Although the hype surrounding ‘the cloud’ is starting to diminish, this is not because cloud computing has gone away. Instead, it has become so pervasive that many things are just assumed to be “in the cloud”. So what is cloud computing?
Cloud computing is, quite simply, the on-demand delivery of IT resources over the Internet with pay-as-you-go pricing. Instead of buying, owning, and maintaining physical servers, you simply lease access to technology services, such as computing power, storage, and databases.
One of the main attractions of this arrangement is that everybody gets to benefit from economies of scale and gain access to flexible resources at competitive pricing. You simply hire the required resources for the time that you need them, from just a few hours to years, and if you need more (or less) you simply pay a bit more (or less).
Benefits of Cloud Computing
You eliminate the cost of buying hardware, and the cost of somewhere to keep the hardware. You also don’t to pay somebody look after the hardware.
With pay-as-you-go pricing you only pay for the services you need, when you need them.
If you need power, then cloud computing can offer it. And if you need more, you can simply “dial it in”.
Generally speaking, data centre hardware is expensive and high-performance. It is beyond the reach of most smaller companies to purchase outright, but the same resources can be rented for just a few pounds per month.
Most cloud services are “self service” and “on demand”. Meaning that vast computing resources can be provisioned almost instantly.
This is useful for handling peaks in demand and reduces the need to anticipate future capacity requirements.
No patches, no upgrades, no down-time for replacement of hardware.
With cloud computing your IT staff can focus on more important business tasks.
There is no need to handle backup tapes or have multiple machines in case one fails.
Instead it is possible to simply mirror your data to multiple redundant sites, so if one fails you can seamlessly continue.
While some cloud services are hosted at a single location, many run on a worldwide network of data centres.
This means that you can deliver your service geographically close to the end-user and typically on high-end hardware.
Is The Cloud For Me?
There are three primary methods in which cloud computing is deployed.
Officially called “Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS)”, this is the starting point of cloud computing. It typically provides access to computers (virtual or on dedicated hardware), data storage space and a network. IaaS gives you almost complete control over the server and if you have a server in your office that you want on the cloud, this is the type of service you would employ.
“Platform as a Service (PaaS)”, removes the need for you to manage hardware or operating systems, instead focussing on the deployment and management of your applications. This is of primary benefit to people who develop applications rather than the end-user who will consume that application using the final category…
You guessed it, “Software as a Service (SaaS)”. With a SaaS offering, you don’t have to worry about how the service is maintained or how the infrastructure is managed. You only need to think about how you will use the software. You get the benefits of accessing a service (i.e. webmail, or your accounting software) with none of the complexity of managing or maintaining it.
Is It Worth Moving To The Cloud?
You are probably already using cloud services for at least one business function, common examples include; email, SharePoint, OneDrive and Dropbox. But normally this question is related to a business-specific application on a local server such as relationship management software or a stock control system. In this circumstance, the answer depends greatly on your specific situation.
The principal drawback to any cloud solution is the necessity of an internet connection. So if you have a single office, with one or two servers providing minimal local services, the cloud might not be of particular benefit. In this case, the question becomes: is it more likely for your internet to go down, or your server? That is not to say that a cloud solution wouldn’t be suitable, just that the argument to switch is slightly weaker. Then again, when was the last time your internet went down?
But if any of the following is true, then a cloud solution is very likely to be advantageous:
- Multiple sites or places of business
- Employ home or mobile workers
- Run a service or system that requires remote access
This is especially true if your sites or workers need access to a server at head-office or similar. Whilst it is more likely for the internet connection at head office to go down than for the server to fail, they have exactly the same impact for each of those satellite sites. So I would nearly always recommend moving to the cloud in this instance.
At Virtualis, all of our services are hosted on cloud platforms. The flexibility and reliability that these systems offer are vital to us and to our clients who demand always-on reliability and immediate access to their services.
Are you looking for a cloud host?
At Virtualis, we can offer fully managed cloud solutions on two platforms, depending on your needs. We include real-time monitoring, so if there’s an issue, we’ll be the first to know, plus we offer complete online and offline backups as well as updates and disaster recovery as standard. To discuss your needs, we’re always happy to chat.
Header image courtesy of Blue Coat Photos