When it comes to business processes and applications, everything now revolves around the cloud. When something is stored in the cloud, it just means that it’s stored in physical data centres that you can connect to online. And a cloud service just means that the resource is provided over the internet.
For example, a cloud service that lets you store files, such as Dropbox or Google Drive, just means that the files are stored in data centres that those companies manage and delivered to you via the internet. You can access your cloud drive on essentially any device, since the files aren’t limited to storage on your computer itself.
Businesses can use and benefit from cloud solutions in many ways. From cloud services that enable business processes with scale and flexibility, to cloud computing solutions that enable companies to access computing power without needing their own physical infrastructure, the cloud offers many advantages.
Key Features of Cloud Services
Cloud services can vary widely given the broad definition of the cloud itself. To get a better grasp on the features of cloud services, it helps to look at more specific categories. The “SPI” model is an acronym that provides a good way to categorise three common categories of cloud solutions; it stands for Software as a Service (SaaS), Platform as a Service (PaaS), and Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS).
This category includes any type of software that’s deployed and managed via the cloud. In the old days, you may remember buying a physical software program that you loaded onto your computer, such as through a CD-ROM. Then, it became possible to download applications online but still have them take up storage on your device. SaaS, however, is hosted in the cloud, so often all you need to do is visit a website to access the software. In some cases, you might need to install a plugin, but for the most part, everything runs remotely. Some of the key features of SaaS are that you can easily access the software from multiple locations, the software typically automatically updates, and you can easily scale the number of users up or down. From accounting systems to marketing platforms, to staples like Microsoft Office, there are a wide variety of SaaS systems to choose from.
Going deeper than SaaS, Platform as a Service (PaaS) provides the environment to build and deploy your own business applications, all in the cloud. In other words, PaaS provides cloud features that let you create SaaS. The PaaS provider can offer users everything that’s needed to build software by hosting things like coding tools while leaving the creation itself to the user, such as if you want to develop a proprietary analytics tool.
Finally, IaaS is the deepest tier in the SPI cloud model. Think of IaaS as the essential building blocks of all cloud computing solutions, with the IaaS provider hosting things like servers and storage delivered to users via the cloud. So, if a business wants more control over their software and application development but doesn’t necessarily want to maintain all of the back-end infrastructure in their own data center, they can use the IaaS cloud-hosted model.
Businesses can also use what’s known as a hybrid cloud model, which can include a mix of infrastructure that they host themselves along with some infrastructure hosted in the cloud.
What are the Benefits of Cloud Services?
Cloud services provide users with the flexibility to access their work from most internet-connected devices. That means employees can easily work remotely while still collaborating much as if they were in the office.
Related to flexibility, cloud services also can easily scale up or down depending on your needs. Instead of being locked into a fixed number of licenses when downloading on-premise software, cloud services often operate on a pay-as-you-go model, so you can add or remove employee access and adjust service levels as needed.
Using web-based services often saves money, as companies don’t have to make huge expenses for things like building out a data centre, only to have the technology become outdated not long after. Similarly, the pay-as-you-go model can save you from investing too much into a service that ends up not working out for your business.
With cloud computing, the responsibility for managing updates typically falls to the service provider, which can save your business time and money. For example, with SaaS updates, the provider can automatically update the software to include new features, so the next time you log in, you have access. In the past, you may have had to buy a new version of the software to receive these updates.
Working in the cloud often means that your work is automatically saved to the provider’s data centers. So, if something happens on your end, like your computer crashes in the middle of an important project, you can often recover your work and pick up where you left off simply by logging back in through another device. Plus, if you make a mistake while working, you may be able to access an earlier version of your work, depending on the cloud provider’s backup policies.
See How the Cloud Can Help Your Business
Cloud services are fast becoming the norm for any modern business, as there are so many benefits to using cloud solutions. However, there are so many choices available that trying to find the right system can cost your company significant time and money, and there’s a real risk of ending up with an ineffective solution.