Technology is always changing, but it is safe to say that few technological advancements have had as big an impact on organizations as the Cloud. So, what exactly is the Cloud and what services does it provide? Well, it is a little bit marketing and a lot technology.
- From a marketing perspective, the Cloud is simply a more user friendly name for hosted services – a company runs your service on their hardware and utilizes their own data centers. Any hosted service where you pay for a result without having to itemize costs on additional hardware, infrastructure, etc., can to some degree be thought of as a Cloud service. A good example is your email client; you already have the computers and internet access – you simply need your staff to be able to access their Microsoft Outlook software. This is an example of SaaS (Software as a Service).
- From a technology point of view, the Cloud means much more. It’s about moving away from large hardware-based servers and instead utilizing virtual servers. The Cloud allows your servers to be hosted across many physical devices in what is known as a virtual server farm, thus becoming an example of a "service." The advantage with this form of computing is that it is more stable and efficient than traditional solutions. Parts and servers may fail, even whole data centers may go down, but the Cloud service still stands – that's true stability.
- From a performance perspective, the Cloud is far more efficient. Traditional systems may see hardware hitting performance peaks of 80-90% but, during the off-peak hours, this same hardware may only reach 5-10% utilization. Typically, businesses have about three to four hours of peak utilization, meaning that for as many as 20 hours per day, your hardware potential is wasted. Cloud computing, on the other hand, balances virtual servers across physical hardware in a way that allows utilization to seldom dip below 80%, maximizing your server’s potential.
As you can see, there are real advantages in moving to the Cloud for large and small businesses alike. Making the software run as a service creates a whole new class of offerings. However, the Cloud does not stop with SaaS solutions; there are two other important branches to consider:
- PaaS(Platform as a Service): This service is about providing a platform on which users can develop their own web applications – the major benefit being that the user does not need to worry about developing and maintaining the infrastructure underneath the application.
- IaaS (Infrastructure as a Service): This is the Cloud in its most basic form. IaaS gives users computing resources to run their own virtual machines while taking advantage of the technical edge of Cloud computing.
The first major advantage of switching your organization to the Cloud is being able to distance yourself from the nitty gritty of managing data centers and all of the hardware, software, and financial costs contained within.
The second major advantage is being able to use solutions that have industry leading certifications which would require significant financial commitments for an organization to meet on its own. Microsoft Office 365 (O365) is a great example of a Cloud-based solution that is required to meet many standards in order to reflect international, government, medical, and other security standards – FISMA, ITAR, ISO 27001, and HIPAA, to name just a few. In addition, Microsoft is constantly forging ahead to meet more certifications as they expand into new markets, a benefit that will impact virtually all O365 users.
Online was an early adopter of the Cloud and has over 30 years of information technology and business consulting experience. To learn more about bringing your business into the Cloud, feel free to contact us or leave a comment below – we’d love to hear from you.