What is the Cloud? It is the delivery of on-demand computing resources over the internet—everything from applications to data centers. Services can include infrastructure but also software, platforms, storage, security, data, databases, and test environments, and more services are under development. The cloud is a flexible environment that provides businesses access to applications, data, and services from anywhere at any time by accessing the internet. Simple enough, but there are different types of cloud services that can be tailored to the needs of your organization and this adds a bit more complexity.
The types of cloud services include Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) where a business subscribes to applications and uses them over the internet. There is also Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS), where a business can create its own custom applications, and Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS), where companies like Microsoft and others provide a backbone with pay-as-you-go services.
There are also public, private and hybrid clouds each with specific pros and cons. All three types provide scalability, virtualized resources, and instant provisioning. A private cloud provides additional security and is necessary for organizations with compliance requirements. Public clouds offer shared resources, are often pay-as-you-go models and provide an economical way to manage certain systems in your organization and stay competitive.
A hybrid cloud uses a private cloud foundation combined with the strategic integration of public cloud services. A hybrid solution enables data and application portability. It is orchestrated to act as a single entity but is spread among locations, providers, and technologies. This flexibility to move between private and public clouds as computing needs change gives businesses greater flexibility and more data deployment options.
Whether the cloud is an advantage or disadvantage, depends on your business model, your corporate strategies, competition, resources, current infrastructure, workforce, and innovation goals.
- Cost savings. In general, the cloud is a more cost-effective solution, especially for small and mid-size companies. Due to the shared infrastructure, there are fewer up-front costs and investments in hardware, software, and maintenance.
- Reliability. While reliability is a concern, the reality is that software-as-a-service (SaaS) providers deliver products that are typically more reliable and secure than a small business could maintain itself in-house.
- A major feature of the cloud is that it offers a wide range of services and applications that many small or medium sized business could not normally afford. This provides opportunities for innovation that can help companies stay competitive.
- With an ever-increasing mobile workforce, the cloud enables a flexible platform for your employees to work remotely, run applications while at a client site, or check up on projects from anywhere and on multiple devices.
Generic applications. While cloud-based computing can help get work done faster and from anywhere at any time, the software is generic and serves the needs of a wide range of customers, although new and more industry-specific software is being developed all the time. For companies who need highly customized applications, the cloud may not be the best solution.
Security. While cloud services provide various levels of security, for some companies, it may not be enough for certain types of sensitive data or organizations with compliance requirements. Security is an increasing challenge regardless of where your systems and data reside and precautions much be carefully monitored either way.
Need more information?
Still not sure how to move forward with cloud computing? It is a common situation. While there are many ways that cloud-based business is easier, other aspects can be complex and need an experienced team to fit the pieces together.
Cloud computing can be a catalyst for business model innovation as it has the power to fundamentally shift competitive landscapes by providing a new platform for creating and delivering business value. It is important to carefully assess how to best integrate cloud-enabled models that provide a clear competitive advantage. We suggest starting with a consultation from an experienced team.
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