In the simplest terms, cloud computing is the availability of computer resources without direct management by the user. It provides quick, painless access to computer systems including data storage and computing power without requiring the organization’s oversight over the computer system’s maintenance and management.
A cloud functions as the ‘conscience’ of a company. Just as the conscience of the brain holds all the information, memories, and emotions, the cloud stores data — lots of data. Like the neurons constantly firing off in a human brain, the ‘nerves’ in a cloud are constantly networking, patching software, processing power to artificial intelligence and applications.
Over the past two decades, most organizations have stopped storing data on their own systems on-site and moved to some type of cloud computing for their business operations. Using a cloud provider means less hassle when testing and building applications and can be much more cost-effective. In most cases, data stored at a cloud storage provider is more secure and reliable than doing it yourself. Cloud computing offers highly desirable analytics on the data it hosts, allowing clients to make better-informed decisions and creating more long-lasting engagement with customers.
Before we explore why this evolution in business technology continues to exponentially grow, let’s look at the different types of cloud offerings and service models.
Types of Cloud Computing
Cloud computing breaks down into two primary models, public and private, and it is critical to understand the needs of the business to pick the best type of service provider. Public clouds, as the name suggests, are open to the public for use. A private cloud is exclusively managed by the business or third-party, for that business’ own use. Many organizations merge the two models to achieve the accessibility of the public cloud and the security of the private cloud into one robust solution, known as a hybrid cloud.
Generally, you have three types of service offerings for cloud computing including IaaS (Infrastructure-as-a-Service), PaaS (Platform-as-a-Service), and SaaS (Software-as-a-Service). IaaS is good for those organizations wanting to manage specific elements such as applications, data, runtime, and middleware. With this offering, the cloud provider maintains the servers, storage of data. and networking. PaaS is great for situations like software application creation where the organization manages applications and data, while the cloud captains the runtime, middleware, networking, and servers. SaaS is a do-it-all service and is ideal for organizations that one a hands-off approach. With the SaaS service model, the cloud provider manages every aspect of a business’ data including the applications, runtime, middleware, servers, storage, network.
You probably recognize the main three cloud computing service providers: Amazon Web Services (AWS), Microsoft Azure, and Google Cloud Providers (GCP). Besides these three giants, the industry has hundreds of providers including many that sell exclusively through IT service providers. Even with numerous acquisitions over the past decade, newcomers continue to enter the marketplace keeping pricing competitive.
Benefits of Cloud Computing
So why use cloud computing? Cloud computing has multiple advantages that meet the needs of businesses with ease.
- Saves Money – Cloud computing generally saves money by eliminating the need for the expense of hardware, software, on-site resources, and high-level IT experts on staff. A business pays only for what services they use with cloud computing versus on-site systems where services are already paid for regardless if used. On-site systems require climate-controlled space for the servers to be housed and a large amount of electricity to run them. On-site systems also need costly maintenance and inherently have an unpredictable budgeting element. Cloud computing frees up space, time, and money for the business.
- Speed to Troubleshoot – When a business chooses cloud computing services, numerous technical services are immediately available. This allows for ease of troubleshooting in minutes, not hours, and removes the constant need for a costly IT expert.
- Quick Setup & Scalability – Since the infrastructure is in place, businesses can easily scale up without waiting on physical equipment to be ordered, shipped, installed, and set up.
- Worldwide Access – Think of cloud computing as leveling up a business’ infrastructure. A company now has worldwide access to heightened computing power and increased storage bandwidth, provided seamlessly to the desired location with little time.
- Efficiency – Say goodbye to time-consuming hardware setup, tedious software patching, and laborious data backups. Cloud computing takes the weight off the business by doing all of these critical services themselves.
- Self-Sufficient – As a result of the global nature of cloud computing, the datacenters the computing runs off of are perpetually being upgraded to the latest and fastest hardware. Cloud computing takes care of itself, essentially.
- Dependable – The cloud service provider provides redundant power and the internet providing you the most reliable connectivity possible for a much more cost-efficient solution than building out these resources yourself.
- Cybersecurity – An attractive aspect of cloud computing is the security it entails. Most cloud servers have wide-reaching policies, security checkpoints, and technologies that guard the business’ data, applications, network, and data foundation. Most on-site systems inherently have fewer security measures in place than a cloud provider.
Challenges with on-demand computing
One of the biggest challenges of cloud computing is to determine which configuration is right for your business: public, private, hybrid, or multi-cloud. Making the wrong selection could incur additional costs that your business may not be expecting as you scale or a lack of functionality that only becomes visible over time. However, an experienced technology service provider or consultant can greatly ease this determination and provide valuable insights into the best offerings for your business goals.
Maintaining and optimizing performance requires continual fine-tuning, which is often performed by a cloud service provider or partner. The functions of cloud-based content delivery versus on-premise are fundamentally different, often requiring organizations to rework business logic and operations to adjust. Otherwise, there is a risk that companies will not take full advantage of the power of cloud-based computing.
Two other topics are often cited by IT security experts and auditors: compliance and governance, or control. Protecting the valuable information that is being stored within any type of cloud requires constant vigilance and strict protocols as well as a flexible platform that can adjust to new legal and compliance situations as they arise. Laws and regulations around cloud data storage are particularly troubling, as demonstrated when companies began the adoption of the GDPR standards several years ago.
Cloud computing providers numerous benefits to organizations looking to ease the burden of maintaining technology infrastructure and to level their IT spending.
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