Key benefits of cloud computing.
Benefits of cloud computing are plenty and as a practicing manager, by now you should be well aware of the key advantages of cloud computing which can be reaped by switching over to the cloud. Cloud computing has now become, a buzzword nearly everyone has heard, but very few truly understand it or can clearly define ‘what is the cloud’. Let me therefore take a closer look into this and explain ‘what is the cloud’ and what are the key benefits of cloud computing for businesses.
Cloud technology provides business with a range of benefits including reduced IT costs, greater work flexibility for employees, enhanced security and business continuity in the event of a disaster. Because of these cloud computing benefits cloud-based services are becoming more and more attractive and a majority of the companies, both large and small are gradually switching over to ‘the cloud’. It is estimated that by now 90% of businesses in UK and USA are using at least one cloud service. Cloud computing has the potential to become the defining technology of the twenty-first century. You can call it efficiency or doing more with less, whichever way you think, moving over to cloud gives you the opportunity to focus fully on your core responsibility – growing the business. Before I go into the details of the main business benefits of cloud computing let me first explain – what is the Cloud?
What is the Cloud?
You’ve probably heard tech-savvy friends often talking about ‘the Cloud’. What is the cloud? How does it work? These are all questions you’ve probably heard many times or even asked yourself. Let’s therefore, look into ‘what is the cloud’ exactly? Simply put, the cloud is actually a network of computers that work together to help store and process enormous amounts of data remotely through internet. This is called ‘cloud computing’. In the simplest terms, cloud computing means storing and accessing data and programs over the Internet instead of your computer’s hard drive. In cloud computing your desktop or laptop isn’t doing the actual computing. The computing happens remotely in a large data center outside your organization, and you simply see the results of it on your own screen. In more practical terms cloud computing tend to revolve around one key feature which is – storage. When you store data ‘in the cloud’, you are actually storing your data on a network of physical servers, placed in remote location. Rather than saving your files and data locally on your computer’s hard drive, you are storing your digital stuff in these remote servers, which are secured and having practically unlimited storage space. It doesn’t need any effort on your part to maintain or manage these servers. You only pay a service charge to get access to the cloud service provider’s network of servers remotely whenever you need to work on your stored data or to access cloud-based apps and services from anywhere.
The answer to ‘what is the cloud’ would remain incomplete unless I also mention about the different deployment models of cloud computing.
Cloud computing models
Cloud computing has following four models in terms of different access and security options:
Public Cloud: A Public Cloud is where the service provider makes resources (storage, applications etc.) available to the general public over the Internet. The storage is managed by an external organisation. Public cloud services may be free or offered on a pay-per-usage model;
Private Cloud: A Private Cloud is a cloud computing platform that is implemented within the corporate firewall. Unlike public clouds, which deliver services to multiple organizations, a private cloud infrastructure is operated solely for a single organization, whether managed internally or by a third-party, and hosted either internally or externally;
Hybrid Cloud: A Hybrid cloud is an integrated cloud service. This model takes advantages of both public and private cloud services by allowing workloads to move between private and public clouds as computing needs and costs change. Hybrid cloud gives businesses greater flexibility and more data deployment options;
Community Cloud: A Community Cloud is where the infrastructure is shared among several organizations from a specific group with common computing interests (security, compliance, jurisdiction, etc.). The costs are shared by fewer users than a public cloud but more than a private cloud;
Key benefits of cloud computing for business
Now that it is made clear ‘what is the cloud’ and ‘what are the offered cloud models’, let us look into the key benefits of cloud computing that are available to both small and big businesses.
The cloud actually lets you to set up what is basically a virtual office which gives you flexibility of connecting to your business from anywhere, anytime. With increasing use of web-based devices such as smart-phones, tablets etc. in today’s business environment, accessing your business related data stored in the ‘cloud’ has become even easier than ever. There are many reasons as to why an organization chooses to adopt cloud computing. While there is an extensive list of advantages of cloud computing, we will focus our attention here only on those benefits of cloud computing which are most effective for your business. While there are many benefits which may apply to specific businesses, following is a list of some of the key Cloud Computing benefits which are applicable for businesses in general:
1. Cost savings
Perhaps, one of the most significant benefits of cloud computing for both small and big businesses is considerable savings in company’s IT cost. Businesses, no matter what their type or size, by moving to cloud computing you can save substantial capital costs through reduction in spending on equipment, infrastructure and software. It allows you to rent additional processing power over the internet without having to use million-dollar machines as servers. Rather than spending big money on hardware, software or licensing and renewal fees you will cut down your both capital and operating costs by using the resources of your cloud service provider. The contract with most cloud service providers includes the costs of system upgrades, new hardware and software etc. Besides, by moving to cloud you avoid recruitment of IT staff and also save on your energy consumption for running your own data center. As the Cloud platform is utility based, you only pay to the service provider just for what you use when you need it. Thus, with a pay-as-you-go, subscription-based cost structure, cloud services require a lower initial investment and typically much lower overall costs than ‘on-premise’ models.
