To Cloud or not to cloud, that is the question...
I'm not usually prone to quote/paraphrase Shakespeare, but it is a question I get asked a fair bit.
Firstly, what is the cloud? The cloud is the current term/phrase to describe services that exist on the internet, for example this website. The internet has grown from a place to host websites, to a place that hosts a whole array of applications and services. These can include business accounting, credit card processing, customer relationship management systems (CRM).
Cloud services are generally broken down into 3 main categories; SaaS, IaaS and Hybrid (although there are several other categories but these three umbrella terms cover most of the 'cloud').
- SaaS or Software as a Service, are applications that previously we might have had installed on local servers or on your desktop/laptop computer .e.g Xero (cloud accounting) vs MYOB a desktop accounting software, as simple examples.
IaaS or Infrastructure as a Service is the provision of networking and server infrastructure that lives in the cloud, off-site, not on your premises or in a data centre you control (private cloud)
Hybrid solutions combine on-premises/onsite components and cloud components to provide the overall service, for example, a lot of file storage systems fall into this category, with files stored locally on your computer and also synch'd to a cloud-hosted storage environment
Typically all cloud-based systems are subscription based, meaning you pay a monthly or other usage-based fees. Generally, software as a service is charged on a monthly flat fee, and infrastructure as a service is charged based on usage (so costs can vary).
So why cloud at all?
There are many reasons for moving to the cloud, here are some reasons to consider;
- Accessibility. Typically your service will be available anywhere on the planet 24x7, you just need an internet connection and a laptop/tablet/phone, so accessing your financial reports anytime, anyplace might be critical for your business dealings
- Capability. Often you are purchasing something that would cost significantly more to build yourself or implement in-house, you benefit from economies of scale.
- Continuous improvement. Paying a monthly/yearly subscription means that as the product/service improves you receive the benefit of those improvements without additional costs (there are some exceptions to this, but as a general rule it holds true)
- Enterprise level services. Cloud services are generally created to be multi-tenant and high scalable and highly available. So for a fraction of the cost of building this in-house, you are accessing a service that is enterprise ready and serviceable
- Backups. Typically your data is protected and backed up by the service provider, although not all services are equal and this is always something that should be checked
- Operational savings. Operating any system in-house requires IT professional support and help, cloud-based services, this is typically baked into the product, meaning a reduction in IT staff needed to manager a bunch of servers.
- Disaster Recovery or Business Continuity. Moving your systems to the cloud means you insulate yourself and your data from disasters. Your systems will always be available to you anywhere on the planet.
The above is not the complete list of benefits, but it covers the major reasons why you would cloudify your business and/or personal life.
What Cloud Services exist?
I think this article would never end if I started to list everything. The important thing to note here, in my experience, is that 90-95% of everything you do now in your business, has a solution already created and exists out in the crowded cloud market and often several different solutions.
The trick here is finding the solution that fits your business/personal requirements and sorting the wheat from the chaff.
How can we help?
We sort the wheat, its what we do! With years of experience helping businesses determine their needs and then evaluating products to match those needs, we can quickly determining what is and/is not a good solution for your organisation. For example a couple of years ago a client of mine was planning on implementing a cloud VoIP (voice over IP) based telephony system and they had got a quote from one of the big players in the market, as a not-for-profit/NGO every dollar spent on IT, is a dollar not spent providing clean water and sanitation to those in need. At my first meeting with them, they told me they were about to sign this contract which would have cost them $110,000 a year. I ask them to hold off, used my network and skills and found them a telephony solution costing only $10,000 per year, it provide the exact same capabilities and features at a fraction of the cost, this is the power of the cloud.