Are cloud services on your agenda for 2019? It’s time to learn everything you need to know in this complete guide to cloud infrastructure.
What is cloud computing?
In a nutshell, cloud computing is the process of providing, or delivering, on-demand computing services. From computer applications, data storage and processing, it’s typically performed over the internet without having to invest in either computer hardware or software solutions. An added benefit is that it’s often offered on a pay-as-you-go basis.
How does the cloud computing process work?
Cloud computing works by providing SMEs and other enterprises a way to store and manage big-volume data, create and maintain system applications and APIs, and even manage a complete system infrastructure without having to invest in their own computing infrastructure or data processing servers.
A key advantage to cloud computing services is that businesses can avoid – or at least reduce – the upfront cost of acquiring the hardware and software systems necessary for maintaining an in-housing computing service. Instead, this allows you to pay for the services they use, when they use it.
The advancement of cloud technology and the rise of cloud computing has paved the way for a complete transformation in how tech services are delivered to individuals and organisations. As a matter of fact, 74% of chief financial officers (CFOs) agree that cloud computing will have the most quantifiable impact in their respective businesses in the coming years.
What types of cloud computing services are available on the market?
Nowadays, we see that cloud computing services cover quite a few aspects in the IT world, from the fundamentals of data storage, networking, and processing power to artificial intelligence, natural language processing and standard office applications. Basically any service that doesn’t require the individual to be physically near a computer or hardware system, can be delivered effectively via the cloud.
Cloud computing can be broken down into three basic models: Software-as-a-service (SaaS), Platform-as-a-service (PaaS), and Infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS). Out of these three, we will focus a bit extra on IaaS in this article.
Infrastructure-as-a-service refers to the basic building blocks of computing. IaaS is most suited to businesses that want to develop applications from the ground up and want to control the entire process themselves. However, there’s a catch. IaaS requires companies to have the technical knowledge necessary to be able to effectively manage these services.
A recent survey conducted by Oracle shows that two-thirds of companies that use IaaS or cloud infrastructure services found that it made their process more efficient by cutting down the deployment time of new applications and services – and that they’re experiencing significant cost-savings from the nominal on-going maintenance costs.
In-house or Cloud Infrastructure Services: Which one is best for your business?
Firstly, it’s important to note that cloud computing has advanced dramatically over the years. In fact, spending on cloud computing services has been consistently on the rise since 2009 – at a rate which is 4.5 times faster than all other IT spending. And it’s even projected to exceed six times the rate by 2020.
The rise in growth rate is mostly due to the increasing storage needs of enterprises, combined with the automated software updates, ease of use, and the increasing need for unlimited access and the maximum flexibility cloud computing services can provide.
Another key reason for this growing demand is the uptick of small startups operating on a tight budget. The fact is that cloud computing services can provide businesses access to various IT resources – minus the hefty capital investment, of course. Additionally, it’s a good option for SMEs since cloud computing also covers disaster recovery as a service. Furthermore, cloud computing is great at offering options for immediate capacity, where businesses can have separate instances for modest burst capacity.
However, it’s important to remember that not all cloud service providers are equally good. Our cloud experts here at YourShorlist often find that certain cloud computing service providers’ rather slick marketing techniques tend to gloss over the disadvantages that may be present with the technology. Drawbacks like potential security issues and a possible poor performance, can negatively impact your organisation if you settle for the wrong cloud provider.
When it comes to choosing between a cloud computing service and building an in-house IT infrastructure, it’s just like deciding whether to rent a workspace or to build an entire building to serve as your company headquarters. It all boils down to finding the most suitable solution, finding a reputable service provider, and understanding what your company really needs and opting for the most ideal approach. Basically, it’s like choosing between total control over your own environment and relying on a landlord to provide you the platform you need for your business.
Not all cloud infrastructure services are right for everyone
Most businesses opt for cloud services for their scalability.
These days, most service providers offer the same standard pricing model for cloud computing, mainly pay for what you use. This allows enterprises to have the option to acquire more or less computing power as the needs of their business changes, thus minimising the overall initial expenditures.