One of the other key benefits of cloud computing is its scalability. Your business can scale up or scale down operation and the resource storage needs of your business may require quick adjustment to suit such variations, allowing flexibility as the needs change. There may be times when your company requires hiring more employees, or your business might be on a growth path with the company expanding. Either way, the business would have to consciously buy extra technology or man power up front before they are truly needed. Such purchase would block costly capital that your company could use somewhere else. Most cloud-based service providers will allow your business to easily upscale or downscale its existing resources to accommodate business needs or changes. This will enable you to support your business growth without expensive changes to your existing systems. This is why ‘scalability’ is one of the major cloud computing benefits that causes companies to move their businesses to the Cloud.
3. Business continuity
Cloud backup solutions play an essential part of a comprehensive backup, recovery and business continuity strategy. In the event of a disaster, be it natural or technical, businesses must be confident that their data was protected, and that it can be restored in a timely manner to ensure smooth running of the business without any disruption. When companies experience downtime, they stand to lose a great deal of money. One of the major benefits of Cloud computing is that it allows you to better control your downtime. By migrating to the cloud your organization can benefit from a massive pool of latest IT resources, as well as redundant computer servers, without the worry of a large upfront investment or in-house tech know-how. Since all your data is stored in the cloud, it is relatively much easier to back it up and restore the same than storing them on a physical device. Whether you experience a natural calamity, power failure or other crisis, having your data stored in the cloud ensures it is backed up and kept in a safe and secured location to avoid downtime, keeping data and operations running smoothly and consistently and ensuring business continuity;
4. Collaboration efficiency
One of the many advantages of Cloud computing is that this model gives your business the ability to communicate and share more easily outside of the traditional methods. It allows much greater collaboration between employees allowing multiple users to share and work on data and document at the same time. Cloud makes it easy for the company’s design and construction professionals, who spend much of their time on job sites overseas or across different locations, to access work related information, files and records quickly and in a secure way.
5. Anytime, anywhere access
The Cloud technology offers access to your data, programs or anything stored in the cloud from any web-enabled devices at any time and basically from any locations. Whether you are in a business meeting, at a hotel, on vacation or working remotely cloud allows you and your staff to access your vital business information, files and data anytime through multiple devices which can greatly benefit your organization.
6. Flexibility of work practices
Cloud computing offers more flexibility to your employees in their work practices. If you need access to your files and data while you are off-site or at home, you can connect to your virtual office, quickly and easily whenever you need through any web-enable devices.
7. Enhanced Security
One of the most important benefits of cloud computing is – strict adherence by the cloud service providers to a high level security protocol to ensure data protection. Because cloud providers offer services to a large number of businesses and companies, they stick to high security standards to improve data security by following a layered approach that includes data encryption, key management, strong access controls, and security intelligence in addition to regular security audits. As the costs for implementing these security measures are shared across all users in cloud, it is easier for the service providers to allocate resources to provide improved information security that many individual customers cannot afford to.
However, it has been found that for some, data security concern is an issue for avoiding adoption of cloud. In reality, such security concerns with respect to the cloud seem to be more perception than truth. Those with cloud experience tell a different story. One survey shows that only 10 percent of the users say their use of cloud has decreased data security levels.
What the market players think about the benefits of Cloud computing
A recent survey shows that among the many advantages of cloud computing, the companies use cloud services mainly because of easy internet access and scalability, lower costs and faster deployment. Other reasons for the use of cloud services are minor applications, security applications and for network monitoring and redundancy. The survey also shows the likelihood of businesses moving to the Cloud increases with the increase in company size.
I have in this article tried to explain the key benefits of cloud computing’ in order to help you to take a considered decision about moving over to cloud. However, before you move your data into the cloud, you will need to consider which model works best for your business and data needs. Successful deployment of cloud model depends on company’s understanding of its own infrastructure, current needs and growth plan. There is no one-model-fits-all and rather than taking a hasty decision for moving to the cloud your company would do well to see how it can maximize the benefits of its existing set-up as well as those that a Cloud-based service can provide to the company. It would be evident from the descriptions of the various cloud computing models given in this post the Hybrid delivery model makes sense for all companies whatever their size or infrastructure. With a hybrid model a company can have the best of both worlds, which allows the company to maximize the benefits of both, a hosted delivery model and those of the on-premise model.