“The cloud” describes an externally-hosted series of Internet-based services. Cloud computing involves remotely accessing IT systems via the Internet.
Companies offering cloud computing services are known as cloud service providers. Cloud service provider’s servers store data and applications for you to remotely access via the Internet. We use cloud based services in our everyday lives. Examples include online streaming of music and video, online gaming and online email services.
As a business, using cloud services means that part of your IT infrastructure, be it an application, a database or a server, is hosted outside your workspace (off-premise) by a third-party (your cloud service provider).
How can cloud computing help your small- to medium-size business grow?
There are many advantages to utilising cloud-based services. By migrating to the cloud, costs can be reduced as less expenditure needs to go on expensive hardware (servers, firewalls, etc.) and software licensing. These become the responsibility of your cloud service provider, from whom you rent the usage of said hardware and software. Additional benefits of the rental system include increased flexibility, agility and security. Each of these and further potential benefits to your business are discussed in more detail below.
Reduced Initial Cost:
Adopting the cloud can eliminate some significant hardware costs. Servers, for instance, and the constant power and cooling they require, are pre-installed and maintained at your cloud service provider’s data centre.
The cloud service provider rents this infrastructure to you, usually on a pay as you go basis. This prevents you having to invest in expensive equipment which has a limited lifespan. Any on-premises server you invest in will eventually become obsolete, meaning that, at some stage, usually after three or four years, an all-new solution must be invested in.
By renting out infrastructure, you switch a large initial payment for a more affordable monthly fee. It is important to consider the costs that will be racked up over the long term by the fees, as well as any training which may be required. However, this approach also enables you to respond financially to any technological advancements, ensuring you won’t be left behind by the competition.
Software upgrades may also be taken care of by your cloud service provider as part of your rental fee. IT experts, previously responsible for installing and maintaining the IT infrastructure, on-site data centre and software updates, are now freed of these responsibilities, and able to focus on helping you achieve your business goals.
Scalability & Agility:
Cloud computing allows for rapid response to changes in your business in a way that traditional, on-premises solutions cannot.
As cloud based services are on rental, more or less resources can be supplied quickly and with little marginal cost. This ability to rapidly respond to shifting demand while only paying for what you use gives far more flexibility than an on-premises solution, as this may not be used to its full capacity in quiet periods and be stretched to the limit when the business is busy.
Mobilisation, Collaboration & Accessibility:
Cloud-computing allows you to connect to the services you use from any device, from any location, provided there is an Internet connection. This can greatly improve productivity and employee satisfaction.
Cloud-based services can improve your businesses synchronisation and prevent duplication. Files can be updated and shared in real-time to ensure that each team member is working on the latest version of any document.
A good cloud service provider will ensure that your data is kept secure using state-of-the-art software including antivirus and intrusion detection. Physical protective measures highly secure at large cloud service providers’ data centres.
It is often perceived that security is a risk with the cloud. It can seem daunting to store sensitive data externally, however, the mass of resources that a cloud service provider has means that data is often more secure in the cloud than with an on-premise server.
Cloud Back-ups and Disaster Recovery:
Cloud computing could help your business avoid any loss of data.
As your data is stored off-premises, no information will be lost in the event that your on-premises device fails. Similarly, in the event of a disaster which poses a threat to your on-site devices, the cloud can be used to restore your data and infrastructure. A large cloud service provider can mirror your data at multiple data centres to ensure constant reliable business continuity.
Taking the plunge
Introducing cloud-based services to your organisation can seem daunting. It is important to weigh up the costs and benefits of cloud computing and research the solutions available to your business before committing to a cloud service provider.
A structured migration plan should be put in place ensure that any cloud-based service selected helps you towards your business objectives. Additionally, the migration can be partial (with only certain software applications being cloud-based, and others remaining on-premises) or gradual, rather than diving into the cloud head-first.
At Internetwork, we supply the expertise to choose the right solution for you and guide you through the planning process.
If one or more of the above benefits could help your business grow, take a look at Internetwork’s guides to cloud based services: What is SaaS? and What is IaaS? For further guidance, get in touch! We can offer an IT consultation to determine which option is best for you and help you plan and implement your migration.
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