If you have been reasonably conscious over the last five to ten years, you’ve probably heard about the advantages of cloud computing. You may be wondering what the business benefits of cloud computing are if you run a small or medium enterprise. In this blog, we explore how using a cloud hosting service can help save your business time and money.
What is cloud computing in business?
Good question. The term ‘cloud’ gets thrown around a lot in computing. We use it to describe operating systems, computing infrastructures, servers, service models and storage. Just when you thought that wasn’t confusing enough, specific brands use ‘Cloud’ in their product names to describe different offerings.
Products can be ‘cloud-based’, ‘hybrid clouds’, ‘public clouds’, or ‘private clouds’. It’s a diverse range of similar sounding yet vastly different options. So it’s no wonder business owners struggle to find the right cloud computing models for their company. To help out, we thought we’d lift the fog on cloud computing systems. So you know you’re equipped with the cloud computing model you need to operate effectively.
Cloud computing in business doesn’t just involve connecting to someone else’s computer, somewhere in the vast expanse of the internet. It is a distributed service. That means you are technically connected to a whole bunch of computers within a data centre. They share computing power, data and resources. Together, they form a single, virtual supercomputer, which is generally used to sell three different types of cloud computing service:
Software as a service (SaaS)
This is the most common cloud computing service. If you subscribe to applications like Microsoft 365, Hubspot, SurveyMonkey, MailChimp or Adobe, then you are already accessing a SaaS. They can offer you far more powerful solutions as well because all of the processing is done centrally instead of on your machine. It also means they handle all software maintenance, servers, storage and data. As a result, you can just get on with using something that works.
Platform as a service (PaaS)
Developers favour PaaS if they want to build customised software in a cost-effective, scalable environment. Common PaaS companies include Windows Azure and Amazon Web Services Elastic Beanstalk, which offer developers a fast and flexible platform to rapidly develop and deploy software applications. PaaS isn’t necessarily something you would instantly recognise as an SME owner unless you have commissioned a developer yourself.
Infrastructure as a service (IaaS)
Now here is where it starts to get interesting if you’re an SME. IaaS allows medium and small businesses to access all of the computing power they need to run effectively, but in a far faster, more flexible and secure environment. In essence, cloud technology allows the data centre to supply your servers, operating system, data storage and network, all through your internet connection. Just as with the previous two types of cloud service, you can access IaaS quickly and cheaply via a monthly subscription.
The benefits of cloud computing in business
It’s one of the biggest benefits of cloud computing in business. Ask yourself where your data would be more secure: in a single laptop or server somewhere in an office, or in a purpose-built data centre with 24-hour security, remote monitoring and a military-grade firewall.
A cloud-based infrastructure means you will always have the most up-to-date version of Windows and antivirus software, and a firewall so powerful it can open your email, check a link or attachment and then send it to your computer in about 300 milliseconds.
A good cloud services provider will have more than one data centre too. So even if the worst should happen, like natural disasters or a fire, your data remains secure and accessible via one of the other centres. That’s especially useful if you want to operate from a hybrid cloud, with some computing done on-premises and backed up in the cloud.
Another one of the cloud computing benefits is that it can consistently deliver as much processing power as you need. If you compare one physical server to a single horse pulling a cart, a data centre that hosts your remote server is equivalent to eight, 10 or even 100 horses pulling the cart. That’s because eight different computers are in fact hosting your server. So if one horse gets sick, a host of others can keep pulling.
Plus, you can run nearly all modern software on a private cloud server, as long as you have the right licenses. And if you need a bit more resource for powerful software such as for graphic design or CAD drawings, you can simply tell the cloud services provider what spec you need and it will be delivered virtually.
Let’s be honest: for most SMEs, the viability of any service just comes down to cost. And in the world of cold, hard maths, cloud-hosted services are an outright winner. Take your average physical server, divide its cost by its lifespan, and you will find it is more expensive than the monthly subscription to a more powerful cloud solution.
Automated, off-site backups offer the bonus of all the security, electricity, cooling, updating, maintenance and other headaches being somebody else’s problem. And more importantly for start-ups and small companies, the setup costs are comparatively tiny and will only grow when you need them to.
