The cloud is everywhere. From hosting applications to secure data storage, cloud computing continues to be an important investment for companies around the world.
The cloud is more than what daydreams are made of. Just like the hazy white clouds that hang in the sky, the cloud we’re talking about can be found … well, everywhere. From the automotive industry to education to manufacturing and everything in between, modern businesses have been utilizing the cloud for years to access email, store and backup files, and deliver software on demand. And now that COVID-19 has pushed many people to work remotely, many businesses have found the cloud to be a necessary investment (that is, if they weren’t already working with one).
If you’re just starting out with cloud computing, the wealth of information available might seem overwhelming at first. We’re here to break it down for you.
Let’s start with a simple question – what even is cloud computing? PCMag defines the term simply as storing and accessing data and programs over the internet instead of on a computer's hard drive. One important distinction though –cloud computing is not a hard drive. When data is stored on or programs are run from the hard drive, that's called local storage and computing. Everything needed is physically close to the user, which means accessing necessary data is easy and fast, either for the computer in question or others on the local network. With an online connection, cloud computing can be done anywhere, anytime.
Cloud computing offers companies a plethora of cost-effective benefits due to the fact that services are provided on-demand. According to ZDNet, through cloud computing, companies rent access to anything from applications to storage from a provider instead of owning their own cloud infrastructure or data centers. In this way, companies can simply pay for what they use when they use it. On the other end of the spectrum, providers of cloud computing services are able to economically deliver the same services to a wide range of customers.
Cloud computing services cover a vast range of options, from storage, networking, and processing power through to natural language processing, artificial intelligence, and machine learning, as well as standard office applications.
The popularity of the cloud has even reshaped the way vendors like Microsoft Azure and Amazon Web Services host apps – for instance, many software vendors are starting to offer their applications as services over the internet via a subscription model rather than standalone projects.
Cloud computing can be categorized into three cloud computing models: infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS), Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS), and Software-as-a-Service (SaaS):
1. IaaS – simply put, IaaS can be defined as the fundamental components of computing that can be rented, including virtual machines or physical servers, networking, and storage. IaaS most appeals to companies that want to build applications from scratch and control nearly all the elements themselves. However, IaaS does require firms to have the technical skills needed to be able to coordinate services at that level. Benefits of going the IaaS route include the fact that using online infrastructure makes innovation easier, new applications and services can be deployed quickly, and on-going maintenance costs are significantly cut down.
2. PaaS – the next layer up from IaaS is PaaS. PaaS includes the underlying storage, networking, and virtual servers found in IaaS along with the tools and software that developers need to build applications on top of (like middleware, database management, operating systems, and development tools.
3. SaaS – Saas is the delivery of applications-as-a-service. This version of cloud computing is likely the one that most people use on a day-to-day basis. The end user is not concerned with the underlying hardware and operating system as they are merely interacting with the service via a web browser or app. Saas is often purchased on a per-user basis and unsurprisingly, is the dominant cloud computing model. SaaS spending is mainly focused on the variety of applications it delivers, including customer relationship management (CRM) applications and enterprise resource management (ERM) applications.
Cloud computing is a huge investment. In fact, according to research done by the International Data Corporation (IDC), worldwide spending on public cloud services and infrastructure will more than double over the 2019 to 2023 forecast period, with public cloud spending growing from $229 billion in 2019 to nearly $500 billion in 2023. Further, Gartner predicts that half of global enterprises using the cloud now will go all-in on it by the end of 2021. At the same time, spending on traditional in-house IT will continue to decrease as computing workloads are moved to the cloud – the type of cloud can include a private cloud built in-house, a hybrid cloud that allows users to hop between public and private clouds, or a public cloud service offered by vendors.
The most obvious benefit of cloud computing? Using cloud services means that companies do not need to buy or maintain their own computing infrastructure. Broadly, here are ten positive outcomes that come from cloud computing:
1) Cost-effective – with cloud computing, companies do not need to buy servers, update applications or operating systems, or decommission and dispose of hardware or software when it is out of data as these tasks are the supplier’s responsibility. Because a company that focuses on running and securing these services is likely to have better skills and more experienced staff than a small business could afford to hire, cloud services can deliver a more secure, efficient service to end users.
2) Business agility – by using cloud services, companies can move more quickly on projects and test out concepts without lengthy procurement and big upfront costs due to the fact that the company is only paying for the computing resources it consumes. Since companies are not bogged down by the time and effort typically associated with traditional IT procurement, it can become easier to move ahead with new applications faster. Further, if an application achieves popularity, the flexible nature of the cloud allows these apps to be scaled up quickly.
3) Efficient use of resources – not all applications are used equally. For example, it might make more financial sense to host an application in the cloud that is only used at a particular time of the week or year. This way, dedicated hardware and software doesn’t become idle when not in use. Further, cloud services allow internal IT staff to focus their attention on more pressing tasks. Rather than spending precious hours troubleshooting a CRM issue, companies can redirect that task toward the cloud supplier.
4) Greater security – one of the assets a cloud provider offers is the fact that its full-time job is to carefully monitor security. According to Salesforce, this duty is significantly more efficient than a traditional in-house system, which must divide its attention between a host of other issues aside from cloud security. In cloud computing, data is encrypted before it is transmitted over networks and stored in databases. This way, information is less accessible to hackers and others who are not authorized to view company data. Further, with most cloud-based services, different security settings can be set based on the user.
5) More mobility – with cloud computing, end users can access corporate data via smartphones and other devices. This way, employees are able to more easily stay up-to-date on client cases, coworkers’ requests, and other daily business occurrences.
6) Data-driven insights – customer transactions and business processes generate millions of bits of data; when analyzed, invaluable, actionable information can be extracted and acted upon. Many cloud-based storage solutions offer integrated cloud analytics through which companies can trigger tracking mechanisms and build customized reports that increase efficiencies and allow companies to build plans that meet organizational goals.
7) Increased collaboration – cloud computing enables team members to view and share information easily and securely across cloud platforms. Further, collaborative social spaces hosted on the cloud can connect employees across your organization and increase interest and engagement in the process.
8) Consistent quality – poor quality and inconsistent reporting can be detrimental to any business. Cloud-based systems host all documents in one place and in a single format, to which everyone has access. As a result, data is consistent, human error can be avoided, and a clear record of revisions and updates is saved.
9) Disaster recovery – any downtime in the services a business offers can lead to lost productivity, revenue, and brand reputation. While harmful disasters can be difficult to predict, cloud-based services can provide quick data recovery for scenarios ranging from natural disasters to power outages.
10) Loss prevention – when local hardware experiences a problem, it can lead to companies permanently losing their data. The reality is that computers can malfunction for a variety of reasons, from viral infections to aging hardware deterioration to user errors. With a cloud-based server, any information uploaded to the cloud is kept safe and accessible from any computer – all that is needed are internet connections.
Cloud capabilities have changed the way technology works for organizations and individuals across all industries. With our decades of technological experience and unique position as a Microsoft Gold Partner in Cloud Productivity, we can create customized cloud solutions and computing power for your business.
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