business model will make your company far more agile. You can effortlessly get new services off the ground without all the time and effort that comes with the traditional IT procurement process. If an application turns out to be incredibly popular you can rapidly scale it, and conversely, if it turns out to be a lemon you can simply stop using it. 

Usage Is Flexible…

This flexible usage doesn’t only apply to starting and stopping the use of new applications. You can also easily scale to suit the usage of your business throughout the year. Many businesses experience large peaks at certain times – either seasonally or at particular points in the week or month. 

Hosting on the cloud makes financial sense as it avoids having idle hardware and software wasting space and money when it’s not needed. And yet, it’s still always there when you need it. In addition, shifting applications like your CRM or email system to the cloud can also remove the burden from your internal staff. 

Speed…

When you’re accessing cloud computing services on demand your business is able to receive vast quantities of computing resources in moments. A few clicks of the mouse – or even taps of the finger if you’re on mobile devices – and you’re set. This creates a huge amount of flexibility as you gain almost instant access to whatever you need. 

Elasticity…

Scalability is never a problem when using cloud computing services, as you have the ability to expand or reduce what you use at will. This elasticity allows you to deliver the exact IT resources required in the moment, and from the best geographic location. 

Needs fluctuate and you may need to provide more or less bandwidth, storage, computing power, etc. The cloud makes this increase and decrease in the level of service provided effortless.

Productivity…

When it comes to IT management tasks, what we call ‘racking and stacking’ – setting up hardware, patching software, etc. – is very time consuming. An on-site data centre typically needs a lot of this kind of work. It’s a huge time-suck that cloud computing completely removes. While there are still some setup and maintenance tasks that will need performing, the fact everything is on the cloud makes even those left more efficient. This means your IT team can spend less time on the ‘grunt work’ and more time focusing on helping you achieve your business goals. 

Performance…

The biggest cloud computing services are hosted by secure data centres that operate on a worldwide network. The networks receive regular updates, ensuring they have the latest generation of computing hardware. This makes them faster, more efficient, and offers other benefits that you simply can’t get from a single, corporate data centre. 

One of these benefits is reducing network latency for your applications, which results in greater economies of scale.

Reliability…

A lot of things become a lot simpler and much less expensive with cloud computing. This includes data backups, disaster recovery, and business continuity. With the ability to borrow data at multiple redundant sites, processes are streamlined and far more efficient, making them less costly. 

Security…

Most cloud providers will also offer you a wide range of technologies, policies, and controls designed to strengthen your overall security. This helps to protect all your data, as well as your infrastructure and apps from cyber attacks

Types Of Cloud Computing

There are several different types of cloud computing, all of them used in different ways to augment your business, streamline your processes, and save you money. In some cases, they have created entirely new business models, due to the innovative possibilities produced by simply taking your company online.

While there are three main functions of cloud computing, there are also three different forms of cloud. Here is what they all are and how they work…  

Infrastructure-as-a-Service…

Infrastructure-as-a-Service, or IaaS, is a rental version of computing’s fundamental building blocks. This includes both virtual and physical servers, networking, and storage. 

IaaS is very attractive to businesses that are looking to create their own applications. If you want to start from the ground up and have almost complete control over every element, this is the perfect form of cloud computing. 

It does mean that you will need to have the technical skills in-house to effectively orchestrate that level of service. There is compelling research by Oracle that shows two-thirds of IaaS users find the use of online infrastructure makes innovation easier, while significantly cutting the time needed to deploy new apps and services, as well as reducing ongoing maintenance costs. 

Platform-as-a-Service…

Platform-as-a-Service, or PaaS, is the next step up. Not only offering the underlying networking, storage, and virtual servers, it also includes tools and software needed for development. Think of it as a full-stack platform that’s ready to go. 

A PaaS might include database management, middleware, development tools, and operating systems.

Software-as-a-Service…

Software-as-a-Service, or SaaS, is the online delivery of applications-as-a-service. This is probably the form of cloud computing most frequently used on a daily basis. Since the end-user has no need for any underlying hardware or operating systems, they simply access the service via an app or web browser. It’s generally bought on a per-user or per-seat basis.

On-demand software allows you to offer your customers the very latest updates and software versions, whenever they require it, wherever they happen to be. 

According to IDC SaaS is the dominant model of cloud computing and likely to remain at the top of the pecking order.

Public Cloud…

The classic cloud computing model, the public cloud allows users to access a pool of powerful computing power online. This may be IaaS, PaaS, or SaaS; a public cloud can handle all three. 

One of the significant upsides to this model is having the ability to scale your service rapidly. With vast computing power at their disposal, public cloud computing suppliers are able to share between a high volume of customers. This is known as ‘multi-tenant’ architecture. 