If we’ve learned anything from home working in the last year, it’s just how important it is to be able to access your work from anywhere. One of the central business benefits of cloud computing is that it works almost like a permanent backup of all your data, which you can access anytime, from any location.
For instance, did you lose or break a laptop? Your data is fine. Apart from the inconvenience of replacing or repairing your hardware, you haven’t lost any vital information. Locked out of your office? As long as you’ve got a good VPN, you can use any internet connection to work in a cloud environment – such as a hotel, motel, or Holiday Inn.
Cloud communications explained
While the cloud may seem an ethereal, hard-to-grasp concept, the truth is it’s still a computer network. It has real-life hardware and it takes up physical space for data storage, it’s just not taking up your space. Files are stored remotely in data centres but are available to access from any place at any time via a web browser.
Alongside the data storage solutions offered by cloud computing models, cloud communication services also facilitate unified communication between your employees via your network. Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) can also be used for voice and video communications and multimedia sessions. It’s like having your own version of Zoom where nobody gets kicked off when the call hits 40 minutes.
Private, public, and hybrid cloud computing models
More people than ever are working from home as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. In response to this, small businesses are increasingly adopting private cloud systems to enable employees to share and access files remotely and safely. Private clouds ensure everyone has access to the required information and, importantly, employees are working from the same documents. Private clouds are more customisable and secure, because you have complete control over the data centres in which they are stored.
Comparatively, public clouds are more cost-effective but don’t offer the same levels of security as private computing resources. They’re less customisable as control is relinquished to service providers, such as Amazon Web Services or Microsoft Azure. But every cloud has a silver lining. If you’re not tech-savvy, letting the tech giants handle the technical side of things can often be a weight off your shoulders.
Hybrid cloud models – surprise, surprise – combine the two. This allows you to switch between the public cloud and the private cloud, depending on the nature of your work.
Finding the right cloud service for your business
Once you’ve chosen your cloud type, you’ll need to consider which cloud service to adopt. We’ve created a handy guide to help you find the right cloud strategy, based on your circumstances and your user needs.
- Infographic: What are the main cloud deployment models?
Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) is the most flexible and wide-ranging cloud service. Microsoft Azure, Amazon Web Services, and Google Compute Engine all offer IaaS.
Platform as a Service (PaaS) is slightly more specialised. It allows users to adapt and modify their cloud system and use development tools whenever they need to. Microsoft Azure, again, offers this service, as does Google, Apache Stratos, and many more. The most sophisticated and niche of the three cloud services is Software as a Service (SaaS). SaaS applications are the go-to for cloud services. Fully-developed software solutions are available on a subscription basis. They are generally managed by providers such as Microsoft Office 365, Google and Cisco WebEx, to name a few. Check out our brand battles to see which brand’s cloud service best suits you.
Are there any other business benefits of cloud computing?
Cutting your carbon footprint
Another of the business benefits of cloud computing is its potential to reduce your carbon footprint. Cloud services are inherently designed to be efficient. Different computers vote on who can switch off and who should take on a greater load. This is combined with more environmentally friendly energy solutions such as cold aisle cooling and solar panels.
What are the drawbacks of cloud computing in business?
To get the most from cloud computing in business, you still need a physical device that isn’t any older than 10 years. But you also need to make sure you’ve done your research on a good provider. Only a cloud service provider with the right credentials and experience can deliver the benefits we’ve discussed.
A good signifier is whether they are certified for ISO/IEC 27001. Providers need to pay for an auditor and the cost of certification. They also need to replace their network switches, firewalls and other assets over time. Without that kind of commitment, you should be wary of trusting them with your business.
Avoid The Hassle With Cloud Hosting
If all the above seems like a bit too much of a hassle, there is another option. Cloud hosting services, provided by Venom IT, can take the stress out of your company’s progression into cloud computing altogether. We use our technical know-how and our years of experience to facilitate a seamless transition to support, optimise, and safeguard your IT infrastructure. So you can get your head out of the clouds and get on with the real work.
To learn more about how you can make the most of cloud computing benefits for a small business in Manchester and beyond, as well as medium to larger businesses, to support, enhance or protect your IT infrastructure, contact us at Venom IT for a free trial or demonstration.