Over the past couple of years, cloud computing has kicked off a new era for companies of all sizes, geographies and industries. While strong market leaders have already migrated to a cloud-based IT infrastructure, others are in the process of transforming their old operation models to keep up with a highly competitive business environment. If the right cloud services are properly implemented, they offer organizations a whole array of benefits spanning from cost reduction and better data security to quick disaster recovery.
But a successful migration to cloud-based business models stands and falls on the IT strategy of a business. Without a clear direction, a company misses out on the benefits of cloud computing and creates follow-up costs that could be entirely avoided from the start. That is why enterprise architecture and cloud computing are often mentioned in the same breath. During any digital transformation, EA provides a roadmap that aligns the business needs with new technologies. More often than not, these technologies are cloud-based services that make up large application portfolios.
But where did cloud computing come from and how did it become a success? Even though cloud-based data and software via network seem like relatively new phenomena, the roots of cloud computing go back to the 1950s. It was first developed for the military that was in need for a non-local storage technology. Over time, the scientific community saw the potential in distributed computing for organizations dealing with large amount of data. The name itself was coined in 1996 and in 1999, Salesforce became the first company on the market to offer internet-based services.
Cloud computing describes the use of hardware and software that is delivered via the Internet. Through unique login credentials, on-demand computing services allow users to access their applications from any device without having to store data on their physical hard drive.
Nowadays, everyone seems to be using and talking about “the cloud”. However, the actual concept of this revolutionary computing trend can be difficult to grasp. Most people know that with cloud computing, the applications they use or the data that they save are not stored on their local storage device, but “somewhere in the cloud”. But this cloud is a lot less abstract than it sounds. In fact, it consists of a multitude of cloud servers that are located in data centers all over the world.
Thus, the term “cloud” doesn’t allude to the actual server location, but to the idea that users can access information remotely as if it existed in a ubiquitous virtual space. However, since cloud services are delivered through the Internet, users need to be connected to a network in order to use an online application or retrieve data that is stored in an online database. While this would have been a potential obstacle ten years ago, the high-speed internet connections of today allow for a seamless user experience.
Needless to say, the advantages of cloud computing are not limited to the end user whose computer doesn’t have to do the heavy lifting that comes with crunching and processing data when complex software is used. By switching over to a cloud-based infrastructure, businesses can move their big computer clusters into cyberspace and thus increase their IT capacity without having to worry about acquiring or maintaining costly in-house servers. This ultimately results in better and faster customer service and a competitive advantage.
Even though the pressure to migrate to a cloud-based IT architecture is steadily growing, businesses shouldn’t rush into making quick decisions that could cause more problems in the long-run. Especially for enterprises with complex infrastructures, it’s paramount to develop a sound IT strategy that meets their unique requirements. Specialists like enterprise architects not only help with setting up an IT roadmap. They also manage application portfolios and help choose the right cloud deployment model.
While there are different cloud deployment models that determine whether the cloud is owned and operated by a third-party provider (public cloud), by the company itself (private) or both (hybrid), there are also different types of cloud computing services. Most of them fall into one of the three categories, Infrastructure as a Service, Platform as a Service or Software as a Service. As they build on top of each other, they’re often referred to as the cloud computing “stack”. Find out below what each of these computing models can help you and your business accomplish.
IaaS or Infrastructure as a Service covers all the building blocks that a company could rent as a computing service. This applies to operating systems, physical or virtual servers as well as storage through IP-based connectivity. As this model provides all the essential elements for a functioning IT infrastructure, it’s commonly used by companies who are building applications from the ground up. Many IaaS users say that by not having to solve technical issues, they can concentrate on other business-critical tasks while staying in control of their cloud infrastructure.
While IaaS provides the entire IT infrastructure, Platform as Service or PaaS delivers an on-demand environment for development teams. Just like the name suggests, it’s an actual platform where multiple developers can collaborate on the same project and quickly develop, test, deliver and manage software applications. With a scalable PaaS in place, developers can concentrate on the development process and don’t have to worry about the underlying infrastructure of the network, databases and servers that their work might require.