On the other hand, some businesses might not find cloud infrastructure services to be as cost-effective as it seems. Cloud computing can easily turn into an unexpected money pit, especially when poor performance and security setbacks become an issue.
Cloud security is one of the main concerns for most organisations, especially for those that use a public or shared cloud service. In this scenario, companies managing highly sensitive data and running mission-critical systems with high-availability requirements and compliance may prefer an IT infrastructure solution that’s more secure and stable.
Not all in-house infrastructure solutions are the better option
Just like with cloud computing services, not all in-house infrastructure solutions are the best options for SMEs and larger organisations. There are several factors to consider when deciding which solution is best for your business. A main factor, for most companies, is the monthly maintenance cost of an in-house IT infrastructure.
For smaller businesses and startups with limited budget, investing in building their own IT infrastructure and dedicated IT personnel may not be the most logical option. Essentially, in-house infrastructure services are often only ideal for enterprises with the resources to build, deploy, manage, and maintain their own IT environment – something which is not always feasible for SMEs.
However, one of the main benefits of in-house infrastructure solutions is that companies have complete control over their entire computing environments. If an issue occurs, if it’s time for maintenance, or if the company wants to implement new features, all you have to do is call your own IT staff.
How to choose the right cloud infrastructure services
Before you delve into the world of cloud infrastructure services, your organisation should first identify what exactly they are trying to achieve by making the move.
Cloud computing services, especially public IaaS, are by no means an instant solution for everything in your organisation. This type of service has to be used in conjunction with a larger digital and cloud strategy before it can be effective and become a more practical option for SMEs.
With that said, the first thing you must do is to study your IT environment, your current resources and what you want to achieve. The next thing on your agenda should be to read up on IaaS reviews, thereby being able to decide based on the standards for critical IaaS features such as level of security, mobility, automation, visibility, app modernisation and portability, as well as regulatory requirements. All of these decisions must be made with the company’s digital environment in mind.
Does this sound like too much work? Our Cloud experts can help you navigate the saturated cloud infrastructure market and provide you with a shortlist of suitable vendors – completely free of charge.
Key questions to ask when choosing a cloud service provider
After receiving your free shortlist from YourShortlist, there are a few key factors to consider before choosing the right cloud provider for you.
Which cloud service does the vendor offer?
There are a variety of cloud services on the market, and it’s essential that you know which one will suit your organisation best. Nowadays, cloud storage is one of the most common services offered by cloud computing firms.
Knowing your cloud computing needs will help determine the type of service to look for when in the market for a cloud service provider.
How secure are the vendor’s cloud computing services?
Given that security is one of the main concerns normally associated with cloud infrastructure services, or IaaS, it’s a good idea to carefully assess the security capabilities of the provider. Any decent cloud service provider should have a few standard security features to help protect their client’s important company data.
Before you commit to a vendor, you must ensure that you’re comfortable with their approach to cybersecurity. You need to look for security measures such as
- Anti-virus detection
- Data encryption
- Multifactor user authentication
- Regular security updates
Additionally, if you deal with plenty of sensitive data, you might want to ask who will be able to access your company’s data while in the cloud, and whether employee background checks are a standard operating procedure with the cloud provider.
Can the cloud service scale up to match the ever-changing needs of your still growing business?
While choosing a cloud infrastructure service provider, you need to consider the fact that your business is still growing. In other words, your IT infrastructure needs may change.
For this reason, you must ensure that the cloud provider can deliver a flexible service – a service that can be scaled up easily as the demands of your business continue to change and grow. Additionally, you must figure out what services the vendor offers over time and how much those services will cost. The last thing you want is to end up with ballooning costs over additional cloud services. And if you have plans to increase your personnel soon, then you should make sure you’ll be able to easily add more users to your account.
What does the pricing structure look like?
Most cloud vendors offer a pay as you go price – in other words, you pay only for what you use.
However, you should be careful with significant upfront costs, which is atypical for reputable cloud service providers. The key is to go with vendors that offer a pay-as-you-go pricing scheme from the outset, but, of course, with the ability to add more services as required. And it goes without saying that the pricing of additional services should also be considered during the decision-making process.