Cloud computing is made up of a variety of hardware and software resources, available online and managed as a third-party service. It includes:
Virtual IT: Allowing businesses to use remote, third-party servers as extensions of their local IT network.
Software: Providing unparalleled access to commercial applications and allowing companies to develop and remotely host custom-built applications.
Storage: Unlimited network storage, data back-up and online archiving allows businesses that manage a lot of information to remain lean and stay on the right side of data protection legislation with enhanced digital security.
Cloud computing systems are designed to be able to support businesses of every shape and size and are stress-tested to manage large numbers of customers and surges in demand.
How does cloud computing work?
Cloud computing systems hold data on internet servers that users tap into, as opposed to distributing data files to individual client devices.
Video-sharing cloud services like Netflix stream data across the internet to a player application on a viewing device. It’s a technical leap from providers like Love Film that started out as a DVD-by-post subscription service. Cloud computing has provided the means for delivering movies right to your home as an on-demand service, with the only requirement being online.
Being online is the baseline for cloud computing, with everything from business to gaming jumping on the bandwagon and capitalising on the opportunities it creates to improve operational efficiency, processing and customer experience.
Benefits of cloud computing:
#1 Ready-made, managed infrastructure
Service providers are responsible for installing and maintaining core technology within the cloud, so there’s no pressure on the business to maintain or develop their IT infrastructure. And, because cloud customers buy into the idea of giving up management control of their systems, they rely 100% on the service providers to deliver agreed levels of performance and reliability.
It’s common practice for cloud computing systems to track system resources, so service providers can charge customers in proportion with their network, storage and processing use. They see it as a plus, because customers pay for what they use as opposed to a flat-rate subscription.
Questions around privacy and security have raised a few eyebrows around cloud computing, but like all technologies it’s growing and evolving all the time. It just means businesses need to weigh up the pros and cons and decide whether the level of service available right now, offers adequate protection.
Cloud computing is one of the most cost-efficient systems for businesses to use, maintain and upgrade, and leaves its more traditional desktop counterparts looking pale in comparison.
The licensing fees for multiple application users alone can prove a huge drain on a company’s finances and this is where the cloud can make a notable difference on the balance sheet, by providing all the same services and taking care of maintenance, at a significantly reduced rate.
It means businesses no longer have to assume the costs associated with owning software and hardware outright, and because there are lots of one-time-payment, pay-as-you-go and scalable options available, they can sign up to a solution that does what they want, without paying for functionality they don’t need.
#3 Storage in spades
Storing information in the cloud provides almost unlimited capacity, so there’s no need to worry about running out of space or paying to increase storage availability.
#4 Easy backup and recovery
Because all your data is stored in the cloud, bacK-up and restoration is much easier than it would be on a physical device.
Most cloud service providers have experts on hand to manage recovery tasks, so there’s added peace of mind that you have professional help on tap should the worst happen.
#5 Automatic software integration
Software integration usually happens automatically in the cloud, so users don’t need to spend time or money on system customisation or integrating applications to bridge the two.
Once on board, cloud computing also allows users to customise system options, so you can hand-pick the services and software applications that serve you best.
#6 Easy access to information
Once registered with a service provider in the cloud, you can access information from anywhere in the world, provided there’s an internet connection. This kind of freedom has made it a preferred route for businesses with employees who travel, work between zones and geographic locations or embrace remote working practices.
#7 Quick Deployment
IT projects have a tendency to come with long lead times and project management headaches. Cloud computing on the other hand promises quick deployment and speedy business readiness.
In fact, once you’ve made the decision to switch, some service providers claim your new system can be fully functional in minutes. Of course, the amount of time required will depend on how complex your technology needs are and the customisations you’d like to make, but the offering generally is designed to make the switch as quick and painless as possible.
Lookouts of cloud computing
As with all technologies, there are a few things to be aware of before you press go.
#1 Technical Issues
Information is available any time, anywhere in the cloud, but technology is always at risk of outages and other technical issues. Even the best cloud service providers in the world can experience issues, despite their best efforts.
You’ll also need a very good internet connection if you want to be logged into the server at all times, otherwise network and connectivity problems could hamper your experience and efficiency.
Any business using the cloud needs to get comfortable with the idea of sharing all sensitive company and customer information with a third party - making security a major consideration when it comes to choosing your service provider.
Data protection and digital security is a big issue right now, with governance and compliance on the rise along with the penalties for companies and even individuals who fail to comply with new, more robust regulations.
#3 Hacker vulnerability
There’s some concern that storing information in the cloud could make your company more vulnerable to external hacking and cyber attacks. It’s almost impossible to make anything on the internet fool-proof, so there’s always the possibility of sensitive data falling into the wrong hands.
This is something cloud customers work closely with providers to close the gap on, ensuring every possible measure is taken to bolster security.
Whether you’re a fan already or you’ve yet to be convinced, there’s little doubt cloud-based technology is changing the way businesses think, and with investment and use on the rise, it’s an option all businesses and agencies should be looking into.
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