SaaS or Software as Service is the most well-known cloud computing model as it is used on a day-to-day basis not only by large companies but many end-users around the world. It involves the delivery of an application as a service that is ready-to-use and deployed over the Internet. Most of the time, this computing service is available via subscription or a pay-per-use licensing agreement. Accessed through any internet browser, SaaS doesn’t require any maintenance by the user and has become a vital tool in sales or customer relationship management.
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Switching over to a cloud infrastructure bears many advantages and creates new opportunities for businesses. After all, not having to set up and maintain their own servers or software applications frees up resources and allows them to focus on innovation, customer service and other areas that generate value. Plus, having a virtual office that employees can connect to anywhere and at any time through their web-enabled devices establishes a new workflow geared towards maximum efficiency. Find the seven biggest advantages of cloud computing listed below.
One of the most attractive benefits of cloud computing is that companies don’t have to spend large amounts of money on purchasing and maintaining technical equipment. Without having to invest in hardware, facilities or complex data centers, organizations can use their resources elsewhere. And since cloud service providers take care of troubleshooting and maintaining their service, there is no need to hire large IT teams. Combined with the fact that there is less downtime in cloud systems, there’s a significant cost reduction and an overall increase in efficiency.
In a business world that operates on the basis of massive digital databases, one of the biggest concerns companies seem to have is the security of their data. And without a doubt, this worry is justified – cybercrimes and data breaches can devastate an enterprise’s revenue and jeopardize its public image. That is why cloud storage and software come with advanced protections like encryptions, access control and layered authentication modules. Companies that work with extremely sensitive data but still want to reap the benefits of cloud computing, are advised to deploy a private cloud model.
The effortless scalability in cloud computing helps businesses of all sizes to quickly react to the changing demands of a dynamic marketplace. As each organization has unique IT needs that tend to change over time, cloud computing makes it easy for them to scale their IT departments up or down. That’s why cloud solutions are especially interesting to organizations that are facing growing or fluctuating bandwidth demands. Without having to invest in or not even using their expensive hardware, companies have high-performance and fit-to-size solutions at their fingertips.
Cloud computing has established a new workflow and collaboration opportunities between team members or clients that might as well live on different continents. Since cloud services are delivered via the Internet, their availability is not limited to the corporate office but they’re freely available wherever they’re needed. By using their own login credentials, employees can connect to company data, software and storage servers, complete their tasks from remote locations and always stay in the loop. Plus, they never have to worry about performing manual software updates as the systems are maintained automatically.
One of the benefits of cloud computing that is often overlooked but a true lifesaver in unlikely but possible scenarios, (think viruses, damaged computers or power outages) is the quick and uncomplicated recovery of lost data. Especially when data is stored on local hard drives and servers, data loss poses a huge threat to a company, so that it had to take costly precautions in the past. With a cloud infrastructure, data is not only available 24/7, but also automatically backed-up.
While cloud computing offers customizable solutions for modern businesses, it also lets them have complete control over their sensitive data. With just a few clicks, team leads can adjust access rights and make sure that no information gets into the wrong hands. At the same time, documents can be easily assigned to the right team members which streamlines workflows and improves collaboration efforts. Multiple people can work on the same project in real-time and don’t have to send updated copies via email.
There’s no doubt that in this day and age, cloud computing gives any company a competitive edge. This is partly owed to the fact that not all organizations have migrated to the cloud yet and still work with on-premises infrastructure models. However, cloud adoption increases every year, and more and more businesses recognize the benefits of cloud computing. Even though a transition to a completely or partially new IT infrastructure involves an initial investment and a leap of faith, using the cloud will positively impact the business in the long run and generate more value.
From increased efficiency, mobility, cost reduction and heightened data protection, cloud computing offers a broad bandwidth of advantages to modern-day enterprises. And due to its highly customizable nature, it can take on many different shapes. Thanks to the various types of cloud computing, including IaaS, PaaS and SaaS, organizations get to pick and choose what kind of cloud-based services align with their specific business goals. Considering the benefits of a cloud infrastructure, cloud computing isn’t just an optional technology trend; for a business, it’s the key to future profitability, longevity and success.