Let the Geek Guide You: What Cloud Computing Can Do for Your Business
Business| by Amy Vagne | March 30, 2020
A user-friendly guide to understanding what cloud computing is, and the benefits for storage, security and infrastructure for your business.
The future of technology is in the cloud. Without even realising it, you’re already reaping the benefits of cloud computing when you check your emails on Gmail or use Microsoft Office. Research shows businesses are quickly moving towards cloud computing models, with 90% of organisations already using cloud services in some way.
And cloud computing could not be more relevant now: with vastly more people working remotely all of sudden, ‘the cloud’ gives us all the chance to share and collaborate with ease. It’s a complex subject, but Anthony Hill, Head of Technology for Geeks2U, is here to shed some light on cloud computing and what it can do for your business.
So What Is Cloud Computing?
“It’s a very loose term that gets bandied around for all sorts of things,” Anthony explains. “But in a nutshell, it’s the delivery of on-demand computer services like apps, storage or even processing power on a pay-as-you-go basis.”
Instead of purchasing your own IT solutions and software, installing it and maintaining it yourself, you’re outsourcing certain aspects to third parties over the internet, utilising their expertise, high-end resources, and capacity in terms of space and time.
It’s a burgeoning field in the IT world, for reasons we’ll soon delve into, and as Anthony notes, “Most people are probably using it nowadays without even thinking about it. All of our email services – like Gmail and Outlook – are essentially cloud computing as they’re on another server somewhere and not located on our desktop computers. We’re simply accessing them via the web.”
Why Adopt Cloud Computing Services?There are clear benefits to cloud computing and a huge one is the potential for cost savings. If businesses can streamline their IT resources, they can save money everywhere, from cutting spending on hardware and software and IT personnel, to lowering electricity bills. “You only pay for what you need, when you need it,” Anthony says, which may be very appealing to businesses of any size. Another advantage is flexibility, with cloud access available 24/7 from any location worldwide.
“Think of your emails,” Anthony says. “We can log in on our phone, our tablet, our desktop computer. Online storage of those emails allows you to access them from anywhere on any device and it also means if your computer gets damaged or you’re away travelling, you’ve got an almost permanent backup as well.” Another advantage of cloud computing is that it champions collaboration, as multiple users can access and update the same document in real time using cloud applications like Google Docs.
Understanding Cloud StorageCloud storage is the most basic mode of cloud computing. When you save your data and images to the cloud it frees up space on your mobile devices. For anyone who has ever scrolled through their photo roll frantically deleting pics, you know how significant it is. You’re also tapping into huge reserves of space for your data storage needs. A by-product of all of this: the cloud is a safe and secure location to back up your files. If anything were to happen to your phone or laptop, your important files would still be accessible.
There are multitude of cloud storage providers, so if you’re looking for one for your business, consider Anthony’s sage advice. “If you’ve got someone providing these storage services and they all of a sudden shut down, you no longer have access to those servers. That is certainly an issue to be aware of. Using one of the major providers is a good idea.”
Should I Be Concerned About Cloud Security?We should all be concerned about the safety of our data, but cloud computing is not as risky as you might think. “Security is of very high importance to cloud computing companies,” Anthony says. “They know they’re not going to be in business for very long if they lose our data or get maliciously attacked. Protecting customer data is very important and so they’ve always got the latest in online security software.”
Security is one thing; privacy is quite another. Check the terms of service and any user agreement before signing up to any type of cloud service. Most will stipulate they have the right to access your files, but will only do so when ordered to do so through legal channels. Consumer advocacy group Choice offers some good information on the potential risks – worth reading before you dive in.
What is Software as a Service (SaaS)?
This type of cloud computing is a method for delivering software online. “Some examples of the SaaS model are things like Microsoft Office or Adobe Creative Cloud,” Anthony explains. “They provide the software on a pay-as-you-go or pay-as-you-use basis. Essentially it’s a software subscription.”
On the plus side, you’ll always have access to the most up-to-date versions of the software, as unlike traditional software installation you’re not purchasing one version of it, you’re actually renting the software in its most current state.
What is Platform as a Service (PaaS)?PaaS is a cloud-based service that helps businesses build apps fast; good examples include OpenShift, Google App Engine and Microsoft Azure. In previous times, making apps was time-consuming and resource draining, but this type of cloud computing speeds up the process and cuts down the cost and complexity.
Once an app is made (usually by utilising existing tools, templates and code to streamline app development), a PaaS service can also assist with data analytics, support capabilities, bug fixes and upgrades. “With PaaS even a small home-based business can seem like a big multinational with all of the tools available to them,” Anthony says.
What is Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS)?Here’s another type of cloud computing that, in its most basic form, sees you renting data centres and server space from an external party online. IaaS has many benefits for businesses, allowing you to cut down on costs and free up physical office space. Flexibility is built-in, as your infrastructures are hosted on the cloud and can therefore be accessed from any location.
This also means the cloud servers or data centres have minimal risk of failing or crashing. With IaaS, the level of easy access is exciting, Anthony says. “You might be a startup which needs a really high-end sort of super-computing power and now cloud infrastructure can be purchased at a very minimal cost.”