Cloud computing is the use of computing resources (hardware and software) that are delivered as a service over a network (typically the internet). The name comes from the use of a cloud-shaped symbol (as seen below) as an abstraction for the complex infrastructure it contains in system diagrams. Cloud computing entrusts remote services with a user’s data, software and computation.
The cloud has risen in popularity due to increasing dissatisfaction with the costs, internal resources, complexities and length of time that it takes to recognise value from IT investment’s.
With cloud computing, the software is hosted for you, meaning external specialists handle all of the IT complexities, resourcing and management issues and take responsibility for all software and hardware support needs.
This is a clear benefit as it allows you to focus on what you do best, and leave someone else worry about installation, management, support, software fixes, backup and recovery.
There are a broad range of potential advantages company’s should consider in making their judgements on the cloud:
1. Next to no downtime: The hosting company will already have all the right hardware and software in place in a data centre. All they need to do is set this up to receive and manage the specific content.
2. Economies of scale often mean that the overall cost of ownership is lower because the support time of cloud service providers is used more efficiently.
3. By centralising particular IT activities and having these hosted off-site at the cloud provider’s data centre, users will have maximum flexibility to access the content from any office, even from home, provided they have permission. This is particularly useful for busy times.
4. Content is backed up automatically and is stored off-site, protecting against fire or other disasters that may threaten your data if it is stored in-House.
5. Hosted solutions on the cloud usually carry with them the option to pay for the software on a subscription-based service, so the company never actually owns the hardware or software or has to worry about system bugs or upgrades.
6. A cloud-solution means minimal capital outlay and provides a low, predictable monthly service fee, potentially providing better financial management and supporting a positive cashflow analysis.
For many the idea of storing sensitive information anywhere other than their own office raises concerns around security, reliability, legal jurisdiction and privacy.
While it is an understandable concern, this can be addressed by performing checks upon any potential cloud host.
It is important to make sure the provider has a proven track record and complies with security and privacy regulations regarding data in your own legal jurisdiction.
This information should be openly available and, if there is a reluctance to issue the information upfront, it is best to move on to another provider.
In the current climate, most businesses are under pressure to increase efficiency and reduce costs, and the cloud provides a straightforward cost-effective solution for their IT needs. By making the move to the cloud, a business will ensure that it has the capability to grow while removing the risk of substantially investing in technology that could all too soon be obsolete.