As recently as a few years ago, entrepreneurs requiring computing solutions would have had little choice other than to make major IT investments. However, the advent of the cloud has changed the playing field, both for business owners and their customers.
Recent studies have quantified the impact cloud computing has had on global businesses; according to Gartner, a leading market research firm, cloud computing services generated over $150 billion in revenues in 2014.
The cloud offers a convenient and cost-effective alternative to traditional IT delivery methods, allowing entrepreneurs to access and customize software programs, data storage and backup services, and a wide range of other specialized functions and applications over the Internet.
Major benefits of the cloud include:
- Significant cost reductions – Cloud solutions reduce the need to purchase in-house hardware and software. The cloud also eliminates the need for physical storage and backup of files and documents.
- Scalability and flexibility – Cloud technologies can be upsized or downsized according to the changing needs of a business.
- IT savings – Cloud-based applications reduce resource or eliminate demands on in-house IT departments.
Cloud Computing Deployment Methods
Businesses seeking to take advantage of cloud computing have four main deployment methods available:
- Public cloud – This deployment model is easily accessible, hosted on the World Wide Web.
- Private cloud – Companies can create private clouds behind firewalls for added security.
- Community cloud – This model is a partnership of companies or organizations sharing the same private cloud space.
- Hybrid cloud – An emerging deployment approach that combines aspects of the private, public, and community cloud models, creating a customized, flexible solution.
Business Functions Supported by Cloud Computing
Cloud computing has a wide range of applications in the business world, but there are four primary ways in which the technology is used:
- File storage and data backup – Cloud computing has emerged as the most flexible and convenient way to store files and back up important data. The remote storage of digital documents frees up much-needed space on local devices. Cloud technologies also offer secure data backup capabilities, ensuring business continuity in the event of a disruption.
- Collaboration – Cloud computing has transformed the workplace, making it much easier for people working from different or remote locations to communicate, collaborate and share information. Roughly two-thirds of small and medium-sized enterprises report the need for employees to be able to work anytime, from anywhere. For businesses such as these, cloud solutions offer a major boost to productivity and operational efficiency.
- Resource accessibility – Software, data, and documents stored in the cloud are quickly and easily accessible. Server management is monitored by cloud providers, further liberating businesses from administrative costs.
- Effective management of business growth – In the past, growth forced businesses to make further investments in IT resources. Now, the near-instant scalability of the cloud provides flexible, cost effective computing resources.
How to Choose a Cloud Provider
Businesses should carefully assess cloud providers based on terms, pricing, and service level agreements, as well as security and reputation. Many providers offer low-cost trial periods, which businesses can take advantage of to test compatibility.
It’s important to make a thorough needs assessment in partnership with providers. Topics to address should include:
- The best deployment model
- Security needs
- Software, infrastructure, and platform requirements
- The availability of new applications
- Merging existing IT infrastructure with the cloud environment
The cloud offers a scalable, flexible, affordable route to improved IT performance that is ideal for businesses with limited IT resources.