Cloud Computing: Not So Nebulous Anymore
What it is
When people talk about the cloud, it sounds heavenly and ethereal. And some of the perks are heavenly indeed. If your stuff is “on the cloud,” you’re actually making use of large, off-site hard drives. Those hard drives – on server farms – either store your data, provide online service, or allow you to store and access data.
Two popular types of cloud offerings that may be relevant for your business are Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) and Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS). For SaaS, the cloud service provider hosts – on its servers and storage systems – your applications and any data that’s associated with it. To access your data and applications, you would use a web browser and, for use of the service, pay a monthly fee. For IaaS, the provider offers virtual machines, physical servers, storage, switching, and connectivity resources that will allow you to run your business applications. This option requires you to install and maintain the operating system and application or virtual machine; the provider manages the infrastructure hardware that those applications or virtual machines run on. IaaS is generally on a pay-as-you-go basis.
How to use it
Determine whether or not it makes sense for your business to create a private cloud – one type of IaaS. This determination should be made based on the size and data usage of your business. The big downside is capital expenditure. It’s expensive and you’ll have to maintain your own servers. Also, it may adapt less well to spikes in usage, so make sure to take a close look at your business model. However, if it makes sense for you, the big upside is that any cost savings from going to the cloud are directly realized by your business.
If you’re looking at public cloud services – SaaS – they usually charge a monthly fee for a finite amount of data storage. They also make use of the cloud’s ability to allow users to share resources, costs and risks. It should be noted that public clouds may be more subject to security risks, so think about what sorts of business records your company possesses and weigh the risk of putting them on the cloud appropriately. That being said, public cloud services have raised their security standards to the point that it’s arguable that some may be more secure than private clouds. So be sure and do your homework.
There are also Virtual Private Clouds (VPCs) – another type of IaaS – which have some of the cost benefits of public clouds with additional security. They are divided into a separate user space on the public cloud. Because of this, they are quite a bit more expensive than just using the public cloud.
If your business is of a size and nature that may not require a designated cloud computing service, you may do just fine with a simple file-sharing solution for your employees. If that’s the case, be sure and look into options like Google Drive, Microsoft Skydrive, SOS Online Backup, DropBox and PrimaDesk.
Why to use it
There are lots of reasons to use the cloud, but two great ones are reliability and convenience. Being on the cloud is like having an automatic backup, because your data is stored on off-site servers. So if your computer goes down – or even if your whole office goes down – the data is still safe and accessible in the cloud. Of course, to be cautions, be sure to use strong passwords and pay close attention to any privacy settings for the service you have. And once a file is saved to the cloud, you can access it with any computer connected to the Internet. This eliminates the pesky need for flash drives and CDs – not to mention drives and burners! Suddenly, it’s so much easier – and faster! – to share files with your coworkers. Cloud computing is also economical in that it can support more users and IT services while freeing up your in-house IT staff to focus on other projects and responsibilities.
Written by DSD Business Systems