You have probably heard about cloud computing but might be wondering how it works and how it can be of benefit to you or your company. This guide will help you to understand the cloud-computing concept, and hopefully it should help you to understand how your company can embrace this new leap in IT advancement, appreciate its implications and understand some technical jargon associated with the cloud computing technology.
What is cloud Computing
The straightforward meaning of cloud computing is that it is a virtual server; an organised virtual server that can be accessed via the web using computers or devices. It is an online programme that can be used to perform tasks on software applications, databases and more. It can also be used as a storage server, used to design software applications and perform testing and so on. Usually they are provided by third party companies and do not need a local server because they are based off site and on a virtual server.
The cloud server provides the subscribers with the cloud service and storage that can be hosted on Amazon Web Service (AWS) or Window Azure, Google Cloud and others.
Brief guide to cloud computing
Cloud computing is a very useful way of gaining storage or bandwidth on a virtual server. Since companies are always looking for ways to expand their bandwidth and storage space, which can sometimes require expensive local server investments, cloud computing makes the process of gaining and increasing IT server bandwidth or space much easier. It does not require investing enormous amounts of capital on hardware, personnel training or employing new staff and it can help bring an organisation’s processing and maintenance costs down because the server is based on the web and does not require the server to be available locally.
A well designed cloud computing infrastructure will enable improved reliability, with the agility to manage disaster recovery more easily. This also makes cloud computing server maintenance much quicker and more straight forward because data are stored on virtual machines that integrate all data, databases, applications, infrastructure, storage and more on virtual cloud computing networks that can be made accessible to large amounts of users. Therefore there is no need to carry out maintenance on every computer and device that are used to access this data. It can help to improve security due to centralisation of data and also because providers can expend resources that are devoted to ensuring that security and reliability are optimised. However, the issues of security, privacy and reliability are still a major concern because organisations entrust their data information on a third party.
The following are types of cloud computing and what could be expected from different types of service.
Software as a Service (SaaS)
The providers install software on the web and the users access this software from their cloud client account, therefore the user does not need to install the software on their computer. The user does not manage the cloud server, thus the SaaS vendor performs the management and maintenance as part of their service to the subscribers, as a result any update and patches are only done once, as opposed to updating and maintaining every individual machine, saving on time and cost. The SaaS vendor will serve multiple businesses and users with the same software, usually through multi-tenant architecture to utilise the delivery of the software to multiple customers, hence making the subscription cost lower.
These software could be Customer Relationship Management (CRM), Management Information System (MIS), Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP), Email or Microsoft Office documents.
Platform as a Service (PaaS)
The PaaS is different to SaaS in the sense that it essentially offers greater advantages for those developers aiming to develop their own software. Subscribers can rent a cloud server from a vendor and they would be provided with a virtual server which can run the company’s existing application that the subscriber owns. The service delivered by the vendor as part of the PaaS can include open platforms, such as servers, operating systems (OS), web-servers, databases, development tools and more. It can also include testing and debugging applications.
The PaaS can be used for designing, developing and testing software applications, while users or subscribers can run their new software on such a platform, though the user will not have any power to alter the infrastructure on which the design is carried. It is also easily adaptable to expand bandwidth and storage space for its user.
Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS)
IaaS provides the foundation for both PaaS and SaaS in the form of a standardised virtual server. Unlike PaaS, where services such as programming, development tools, web-server operating systems, and more, are provided. With the IaaS, subscribers take responsibility for developing, configuration of software, applications, middleware and more. Thus making the subscriber the owner of its applications and operating system. Hence the maintenance and operating risks of these developments, above what the cloud service vendor provided, are at the risk of subscribers. In simple terms it is the subscriber that takes the responsibility of maintaining, updating and patching the operating system (OS) and its software applications.
Advantages and disadvantages of cloud computing
The cloud offers great possibilities for businesses and it is one of the enabling factors to business agility. It can enable businesses to adapt quickly to their environment, manage costs effectively and efficiently and simplifies IT infrastructure. It provides enormous opportunities for small businesses that may not have the capital and resources to develop and manage the IT infrastructure. It can also help a business to become more environmentally friendly across a range of business processes because cloud computing enables sharing across a large pool of users, regardless of their location, to access the data.
Despite its enormous potential there are also issues of security in cloud computing. If you decide to use this service ensure that these issues are clarified with your service provider, clarify how they plan to provide support and what they are doing to protect against any security issues. Also, ensure service security level agreements are agreed upon before embarking on entering in such cloud computing. Contact a Viratec consultant here, who will be happy to advise on cloud computing.