The huge scale of a public cloud gives them the spare capacity needed to easily cope with a customer suddenly needing a lot more resources. For this reason, it’s frequently used for less-sensitive applications, which require variable resources.

Private Cloud…

The private cloud offers some of the same benefits as the public cloud, allowing business to take advantage of the pros without relinquishing control of their services and data. Instead, they remain safely tucked away behind a corporate firewall. 

Companies are able to control where their data is stored and build their infrastructure in whatever way they choose. This largely applies to IaaS and PaaS projects rather than SaaS.

With the public cloud, developers gain access to a pool of computing power that scales on-demand without compromising security. 

The flipside is that all the added security is that private cloud access comes at a higher price. This is because most companies don’t have the scale of Google or Apple and are unable to create similar economies of scale. 

All that being said, if your business requires additional security, a private cloud solution is a useful way to get to grips with cloud services prior to switching them to the public cloud.

Hybrid Cloud…

The hybrid cloud is, in reality, where most businesses end up. It offers a happy medium that a lot of companies find appealing.

By hosting some of your projects on the public cloud and other data on the private cloud, you gain access to multiple vendors and various layers of cloud usage. According to TechRepublic the main reasons companies choose a hybrid cloud solution are a desire to avoid the costs of hardware, and the need for a disaster recovery plan.

Disadvantages Of The Cloud…

As with all things in life, there are pros and cons to cloud computing.

In the same way that renting doesn’t always work out cheaper than buying in the long term, cloud computing isn’t always the cheapest method of computing. There are times it’s more economical to provide a computing service in-house, usually when an application comes with a regular and predictable requirement. 

That being said, there are other benefits to cloud computing that may make it the better option, even if it isn’t necessarily the cheapest.

Cost isn’t the only downside. There is also a reluctance among some business owners to allow their sensitive, valuable data to be hosted on a service their competition is also using. The switch to a SaaS application can also lead to you using the same applications used by your rivals. This can make it more difficult to gain a competitive advantage, as you both have access to the same features and functionality.

The former shouldn’t be an issue at all, provided the cloud provider does not share data between customers (e.g. for the purpose of analytics). The latter is generally only an issue if that SaaS is the core of your business. If it’s a smaller application used for only one element it’s less of a concern. 

If you’re starting from scratch, setting up a new cloud application is very easy. If, however, you’re switching from an existing system to one that’s cloud-based, it can come with more complications and greater expense.

Generally speaking, however, it’s very simple to switch from physical servers to the cloud.

The Uses Of Cloud Computing

The odds are, you already use cloud computing in one form or another. From sending emails to editing documents online, streaming music and TV shows, playing games, and storing photos, there are lots of everyday uses for the cloud. 

Cloud computing services, however, haven’t been around for much more than a decade. And yet, there are already a wide range of businesses taking advantage of online services.

Whether you’re a tiny start-up or a global corporation, a non-profit or a government agency, there are multiple uses for the cloud in your business. 

Here are a few examples:

Storing, Backing Up, And Recovering Data…

Transferring your data to the cloud allows you to protect it more cost-efficiently and on a massively greater scale. You can still access your data from any device or location, you’re simply not tied to an on-site server and storage solution, and all the problems they bring.

Communication…

Effective business communication is one of the most important elements of building a successful business. Switching to a cloud-based communication system has a lot of great benefits for your business. This includes greater efficiency, reduced costs, improved functionality, more effective accessibility, and an overall improvement in productivity.

Data Analysis…

Give your company a unified approach to data analysis across all locations, divisions, and teams by allowing them live access via the cloud. This ensures everyone is working from the same information, and that everyone’s data is always fully up-to-date. 

You can also take advantage of all the benefits of artificial intelligence and machine learning built into your cloud services to discover new insights and make more informed decisions.

Creating Cloud-Native Applications…

Cloud computing allows you to rapidly build, then deploy and scale new applications for mobile, web, and API. This can all be done through cloud-native approaches and technologies like microservices architecture, Kubernetes, DevOps, and API-driven communication.

Embed Intelligence…

The intelligent models embedded in your cloud services can be used to better engage your customers, and provide them with highly valuable insights from the data you have captured.

Streaming Video And Audio…

Directly connect with your audience on any device, at any time, and in any place, through high-definition video and audio that can be distributed globally.

Ready To Get Started?

If you’re ready to get set up with cloud computing but don’t know where to begin, or you 0have an existing system that you’re unsatisfied with, we can help. Simply book a free audit using the form below, or get in touch so we can assess your needs and come up with the best solution for your business…

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