Put simply, the term ‘cloud computing’ means that you store and access programs and data over the internet, as opposed to your computer’s hard drive. The ‘cloud’, therefore, is a metaphor for the internet.
Cloud computing is the opposite of local computing and storage, which refers to programs being run from, and data being stored on, the hard drive. This method of computing is called ‘local’ because everything is in close physical proximity. In contrast, cloud computing is a service that is delivered remotely. When you store data and access programs via the cloud, you are connecting to a data centre in a separate physical location via your internet connection. Cloud computing can be done anywhere, at any time and on any web-enabled device, providing that there is an internet connection.
In terms of business, cloud computing allows organisations to consume computing resources as a kind of utility, without having to build and maintain computing infrastructures on their premises. Because of this, could computing is an extremely convenient solution that can save companies a great deal of time and money. This is why it is increasingly being adopted by organisations, and SMEs in particular as they tend not to have the resources to build and maintain their own computing infrastructures.
There are different types of cloud computing, which can be broadly categorised as three different services: IaaS (infrastructure as a service), PaaS (platform as a service) and SaaS (Software as a service). IaaS is one of the most common types of cloud computing services and essentially involves virtual servers and disk storage space being rented by users of the service. Well-known IaaS companies include Amazon, Rackspace, Google and Microsoft. PaaS provides a development platform where businesses are able to create their own custom applications. Well-known PaaS services include Google App Engine, Amazon Elastic Beanstalk and Salesforce. SaaS provides software applications over the internet, as opposed to purchasing licensed programs which can be costly. Well-known examples include Google Docs, Gmail and Microsoft Office 365.
As well as the different types of cloud computing service, there are different cloud computing locations: public, private, hybrid and community cloud. Public cloud means that the entire computing infrastructure is located on the premises of the cloud computing provider that is offering the service. This means that users have no physical control over the infrastructure, but cloud services delivered in this way tend to excel performance wise. A private cloud service is located remotely, but the infrastructure only has one user, hence the term ‘private’. Security and control levels are highest with cloud services delivered in this way. Hybrid cloud services involve a combination of both private and public cloud locations. For example, a company may choose to store their data on private cloud infrastructure and interact with their customers via public cloud infrastructure. Community cloud infrastructure is that which is shared between different organisations. This tends to involve shared data and management.
Key Business Benefits
Pay Per User – Cloud computing services tend to be delivered using a per-user pricing structure. This allows companies to pay only for the computing resources that they need at any given time. Because cloud computing services are charged in this way, they are better suited to SMEs, at least from a financial perspective. Beyond a certain number of users, it becomes more economical to build and maintain your own computing infrastructure in-house. Despite this, many larger companies still use cloud computing services due to the other benefits they offer.
Scalability – Business needs can change at any given time. With cloud computing services, businesses can instantly scale up as their computing needs increase. The same is also true in reverse; as computing needs decrease, you can instantly scale down. This goes back to the previous point about only ever having to pay for the computing resources that you need at any given time. The fact that changing demands can be met instantly is a huge benefit to businesses, offering a great deal of convenience.
Security & Business protection – With cloud computing, company data is stored remotely and away from the premises. This means that it remains accessible when things go wrong such as loss and theft of devices or, perhaps, damage to company premises as a result of a fire or flood. Consequently, businesses can enjoy continuity and continue to operate whilst recovering from a disaster. It also means that vital data is not lost forever. Whilst it is natural to have concerns about trusting a third party with your sensitive data, it is likely that the level of security offered by cloud computing providers is even greater than anything you would be able to implement yourself onsite. Your data will be protected by the highest levels of encryption, before it leaves your infrastructure as well as during transit and when it arrives on your provider’s platform.
Mobility & Collaboration – When documents and files are stored on the cloud, they can be accessed from any location and using a whole range of devices. This enables companies to promote much greater working mobility, which is something that is becoming increasingly important. These documents and files can also be made accessible to groups of people who may all view and edit them, which is extremely useful in terms of collaboration.
If you would like to find out more about switching to cloud computing, contact us today. We offer cloud computing services to business based in Redditch and the surrounding areas, including the entire West Midlands region.