Cloud computing is already nothing new but as usual, with technical terms, it is taking some time to be understood and used in mainstream business.
In this post, I aim to clear up some of the misconceptions about what cloud computing is, and isn’t, and hopefully provide some useful pointers for how it could be deployed in your business.
What is Cloud Computing?
Cloud computing is a revolutionary concept because it can dramatically reduce the IT costs of businesses whilst sharply increasing their efficiency. Perhaps the greatest benefit it brings is that of infinate scalability. When you buy IT services through the Cloud, you only pay for what you use, from a single byte of storage, or a single user software license, to hundreds of terabytes and thousands of users.
It means therefore that IT costs can become variable instead of fixed.
It is especially appealing to small businesses because it means they don’t have to make disproportionately large investments in technology at start up.
Basically, there are three ways in which ‘the cloud’ is implemented and of use to us through the Internet.
1. Infrastructure as a Service (IAAS)
This is the provision of a networked computer infrastructure over the web. So, instead of buying locally stored network server hardware and peer-to-peer access, for example, you can now pay a monthly fee for a remote host which is infinitely scalable, and which only you and your organisation, have access to.
2. Platform as a Service (PAAS)
The object of PAAS is to enable a complete development platform to be provided over the web. It is especially useful therefore to workgroups and teams who are sharing, and working on, data files concurrently.
Otherwise known as ‘cloudware’, PAAS is an alternative to companies who use workflow facilities for building software or web applications, or collaborative projects just as architechture. It also includes highly scalable hosting solutions (as an alternative to a dedicated server, for example).
3. Software as a Service (SAAS)
The days of downloading and installing software, or buying it in a box and installing from disk, are coming to an end.
SAAS is perhaps one of the fastest-growing industries in the cloud, and already there are hundreds of applications which can be run efficiently through your web browser instead of locally.
Google docs, for example, now provide a real (free) alternative to Microsoft Office. There are other software services available too, for graphic design, brainstorming and flowcharts, help-desk, appointment and event management… and the list is growing all the time.
One of the main advantages of SAAS to the software provider is that new updates can be made seamlessly, without the need for the customer to install patches or upgrades. Everything required to run the software is held remotely and so minimal processing power is required on the local machine.
Following is a list of recommended SAAS resources:
Email list management: Aweber
Online survey design and management: Survey Gizmo
Helpdesk management: Zendesk
Email + Office-like apps: Google