Many organisations use new IT innovations because they see them as a way of building competitive advantage.
Others are not so quick to embrace new technology developments, despite the potential benefits, preferring instead to avoid the capital costs of investing in new infrastructure.
Cloud computing can offer a range of business benefits and efficiencies, including providing a competitive advantage, but without many of the capital costs which would normally be expected.
Why is this? How does cloud computing deliver these new efficiencies? What about security and reliability? And what are the requirements for IT support, management?
In this article, we’ll look at some of the common benefits, definitions and misconceptions surrounding cloud computing, as well as showing why now is the time to move to the cloud.
What is “the cloud”?
In general, ‘the cloud’ and “cloud computing” are terms for the combined servers, applications, software and systems which are housed in secure and remote locations all over the world.
By using cloud solution, businesses and organisations can operate without the need to invest in (as much) onsite server hardware and software.
Connected by the internet and linked by secure networks, cloud-based systems can be accessed by users via their computers wherever they are.
For businesses, there are three main options to think about when moving to the cloud:
- Public cloud – open to multiple organisations and individual users, public cloud infrastructure is available on a shared basis. Using a public cloud reduces up front capital investment and provides flexibility and scalability for evolving businesses.
- Private cloud – operated and hosted either by your own IT department or by a partner such as Alliance Solutions, private clouds are for the exclusive use of your business.
- Hybrid cloud – typically split between private and public clouds, a hybrid cloud solution provides additional resource when a private cloud reaches the limit of its capacity. A hybrid cloud might also split services, so that a database sits in the private cloud and the application server sits in the public cloud.
Apart from the capital cost saving, a key benefit of cloud computing is its potential to save organisations money by avoiding over provisioning by load balancing requirements among computing resources.
Each of the examples above requires an IT support or management layer to combine the disparate elements into a coherent solution that can then maximise the benefits.
Common misconceptions about moving to the cloud
Some people wrongly assume that cloud computing is all about ‘cost savings’.
Others make the assumption that cloud solutions operate seamlessly without the need for a management.
While it’s true that some cloud systems (such as CRM) can bring cost savings and do not necessarily require professional management, more complex cloud systems require a service layer, which is usually delivered by a professional IT support provider.
A better way to see it is that IT service and support providers bring together the disparate systems and technologies in a cloud environment and combine them into a coherent solution that can then deliver many efficiencies – which may include cost savings.
Without this service layer, organisations may find that:
- They cannot manage all the cloud technologies themselves due to the time and technical requirements
- They do not generate the expected benefits
- The costs may outweigh the benefits
Key benefits of moving to the cloud
The benefits that any given business can derive from moving to the cloud will be very specific to the nature and dynamics of the business. But the following benefits are broadly seen as the key ones for most.
Capital cost reduction
The most common saving offered by cloud solutions is the capital cost of server hardware and software systems.
Instead of buying hardware, organisations may pay for ‘access’ to the software and systems on the hardware, which is housed elsewhere where it can be managed by an IT support partner.
Pay as you go efficiency
The cloud’s subscription based software model means that expenditure is easier to track, and can typically be spread over a period with monthly payments for each user license.
At the same time, organisations can pay only for what is needed rather than having to conform to set licensing bands imposed by software providers. Microsoft Office 365 is a commonly used example of this type of software model.
The ability to scale your software requirements up or down depending on need also adds the speed and flexibility demanded by today’s agile businesses.
As the hardware your organisation uses sits in the cloud, your provider will take care of the upkeep and maintenance of that hardware for you, which in turn frees up management time and resources within your own business.
At the same time your IT support partner can remotely manage your software systems and any aspects of licensing, provisioning and maintenance.
Cloud computing offers workers and organisations of all kinds the freedoms and flexibilities of working in any location with internet connectivity.
Many IT support providers offer VPN solutions using 2 factor authentication to connect users with their workplace anytime anywhere securely.
Security and reliability
Organisations adopting cloud services are advised to deploy secure, automatic backup solutions so that even in the event of system or hardware failure, users know that their data is securely backed up and can be retrieved and restored.
Storing data on the cloud also protects it from other business continuity risks such as natural disasters or terrorist incidents. As a result, many SMEs invest in cloud computing as an efficient, financially viable disaster recovery and business continuity strategy.
From a security perspective, worries about data loss via theft or loss of a mobile device can be addressed with options to remotely disable devices and wipe data before it can be accessed.
Cloud security features can also be enhanced using security technologies such as encryption, intrusion detection systems and firewalls, which are all aimed at restricting access to cloud-based systems for all but authorised users.
The best advice for organisations that have not yet explored moving some or all of their IT systems to the cloud it is to seek specialist advice from your IT support partner.
They will offer a range of options such as running your cloud applications and systems alongside conventional ones on a trial basis for a period, allowing you to get a feel for the benefits without vast investment.
Having made the decision to migrate core computing systems and applications over to the cloud once and for all, most organisations never look back.
Discuss your cloud computing questions, queries and plans with Alliance Solutions on 0800 292 2100 or email firstname.lastname@example.org