The business world is big data environment. It is an environment where the data state of businesses grows by the minute. The dynamics of that environment demands that businesses manage data and computing resources strategically. Inability to properly manage and store these files could result in serious crises, because projections may be missed and formulae miscalculated and interpreted. For this reason there is the need for a secure central facility to host and manage data. This is where cloud computing come in.
Cloud computing is a method in computing where resources are centrally stored, processed and managed from a remote network location. Cloud computing offers a stack of services from which users can make a choice according to their needs and preference, i.e., Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS), Software as a Service (SaaS), and Platform as a Service (PaaS).
With IaaS, a third party is allowed to host the basic hardware structure on behalf of users. Some of the basic infrastructure are servers, storage, network and operating systems. Users then purchase a portion e.g. storage for their use according to their demands.
SaaS is a cloud service which hosts software for the user’s use. Users will not have to be bothered finding storage space for their huge software or worry about software hardware compatibility issues. The software are hosted by the cloud, and all users have to do is to log into their cloud environments and use them. The enterprise resource planning software (ERP) is an example of cloud hosted software. SaaS provides so many benefits to users. Principal among the benefits is the reduction in cost of software and systems maintenance.
PaaS is the final category of cloud computing services. PaaS provides users mostly developers, with the platform to connect and collaborate their resources. They develop applications, run and manage them without the burden of building and maintaining the infrastructure that comes with developing applications.
These cloud services can be delivered in three different ways i.e. public, private and hybrid cloud.
The public cloud is system is where a third party provides the clouding infrastructure i.e. networks, storage, servers etc. for users to buy or rent portions of for their operations. The user will however be responsible for his own software deployment and configuration. They [cloud service providers] are only responsible for providing the infrastructure. Examples of third party cloud service providers are Rack Africa, Amazon Web Services, AT&T and Rackspace.
A private cloud system is where the user provides and manages his own cloud infrastructure on or off site. No third party is involved. The management of the infrastructure, deployment and configuration of software and other accessories are done by the internal IT department.
The hybrid cloud system is a mixture of both private and public clouding systems. Users of the hybrid decide to share their data loads between the private and public clouds, just as an individual may decide to diversify his investment portfolio. Users decide on how to share their loads depending on how critical that load is to their operations.
Most of the mission critical data and software are pushed onto the public clouds because they provide efficient and almost a failure free service. Some of the public datacenters run at 99.98% all year round. The remaining and less critical data is then pushed to their private cloud systems where a network failure may even pose minimal risk to operations. Some of the advantages the cloud offers that businesses should be taking advantage of are:
Scalability: Cloud computing is scalable. Using the clouds, you only pay for what you use. You don’t pay for idle spaces. If your data size is 300GB, you only pay for 300GB of space and as and when your usage scales up or down, you pay more or less. This makes for a shift from the days when you estimate your data size and buy huge capacity computers for various offices and departments which at the end of the day may be underutilized.
With the cloud, you can buy a minimum capacity computer or laptop for the various offices since all their work will be stored and accessed from the cloud and this can reduce your budget and money left can be allocated for other vital needs to the organization’s operations.
Disaster Recover: Disasters are rude visitors. You are never informed of their arrival. Disasters always take you by surprise and that is why businesses must protect their data very well and also have disaster recovery plans in place, to control the damage of any disaster if it happens. To me, information is the first capital of any business before money. Having information about your market, customers, and competitors determines the amount of investment to make, when to make it and how wide you cut your scope.
If through any error, system failure, system breach or natural disaster you loose all that information, you can have all the money you need but will be limited or might not even be able to function until you collect new data. This is why disaster recovery is important. If you decide to manage your data on premise regardless your scale of operation, that is, small, medium, or large scale business, it is highly advisable to maintain a backup in the cloud and daily updated so that, in case of any eventualities, you can recover your files and deploy them back to your systems after normal operations has been resumed.
Aside disaster recovery, where employees travel more frequently around the world for work and may have difficulties logging into the local network remotely because the network is down, there is no power, there has been a security breach, ISPs have failed, they can easily login in with their credentials to the cloud backup and download whatever files they want to download and proceed with work. This helps for efficiency and productivity since there will be no delays or redundancy in work.
Cost efficient: Businesses, since time immemorial, have always sought for options that will reduce the cost of production. Because, the higher the cost of production, the higher the cost of product produced and vice versa, and basic economics of demand and supply has taught us how consumers will react to the price changes.
Going cloud computing is one of the best ways to cut down cost. If you subscribe for IaaS, you don’t have any burden maintaining system infrastructure hence a reduction in your power bills, cut in your salary budget because you don’t need a highly skilled IT professional to manage your systems.
When you go in for SaaS, you save yourself buying multiple licenses for different users for different programs. All you do is to buy a onetime license for the different applications group the users who use them and allow them access to the applications. SaaS also provides automatic updates for your software bouquet so all users can use the current versions so work is not delayed because one person hasn’t updated his software.
When you opt for PaaS, you are saved the payment of per-deims and employee upkeeps on trips because with PaaS, employees can collaborate with their colleagues and hold meetings on cloud based platforms such as Skype or Hangout and developers can also develop, run and manage their applications on platforms such as Google’s App Engine. This could reduce or even eliminate employee travels and reduce the production cost.
Competitiveness: In a fast growing global village where everything has become competition including clients, every business wants to position itself to be the most efficient and trusted option in its industry to attract the largest share of clients. Patronizing the cloud can give you the winning urge.
For example if you find yourself in the services industry providing services to a wide range of clients and you send timely emails of updates and reports to clients who receive them in real time and know the progress of work so they are also able to align their schedules accordingly, you will have the competitive urge over a competitor who posts updates and reports which will take days to reach clients. This will delay the clients’ decision making and schedules and may result in disadvantaging the client in his market.
Finally document control: Trust is a core value in business which must be kept by all parties involved. A breach of trust may be an end of an emerging business empire or can bring a business empire down to its knees in a blink of eye. This is why in business and in organizations, who access what information is well thought through.
When businesses choose cloud computing, they have the advantage of document control. Because files are centrally stored and it is only one electronic copy of documents being passed around different systems, metadata is collected on the document and whichever systems accessed it. So in the event of any leak, breach or fabrication, the document can be audited and the culprit found. This will bring transparency to dealings between employees and employers as well as business partners.
In all, cloud computing offers enormous advantages to all business types, small, medium or large, across several industries; banking and finance, education, medical services, public utilities, local authorities, the media, manufacturing, e-commerce, etc. Your business can benefit from cloud computing too. You should explore how you can use cloud computing, if you’re not using it already.