Cloud computing is a topic that many find confusing. It isn’t, though, as confusing as it sounds. In fact, most of those who claim not to understand the subject are part of the majority that use it daily.
What is Cloud Computing?
In basic terms, cloud computing is the phrase used to describe different scenarios in which computing resource is delivered as a service over a network connection (usually, this is the internet). Cloud computing is therefore a type of computing that relies on sharing a pool of physical and/or virtual resources, rather than deploying local or personal hardware and software. It is somewhat synonymous with the term ‘utility computing’ as users are able to tap into a supply of computing resource rather than manage the equipment needed to generate it themselves; much in the same way as a consumer tapping into the national electricity supply, instead of running their own generator.
One of the key characteristics of cloud computing is the flexibility that it offers and one of the ways that flexibility is offered is through scalability. This refers to the ability of a system to adapt and scale to changes in workload. Cloud technology allows for the automatic provision and deprovision of resource as and when it is necessary, thus ensuring that the level of resource available is as closely matched to current demand as possible. This is a defining characteristic that differentiates it from other computing models where resource is delivered in blocks (e.g., individual servers, downloaded software applications), usually with fixed capacities and upfront costs. With cloud computing, the end user usually pays only for the resource they use and so avoids the inefficiencies and expense of any unused capacity.
However, the advantages of cloud computing are not limited to flexibility. Enterprise can also benefit (in varying degrees) from the economies of scale created by setting up services en masse with the same computing environments, and the reliability of physically hosting services across multiple servers where individual system failures do not affect the continuity of the service.
There is also great choice in the level of security and management required in cloud deployments, with an option to suit almost any business:
A public cloud, for example, is a cloud in which services and infrastructure are hosted off-site by a cloud provider, shared across their client base and accessed by these clients via public networks such as the internet. Public clouds offer great economies of scale and redundancy but are more vulnerable than private cloud setups due their high levels of accessibility.
Private clouds on the other hand use pooled services and infrastructure stored and maintained on a private network – whether physical or virtual – accessible for only one client. The obvious benefits to this are greater levels of security and control. Cost benefits must be sacrificed to some extent though, as the enterprise in question will have to purchase/rent and maintain all the necessary software and hardware.
The final cloud option is a hybrid cloud and this, as the name suggests, combines both public and private cloud elements. A hybrid cloud allows a company to maximise their efficiencies; by utilising the public cloud for non-sensitive operations while using a private setup for sensitive or mission critical operations, companies can ensure that their computing setup is ideal without paying any more than is necessary.
Moving away from deployment models, broadly speaking there are 3 models of cloud computing which describe the service on offer; these are Software as a Service (SaaS), Platform as a Service (PaaS) and Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS).
As with the other cloud computing categories, IaaS refers to the delivery of virtualised computing resource as a service across a network connection. IaaS specifically deals with hardware – or computing infrastructure – delivered as a service. Offerings include virtualised server space, storage space, network connections and IP addresses. The resource is pulled from a pool of servers distributed across data centres under the provider’s control, the user is then granted access to this resource in order to build their own IT platforms. IaaS can provide enterprises with great business benefits.
PaaS is an extension of IaaS and describes a category of cloud computing that provides developers with environments in which to build applications, over the internet. In addition to the fundamental computing resource supplied by the hardware in an IaaS offering, PaaS models also include the software and configuration (often known as the solution stack) required to create the platform on which clients can create their applications. PaaS packages can be tailored to meet individual user needs; they can cherry pick the features of the service that are relevant to them while disregarding those that are not. PaaS provides a number of benefits to enterprises, including simplifying the development process for geographically split development teams.
SaaS is arguably the most common of the cloud computing variations; it’s the term used to describe a software delivery model in which applications are hosted (usually by a provider) and made available to customers over a network connection. Many people make use of SaaS without realising it as many web applications are delivered in this way; Gmail, Flickr, Twitter and Facebook are all popular examples of SaaS. Enterprise users also frequently make use of SaaS with many popular accounting, invoicing, sales, communications and CRM systems being delivered this way.
Why Move To The Cloud? 10 Benefits Of Cloud Computing
Simply put, cloud computing is computing based on the internet. Where in the past, people would run applications or programs from software downloaded on a physical computer or server in their building, cloud computing allows people access to the same kinds of applications through the internet.
When you update your Facebook status, you’re using cloud computing. Checking your bank balance on your phone? You’re in the cloud again. Chances are you rely on cloud computing to solve the challenges faced by small businesses, whether you’re firing off emails on the move or using a bunch of apps to help you manage your workload.
In short, cloud is fast becoming the new normal. By the end of 2015 it’s estimated that 90% of UK businesses will be using at least one cloud service.
Why are so many businesses moving to the cloud? It’s because cloud computing increases efficiency, helps improve cash flow and offers many more benefits…Check out ten of the best below.
Cloud-based services are ideal for businesses with growing or fluctuating bandwidth demands. If your needs increase it’s easy to scale up your cloud capacity, drawing on the service’s remote servers. Likewise, if you need to scale down again, the flexibility is baked into the service. This level of agility can give businesses using cloud computing a real advantage over competitors – it’s not surprising that CIOs and IT Directors rank ‘operational agility’ as a top driver for cloud adoption.
