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What is the cloud? Should my business make use of it — and what are the actual benefits of a move to the cloud? These are just some of the questions that many companies are still asking themselves, even at a time when lots of firms are now operating from the cloud and reaping the rewards. Is it time your firm did too?
As a leading IT support company that helps businesses and organisations to become more efficient and therefore more profitable, we know the clear benefits that cloud computing can convey on any company of any size. We help them to make the transition to the cloud and become sleeker, smarter and more profitable. Today, leveraging the power of the cloud is available to everyone, right around the world, and it promises to drastically improve the way you work while, at the same time, slashing costs and driving your enterprise forward.
In this post, we're going to discuss cloud computing and the technology behind it, how it can work for your organisation and what the clear advantages are when you move to the cloud. This will put you firmly in the cloud-computing picture and allow you to decide if your company should consider making the transition, as millions of others have done and have never looked back.
When Did Cloud Computing Start?
Although it seems like cloud computing has only been a kind of business buzzword for the last few years, the technology and infrastructure of the cloud has been around for a while. The idea behind using networked computers and servers to host, run, manage and store data — which is essentially what cloud computing is — stretches way back to the 1960s and work that was being done on what would become one of the foundations of the early internet: The US military’s Advanced Research Projects Agency Network (ARPANET).
Back then, computer scientist Dr Joseph Carl Robnett Licklider envisioned a global computer network connecting everyone and allowing them to access data from wherever they were. He called it the Intergalactic Computer Network and his "original and far-sighted ideas outlined many of the features the internet offers today: graphical computing, user-friendly interfaces, digital libraries, e-commerce, online banking and cloud computing," says the Internet Hall of Fame.
It took around three and a half decades for the notion of cloud computing to gather some steam. That's when executives at US computer firm, Compaq, are believed to have first used the term in a 1996 document outlining the technology and what it might be able to do. The paper predicted that software used by businesses would transition to what was then the early internet and "cloud-computing-enabled applications" would become the norm.
A decade later, in 2006, then-Google CEO Eric Schmidt said this at a conference: "I don't think people have really understood how big this opportunity really is. It starts with the premise that the data services and architecture should be on servers. We call it cloud computing — they should be in a 'cloud' somewhere."
He added: "And that if you have the right kind of browser or the right kind of access, it doesn't matter whether you have a PC or a Mac or a mobile phone or a BlackBerry or what have you — or new devices still to be developed — you can get access to the cloud."
Cloud computing had firmly arrived.
How Does the Cloud Work?
While "the cloud" may be an all-encompassing term describing what you can do when you make the move, in reality, it involves a number of technologies and models — notably SaaS, PaaS and IaaS. But the premise behind the cloud is that you no longer need to have a large infrastructure set-up in your office, apart from computers for staff to work from, as you're relying on servers that may be halfway across the country or even the world. All you need is an internet connection.
Basically, what you're doing is renting access to servers where you can store your data, run programs and apps and reach new levels of scalability — quickly — with what's known as cloud elasticity. This allows firms to almost instantly use more memory, processing and storage to meet their needs as they expand, and they can do it in a way that doesn't involve an enormous investment of capital to set up additional server infrastructure. It means start-ups can scale up as they grow without having to incur costs that they may not have been able to afford. And established firms can upgrade, downsize or switch their processing times to meet their needs and those of their traffic and clients.
What Are the Advantages of Operating from the Cloud?
So how does a move to the cloud make a company or organisation sleeker and more efficient? Clearly, every business is focused on costs and lowering them as much as possible in every department, including IT. Purchasing and running your own IT infrastructure and hiring professionals to maintain it is a costly endeavour, but once you move to the cloud, those high expenses vanish. You get the benefit of the latest in hardware and software technology, but practically none of the costs involved in keeping it operational.
For many firms, dramatically lower IT costs are one of the main advantages of moving to the cloud, and as we’ve mentioned, when you want to quickly scale up your business and grow, with the cloud, you don’t have to worry about a big capital outlay or the time to do it.
Next is flexibility. When your digital operations are based in the cloud, you're no longer tied to your office. All you need is a good internet connection and you can access your programs, apps and files from wherever you happen to be in the world. So you don't need to leave everything behind if you go on a business trip or attend a conference in a different town or city or even halfway — or all the way — around the world.
And in a world where remote working is increasingly becoming the norm, especially during the coronavirus pandemic, cloud computing allows many workers to carry on with their tasks from the comfort and safety of their homes. Businesses also stand to save on additional costs if they give their staff the option of working from home full-time, as they can then reduce their office space and save on overheads.
Another aspect of the digital era that's constantly on company bosses' minds is security. Cyber-attacks are happening all the time, to companies large and small, and the theft of personal and client data can have a devastating impact on a firm's reputation and result in large fines for not protecting the information from harm.
Storing data on servers, PCs and laptops in an office puts them at risk of theft, along with your invaluable data; when you opt to store it in the cloud, the risk is removed. And because cloud providers use the latest in security programs and deploy a range of measures to prevent attacks, such as penetration testing and firewalls, they're much harder, if not impossible, for cyber-criminals to gain access to.
Along with security, backing up data is also a critical part of companies’ operations. If your network is compromised and your servers attacked, the data stored on them could be stolen and deleted or rendered unusable, again, putting your company at reputational and financial risk. With the cloud, you no longer need to worry about backing up and doing it properly and regularly, because all that will be taken care of automatically. Even this element of cloud computing is attractive alone to many firms, giving them the ultimate peace of mind that the information they need to operate is backed up, stored and protected on the robust and distant servers of the best cloud backup services for business around.
With all of these clear advantages of cloud computing, it’s no wonder that when companies make the transition, they wonder how they existed without it.
Ready to make the move to the cloud? Contact the cloud computing experts at ITRM today and find out how to do it with ease.