Technology’s evolution is progressively making us familiar with tinier devices, faster data exchange, and cost effective business solutions. As well as this, we’ve also been given the keys for total location independence. One of the main protagonists in this transformation is cloud computing.
This term, as unassuming as it may sound, is changing our daily routines in unprecedented ways. It has almost turned the concept of IT as we know it upside down, and is heavily influencing the way businesses are operated.
What is cloud computing?
If you are not tech-savvy you are probably not quite familiar with cloud computing yet, but if you run a small or medium sized business then chances are that you have either heard of it before or are already implementing it.
Cloud computing is the extension of ordinary IT services and systems on to the Internet. It may be a way to deliver common computing as a service – rather than a product – meaning that resources, data, and information are available as utilities (applications) over a network.
Cloud computing is a broad term used to include all its branches and subcategories, and if we were to take a peek inside this constantly changing world we would realise how vast it actually is. Some of the most popular components of cloud computing technologies are:
- SaaS (Software as a Service): This is a software distribution model in which applications are hosted in the cloud by service providers, and are available via the Internet.
- PaaS (Platform as a Service): PaaS is a service providing the combination of applications and tools (operating system, programming language, database, and web server) that allow users to build and manage a SaaS.
- IaaS (Infrastructure as a Service): This is the foundation of the whole cloud computing system, providing physical or virtual machines, storage units, servers, and other structures necessary to support a platform.
- MaaS (Monitoring as a Service): Offers customers the monitoring and supervising functionalities that an in-house platform would normally provide, but at lower costs and more effectively.
- CaaS (Communication as a Service): Makes virtual communication possible through VoIP, videoconferencing and instant messaging, allowing faster and more efficient collaboration.
Another important distinction to be made about cloud computing regards its deployment model, as usually cloud infrastructures are divided between private, public and hybrid clouds.
In a private cloud, the system is operated and administered specifically for one organisation only, and is managed either by a third party or internally.
Through the public cloud, the services are available publicly over a network and may be free or employ a pay-per-usage model.
These two models are substantially the same, however when the services are provided to a public audience and potentially over a non-trusted network, there might be different security considerations to take into account.
Lastly, a hybrid cloud is a service that usually integrates and extends its capabilities through the use of another model of cloud computing. For example, an organisation might be storing client data on a private application, and at the same time need to connect that application to a public business cloud service.
What are the real benefits of cloud technology in the digital age?
Some people believe that cloud computing is not being used to its full potential yet, and that it should not be considered as a stand-alone, limitless solution, but as a tool to be integrated with existing IT services to deliver the right applications for the right platforms.
Despite these doubts cloud technology is opening up incredible possibilities, especially for SMEs and start-ups, as these are now able to access the same level of IT as any leading organisation.
Other benefits include:
Cloud computing allows businesses to enhance their collaborative ability, as multiple users can work on the same project simultaneously from anywhere with an Internet connection. This has resulted in increasing productivity and effectiveness of employees around the world. By leveraging the capabilities of instant communication offered by the many VoIP and virtual conferencing, even small and medium enterprises can now outsource logistics tasks, and instead concentrate on their core business activities. Along with this, they can share data and maintaining close contact with remote employees.
Agility and scalability
With cloud technology, the term “agility” takes on a whole new meaning. If you are not sure of the real growth potential of your business, or are uncertain on how to approach your target market, cloud computing gives you the ability to easily scale and update your infrastructure on a daily basis.
Experimentation and constant testing are the basis of this new technology era, and the cloud makes the process viable for everyone.
A cloud-based model allows businesses to save on the costs of purchasing and maintaining space-wasting infrastructures, and it lowers the entry barrier for start-ups. These systems are usually provided by a third party, and require fewer IT skills to be operated.
Data storage and security
Losing data and wasting time on hardware maintenance are not frequent problems anymore. Cloud computing makes it possible to save backup files on a daily basis, and even render them available for offline usage in case of technical failures. The ability to encrypt this backup data also enhances the general level of security.
Cloud computing from an entrepreneur’s perspective
We’ve talked about what the benefits of cloud computing are for start-ups and SMEs, but one of the more valuable aspects of this technology is its incredible versatility.
These benefits are available not only to small and medium sized organisations, but also to single individuals. Modern “solopreneurs”, as they have recently been labelled, are able to create a business around their ideas. They can do this from home, when on the road, or anywhere on the planet, mostly thanks to cloud computing and the virtually unlimited potential it offers.
A business can now be started by a single person with very little to no capital, and extended through a network of remote employees or virtual assistants that – through the variety of free cloud services available – are able to manage every aspect of the business. From organising and responding to emails, to design, research and data entry, all these tasks and more can now be outsourced through the cloud. This provides the entrepreneur with the freedom to focus on his main business and creativity.
The services offering cloud capabilities are many and each with its own characteristics. Some of the most popular include Apple’s iCloud, Google Docs (and all Google Apps), OpenDrive, DropBox, Egnyte, and Amazon Cloud Drive.
Google Docs in particular has gotten the attention of a large and increasing number of consumers, primarily thanks to its free, fast, and reliable services. Born as Google Docs and now integrated with Google Drive to provide data storage capabilities, this platform allows users to create, edit, and share any type of document (Microsoft Word and Excel for example), simply by logging in with their Google account. This web-based program provides a secure networking system in which multiple users can work on the same files and projects simultaneously, or with different levels of access and privileges to restrict the usage. These functionalities and its capability to integrate with other services makes Google Docs one of the best cloud computing platforms on the market.
Cloud computing is certainly not just a passing trend. If we are able to keep improving its functionalities and implementing them into our businesses, we will continue to benefit from this technology in the coming years.
Christina Forman manages the marketing and acquisition at Commander, who are Australia’s leading providers of Internet, Electricity, Phone Plans and other Mobile data services as well as competitively priced bundled packages. Commander is owned by the publicly listed M2 Telecommunications Pty Ltd – http://www.commander.com