Understanding the cloud and why it is THE silver lining for every business

Posted by: Clay Nelson, Relationship Unlimited Founder

Cloud computing has gained a lot of momentum over the last decade or so and for many of us (particularly the younger among us!) it can seem like “the cloud” has always been with us.

Of course that’s not the case, and it really wasn’t so long ago that software had to be installed manually (and updated regularly) on each and every computer.  If you forgot a file you needed to work on over the weekend, then you had to go back PHYSICALLY into the office.

In addition, many really quite small companies had to have an all-powerful IT Manager on staff JUST to troubleshoot all the hardware and software, not to mention manage a big server room where there was always the worry that a water leak, natural disaster (or simply the servers over-heating) could cause catastrophe.

I’m almost getting misty-eyed.

But, what exactly is cloud computing?

While it might be common place today, it’s still worth asking; what exactly is cloud computing?

It’s worth asking and clarifying, because there are still many businesses and organisations out there that have not “fully embraced the cloud” due to completely unfounded and disproven concerns about the technology.

To my mind, the easiest way to think of cloud computing is that it is effectively the outsourcing of software, processing and storage.

Users data, infrastructure and software are hosted by 3rd party providers and exist on a network of data centres all over the world (instead of on their PC hard drive).

There is no hardware or software to manage on site, no team of experts needed to install, configure, test, run, update, secure, etc and no 24/7 electricity bills.

You no longer need to make large capital investments in infrastructure or software in order to accommodate growth.  In fact, for the cost of a monthly subscription fee, pretty much everything is seamlessly managed for you by the providers. Software and platforms are updated, performance and security are constantly monitored and extra capacity is available on demand.

Cloud computing has simply eliminated (or vastly improved) many tasks and headaches that the office of yesterday faced, by making access to infrastructure and software work the way gas & electricity do – where you only pay for what you need. 

Consider the scenario where you can now have multiple people all securely access the same file or program and collaborate in real time, no matter where they are in the world. No more emailing back and forth and concerns over duplicates or “which version was the latest”.

This scenario simply wasn’t possible even a few years ago.

The 3 main service models of cloud computing

There are 3 main (and distinct) types of cloud computing that are readily available for businesses and organisations of all shapes and sizes to take advantage of as part of their “technology stack”.

1. Software as a Service (SaaS)

SaaS is the most common form of cloud computing and the one most of us probably think of when we think of the cloud.  SaaS delivers complete software applications over the internet, so these do not need to be downloaded and installed on each individual user’s computer.

2. Platform as a Service (PaaS)

PaaS on the other hand provides the building blocks for creating software, including development tools, code libraries and programming environments.

The Salesforce Lightning Platform for example is an app development platform that extends your CRM’s reach and functionality, resources are standardised with pre-configured app modules so you don’t have to “reinvent the wheel” each time you want to build a new app.

You do not even have to be a developer to build apps using the Salesforce Lightning Platform, with drag-and-drop functionality pretty much anyone can create apps or automate business processes.

3. Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS)

IaaS is usually fully self-service via API’s (Application Programming Interfaces) and allows businesses to use enterprise-grade IT infrastructure, storage and resources on demand, without the requirement for large capital investment.

Business needs to catch up with consumers when it comes to cloud computing

Despite the widespread use of SaaS, PaaS and IaaS cloud solutions, it’s true that many businesses and organisations still harbour completely unwarranted concerns and misconceptions around reliability, access and security when it comes to cloud computing.

Which is pretty crazy, when you consider the vast majority of us have no issues in using cloud technology when it comes to our personal lives – think Netflix, Spotify and Facebook.

It’s also crazy because cloud vendors usually utilise the very latest hardware and software in their operations. Their software and infrastructure is usually state of the art and far superior (and more reliable) than what most small to medium companies could afford to purchase and maintain outright. 

When it comes to data security, if your data is stored in the cloud, it is backed up (in multiple sites), quarantined and encrypted so that only you can see your data.

The cloud is also likely to be massively more secure than your computer (or a small networked group of “local” computers).  Indeed, most data or security breaches are due to human error (phishing, poor passwords, lost laptops) but top cloud providers (like Salesforce) employ the latest encryption technology and leading experts in computer science and cybersecurity to constantly address new threats and keep systems safe and running optimally.

You’ll also never be locked out of systems (which were previously based in a physical location or office) when you use the cloud. If you have a computer and an internet connection, you will always have access to your data.

Finally, transitioning to the cloud is not expensive or time-consuming either, you minimise costs from the start as you do not need to purchase any new hardware or software, and data migration is now largely automated.

Cloud computing is here and now AND the future

Quantum computing and artificial intelligence will fuel an exponential increase in processing capability, all of which will be harnessed by cloud computing, making this technology accessible to businesses of all sizes. Businesses that do not make early use of this computing power and technology will simply be left behind by those that do. 

So, not only does the cloud already provide vastly improved capacity for mobility, collaboration, productivity, efficiency and security, the future is even faster & smarter!

If you’re ready to take full advantage of the cloud’s silver lining and future-proof your business, then get in touch with the team at Relationship Unlimited today

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