Chances are, you will have heard about The Cloud or ‘the power of cloud’ being discussed frequently. Although business founders are usually quite tech savvy and knowledgeable about latest business trends, there is a large majority to which cloud computing, and all the benefits it can potentially provide are still a mystery.
Cloud computing simply refers to a large number of computers connected and made accessible through a real-time communication network; the internet. It has become an increasingly viable solution due to the rise of internet connectivity and the current economic climate. Generally speaking cloud computing is defined as any hosted service that is supplied via the internet. Typically cloud services are sold usually on a per-usage basis and so present a degree of flexibility that’s extremely useful for a startup. In addition they are usually managed completely by the service provider meaning that all the buyer needs is a computer and internet access.
These hosted services are usually divided into three definitions:
Software as a Service (SaaS)
Traditionally, software requires installation on to your hard drive or server via disc or internet download, but the cloud allows you to access software via an internet connection, usually via any device. Examples include Office 365 or Google Docs for your standard word processing and spreadsheet capabilities, and packages can often also include email clients and cloud accounting software.
Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS)
There are a number of services such as Amazon Web Services that allow for support operations including data storage, hosting of hardware, networking and server management, and virtual desktop infrastructure, all controlled via the cloud. The benefits of hosted virtual desktops are that multiple users can load up their entire desktop environment from anywhere; your company could simply facilitate hot desking, or you could provide full computing environments to a distributed team around the world.
Platform as a Service (PaaS)
Developing from Software as a Service, Platform as a Service is the logical next step, in which the service provider is able to rent out entire managed ‘platforms’ – software and hardware bundles that are entirely managed and frequently updated by the vendor. Although not entirely appropriate for startup companies to jump right into, it’s worth being aware that for more complex computing needs, there is often a pre-packaged solution already available.
The benefits of cloud computing
For small businesses, the benefits of cloud computing are tremendous. Here are the main benefits:
- Reduced cost: For the relatively low cost cloud computing will add to your operating expenditure, it will greatly reduce on your capital expenditure – further decreasing your bottom line, making you more profitable as a business yet adding to your productivity and technical capabilities.
- Increases productivity and team collaboration: No longer do you have to worry about installing and configuring the right software. So long as an internet connection is available, you will have access to all your necessary tools. Programs like Google docs are known for their capabilities of supporting collaborative work, where more than one worker can be contributing to a piece of writing or spreadsheet.
- Access from anywhere: So long as you have access to a computer and an internet connection, you and your staff will be able to access all the programs needed for work. This gives you a lot more freedom in regards to working in the office or at home.
- Added security: all businesses should have a disaster recovery and business continuity plan in preparation should the worst happen. By using the cloud to store your data, however, you can be rest assured that your data and files are safely backed up should disaster strike. It goes without saying, companies that aren’t utilising the cloud to backup their data are at an acute disadvantage to those who are.
Looking to the future
Cloud computing is only becoming more and more prominent as we head deeper into 2014. Internet connections are getting stronger and more ubiquitous, and the number and sheer variation of internet-connected devices is forever growing. The cloud is revolutionising the way we work and how we compute. Put simply, all small business should be aware of how cloud computing can provide substantial benefits at a fraction of the cost of their traditional non-cloud counterparts.
Article by Christophe Boudet, managing director at Akita IT provided you with a brief introduction to The Cloud.