Cloud computing has quickly become the standard by which organisations run their businesses. It gives companies access to Software, Hardware and other IT Infrastructures that are flexible, scalable, and cost effective. This gives businesses the ability to be more efficient and save on software and hardware that are important for operations but may be otherwise very costly.
The benefit of cloud computing is that it increases the IT functionality of a business and increases their capacity without adding the cost of additional software, personnel, training and infrastructure. Below, we explore the major types of cloud computing solutions, and how they can be used effectively to increase a business’ bottom line.
Software as a Service
When it comes to cloud based software, most people think of Software as a Service (often shortened to SaaS). SaaS means that a third-party provider hosts an application and makes it widely available to customers over the internet – think of software such as Salesforce, Dropbox, or even Google’s App suite.
Software as a Service applications are most often aimed at the enterprise level of businesses, and often include applications such as project management & tracking, communications, and content management. Normally, these services are subscription based, however some SaaS companies offer parts of their services for free to tempt people into paying for the full service.
The advantages of SaaS are many; It completely removes the need to install and run applications on computers or in their own data centre, eliminating the expense of provisioning and maintenance, as well as the licensing, installation, and support which that includes. Other benefits include; scalability, flexibility, and automatic updates.
The disadvantages of SaaS should not be ignored. For instance, using a SaaS leaves you relying on outside companies to keep proving the software with no downtime, up to date, and securing the environment to keep your business data safe.
Infrastructure as a Service
Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) is a cloud-based computing infrastructure that is fully provisioned and managed as an outside service, over the internet. IaaS providers deliver pre-installed and configured hardware or software through an interface, and each resource is a separate part of the service – this means that you only rent the infrastructure for as long as you need it. Typically, IaaS companies are companies offering things like managed web hosting, however players such as Google and Amazon also exist in this space, offering enterprise level packages.
The advantages of using an IaaS Solution must be considered before purchasing. These include reducing the total cost of ownership to the company, as they will simply pay for the service that they want and need at the time. It could almost be considered pay-as-you-go infrastructure. It also gives companies that might not have the resources for enterprise level IT resources, access to the technology that they need at a cost effective price. As with all cloud based technologies, IaaS allows companies to scale up and down as their requirement demand.
One of the disadvantages of IaaS is that you may run into trouble if you have legacy software. These may have compatibility issues with other software, particularly more modern applications that you use. You must also ensure that the security features of the IaaS that you are using are adequate for your needs.
Platform as a Service
Platform as a Service (PaaS) could be considered as similar in fashion to IaaS, but is much more advanced. PaaS doesn’t simply provider the infrastructure that you need, it also offers a platform and solution stack as a service. PaaS services are most often used by companies that need a platform to develop, test and collaborate on an application before deploying it themselves. Normally, PaaS services take the duties and stresses of hosting onboard too.
Using a PaaS solution means that you will no longer need to update the infrastructure, or worry about the software. The PaaS provider handles all of the stresses of upgrades, bug squashing, and routine maintenance that is required. It also gives freedom to your development team as it means they can concentrate on developing the application without worrying about the infrastructure.
As with all off-site solutions, when using a PaaS solution, you need to strongly consider your security and data protection practices. You need to ensure that the system you choose is fully private, only allowing access to the people that you want access into the platform. You also need to have a lot of trust in your PaaS provider, knowing that they give you top level support, speed, security and reliability on the platform.
Other things to consider
There are some other things that a business must consider when transferring to a cloud environment. They need to know whether they are comfortable with understanding the cloud, going onto a public cloud or if they require a private cloud.
When we say public cloud, what we mean is that the infrastructure is located on the premises of a cloud computing company that offers some sort of cloud service. The location is separate from the customer, and they have no control over the infrastructure. Public clouds excel in performance, but some businesses do not like that they are public.
Private clouds, on the other hand, offer the same platforms as cloud computing but uses dedicated, private hardware. This infrastructure is not shared with others, but is still remotely located. The security and control here is much higher than the public cloud, however this may be cost prohibitive for most companies.
To combat this, some companies use what is called the Hybrid cloud. This means that the organisation using both private and public clouds, depending on the requirements of the task at hand. For instance, their front-facing part of an application may be on the public cloud, while the data is securely maintained on a private cloud.
Whatever way you choose to go, ensure that you are choosing the cloud type and service platform that suits your needs. Hopefully, we have cleared up any questions you had, and given you the tools required to make the decisions before you.