The concept of the cloud confuses many people, but rather than try and explain what it is in one go, let's look at what it enables you to do, then let's explore the the benefits.
Traditionally if a business wanted to start using an application such as an accounting or inventory management package the route would have been to buy a server to host it (or more likely pay an organisation to supply and set it up), buy the software you think you need and ongoing maintenance then set up the PC's in the office to access the application.
Essentially traditional IT has,
- High up front cost
- Ongoing costs for maintenance and running the servers (power)
- Limited ability to access the application outside of the office.
Now roll the clock forward. We are all now used to using applications on the web such as Google, Internet Banking, Amazon, etc. Seamlessly and securely sharing information between mobile devices with Apple's iCloud and Google Drive, and generally using the internet as a way to consume information when it suits us on a device that suits us, whether it be a traditional PC or more likely a tablet device or smart phone.
Now take the same scenario, for example a new accounting package. You have the choice of numerous providers who have their applications hosted and securely accessible via the web. There is no up front capital cost to you and you pay for the service on a monthly basis for as long as you need it. Your data is secure and safely backed up, securely accessible from anywhere you need and many applications have smart phone and tablet apps which allow you to use many features more comfortably on the smaller screen devices. Generally this model is referred to as 'Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) with the underlying technology being taken care of and managed 'as-a-Service'.
In a nutshell Cloud ensures that your applications and data are available to use any time, any place, anywhere.
The benefits Cloud adoption enable are both financial and operational.
- Reduced costs - off the shelf services are cheaper than developing and maintaining bespoke systems, low implementation costs
- Reduced capital expenditure - move spend to a service charge or OPEX rather than CAPEX
- Costs align to need - pay for what you use. If you only need certain features or extra capacity for a short time, you only pay for them for that short time.
- Universal access - access your application and data any time, anywhere
- Speed and agility - Deploy and access new applications and services quickly, try before you buy
- Collaboration - Your customers and suppliers can share data and applications where appropriate.
So could your business take advantage of the Cloud?