2. Disaster recovery
Businesses of all sizes should be investing in robust disaster recovery, but for smaller businesses that lack the required cash and expertise, this is often more an ideal than the reality. Cloud is now helping more organizations buck that trend. According to Aberdeen Group, small businesses are twice as likely as larger companies to have implemented cloud-based backup and recovery solutions that save time, avoid large up-front investment and roll up third-party expertise as part of the deal.
3. Automatic software updates
The beauty of cloud computing is that the servers are off-premise, out of sight and out of your hair. Suppliers take care of them for you and roll out regular software updates – including security updates – so you don’t have to worry about wasting time maintaining the system yourself. Leaving you free to focus on the things that matter, like growing your business.
4. Capital-expenditure Free
Cloud computing cuts out the high cost of hardware. You simply pay as you go and enjoy a subscription-based model that’s kind to your cash flow. Add to that the ease of setup and management and suddenly your scary, hairy IT project looks at lot friendlier. It’s never been easier to take the first step to cloud adoption.
5. Increased collaboration
When your teams can access, edit and share documents anytime, from anywhere, they’re able to do more together, and do it better. Cloud-based workflow and file sharing apps help them make updates in real time and gives them full visibility of their collaborations.
6. Work from anywhere
With cloud computing, if you’ve got an internet connection you can be at work. And with most serious cloud services offering mobile apps, you’re not restricted by which device you’ve got to hand.
The result? Businesses can offer more flexible working perks to employees so they can enjoy the work-life balance that suits them – without productivity taking a hit. One study reported that 42% of workers would swap a portion of their pay for the ability to telecommute. On average they’d be willing to take a 6% pay cut.
7. Document control
The more employees and partners collaborate on documents, the greater the need for watertight document control. Before the cloud, workers had to send files back and forth as email attachments to be worked on by one user at a time. Sooner or later – usually sooner – you end up with a mess of conflicting file content, formats and titles.
And as even the smallest companies become more global, the scope for complication rises. According to one study, “73% of knowledge workers collaborate with people in different time zones and regions at least monthly”.
When you make the move to cloud computing, all files are stored centrally and everyone sees one version of the truth. Greater visibility means improved collaboration, which ultimately means better work and a healthier bottom line. If you’re still relying on the old way, it could be time to try something a little more streamlined.
Lost laptops are a billion-dollar business problem. And potentially greater than the loss of an expensive piece of kit is the loss of the sensitive data inside it. Cloud computing gives you greater security when this happens. Because your data is stored in the cloud, you can access it no matter what happens to your machine. And you can even remotely wipe data from lost laptops so it doesn’t get into the wrong hands.
Wish there was a simple step you could take to become more competitive? Moving to the cloud gives access to enterprise-class technology, for everyone. It also allows smaller businesses to act faster than big, established competitors. Pay-as-you-go service and cloud business applications mean small outfits can run with the big boys, and disrupt the market, while remaining lean and nimble. David now packs a Goliath-sized punch.
10. Environmentally friendly
While the above points spell out the benefits of cloud computing for your business, moving to the cloud isn’t an entirely selfish act. The environment gets a little love too. When your cloud needs fluctuate, your server capacity scales up and down to fit. So you only use the energy you need and you don’t leave oversized carbon footprints. This is something close to our hearts at Salesforce, where we try our best to create sustainable solutions with minimal environmental impact.
Disadvantages of Cloud Computing
As cloud service providers take care of a number of clients each day, they can become overwhelmed and may even come up against technical outages. This can lead to your business processes being temporarily suspended. Additionally, if your internet connection is offline, you will not be able to access any of your applications, server or data from the cloud.
Although cloud service providers implement the best security standards and industry certifications, storing data and important files on external service providers always opens up risks. Using cloud-powered technologies means you need to provide your service provider with access to important business data. Meanwhile, being a public service opens up cloud service providers to security challenges on a routine basis. The ease in procuring and accessing cloud services can also give nefarious users the ability to scan, identify and exploit loopholes and vulnerabilities within a system. For instance, in a multi-tenant cloud architecture where multiple users are hosted on the same server, a hacker might try to break into the data of other users hosted and stored on the same server. However, such exploits and loopholes are not likely to surface, and the likelihood of a compromise is not great.
Although cloud service providers promise that the cloud will be flexible to use and integrate, switching cloud services is something that hasn’t yet completely evolved. Organizations may find it difficult to migrate their services from one vendor to another. Hosting and integrating current cloud applications on another platform may throw up interoperability and support issues. For instance, applications developed on Microsoft Development Framework (.Net) might not work properly on the Linux platform.
Since the cloud infrastructure is entirely owned, managed and monitored by the service provider, it transfers minimal control over to the customer. The customer can only control and manage the applications, data and services operated on top of that, not the backend infrastructure itself. Key administrative tasks such as server shell access, updating and firmware management may not be passed to the customer or end user.
Not moved to the cloud yet?
Any three of the above benefits would be enough to convince many businesses to move their business into the cloud. But when you add up all ten? It’s approaching no-brainer territory.
This is why Salesforce pioneered enterprise cloud computing. From CRM to marketing automation, all of our solutions are entirely cloud-based.
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