The business lexicon is full of buzzwords, and ‘cloud computing’ is no exception. Many people will talk about its nebulous benefits as part of a long-term IT strategy, with no real understanding or definition of what it actually means.
If you use computers, you probably need to know about cloud computing – and that makes it vital to almost every business operating today. Here then is a primer on the wonders of ‘the Cloud’, and how cloud computing can benefit your business.
What is cloud computing?
Simply put, cloud computing is the on-demand delivery of IT services over the internet. This could include storage, software and web apps, web hosting, email solutions and much more besides.
Usually, most IT services are run from your business. If you want to store files, they have to be kept on your computers as part of your local area network. You rely on your hardware to run the software you need, and power the tools you use.
With cloud computing, all of these functions are performed ‘in the Cloud’, by powerful computers at dedicated data centres. When you access the Cloud, you are connecting to computers elsewhere which provide capabilities that your own hardware lacks.
The three main types of cloud computing services are Software as a Service (SaaS), Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS), and Platform as a Service (PaaS). Each one fulfils a different need, covering the whole spectrum of business IT solutions.
A common use of cloud computing is cloud storage, where your data is stored on a remote server, and accessible whenever you need it. However, almost any IT service could have a cloud application.
Anything which requires significant storage space, or would benefit from more powerful hardware, is a good candidate for a cloud computing solution. This can include software and hardware functionalities for both your staff (e.g. storage) and your customers (e.g. web apps).
What are the benefits of cloud computing?
Cloud computing is useful as it allows you to leverage the benefits of better IT hardware without having to buy, operate and maintain that hardware yourself. Instead of buying your own server to store files on, for example, you can instead ‘rent’ it through a cloud computing service.
Using cloud computing services is often cheaper than operating those services yourself, both in terms of operating costs and the initial investment. You’ll also benefit from the expertise of the cloud provider, without having to bolster your in-house IT team.
Cloud computing also offers greater flexibility than traditional IT solutions. Most services are completely scalable, allowing you to benefit from as much storage space or processing power as you need. This makes it easy to ‘test the waters’ with a cloud solution, and scale up or down as your situation demands.
Cloud computing also allows for particularly rapid deployment. With numerous services available at a moment’s notice, you can summon, harness and deploy both hardware and software quickly, allowing you to experiment and test new ideas.
Finally, cloud computing can allow you to harness an amount of power that is simply intangible for most businesses. Software can load as fast as your internet connection allows, while tasks such as data analytics can be greatly enhanced by machine learning, something that is only feasible using the Cloud.
How can I implement cloud computing?
As an extremely diverse and scalable technology, cloud computing can be implemented in a number of ways. Perhaps the simplest and most transformative change for many businesses is cloud storage, whereby your data is stored on remote servers. This can either be a backup solution in case of local data loss, or a way to facilitate live file sharing across networks.
If you’re ready to embrace the transformative effects of the Cloud, you might want to consider a more all-encompassing approach. Many IT providers will offer a complete cloud computing package, giving you both the capacity and support to set up Cloud-based software and environments.
Depending on your IT partner’s certifications, they may be able to assist you with setting up and managing a Microsoft Azure environment for cloud service deployment, or a Microsoft SharePoint platform for online collaboration. They will also be able to advise you on the implementation of other cloud solutions, such as Google Drive, Office 365 or Salesforce.
Managed vs public vs hybrid
Whether you opt for a managed, public or hybrid cloud solution will depend on your business’ size and needs. Companies who are looking to deploy software on an extremely large scale will often turn to public solutions such as Amazon Web Services (AWS) or Google Cloud. For smaller businesses however – or those with less comprehensive Cloud needs – a managed or hybrid cloud solution may be a better fit.
A managed cloud solution utilises only the resources of the IT provider you choose to work with. Assuming they are a local business, their servers are likely to be much closer to you than those of a multinational company, meaning that your cloud solutions should be more responsive. The company will also tend to be easier to contact if you have any issues, and more considerate of the capacity you actually need, rather than trying to upsell you.
A hybrid cloud solution is a combination of both a managed and a public cloud solution. This allows you to benefit from the enormous power and capacity of a public cloud solution for hyperscale deployments, while also being overseen and managed by a local IT provider. Depending on your circumstances, part of your cloud solution may be divested to the provider, with some being hosted on the public cloud and some being privately managed.
Cloud computing is a simple concept at its heart, but the myriad ways in which it can be applied often make it seem complex and labyrinthine. The simple truth is that any application of the Cloud is likely to make your existing processes more reliable. The onus is on businesses to reach out to IT providers, and establish what they can benefit from the most, so that they can receive a tailored and optimal cloud computing solution.
Sota is one of the UK’s leading independent providers of professional IT support in Kent, cloud computing, cyber resilience, connectivity, and unified communications. Having worked with countless businesses over the years, they are experts in their field, ready to advise and offer tailored solutions for each and every company.