What is the cloud?

The cloud refers to cloud computing, where resources (like software), and data are shared and stored over the internet, instead of on your local computer/computers.

This means you don’t have to manually install software or purchase ever larger hard drives for data storage. Businesses can either manage the transition themselves or use professional support for this process from companies such as Cloud M.

Many of the businesses and online services you use every day are reliant on cloud computing to store yours and their information, and to deliver their services. With the cloud model rapidly becoming the default for existing and start-up companies, it’s important to understand how it works and what the advantages and benefits are.

Public and private clouds

Cloud services fall into two main categories – public; where you use a provider’s cloud to access services, and private; where you create your own.

Public cloud

A public cloud is where services (which are often free) are rendered over a publicly open network; these services can include social media, online shopping, and music and movie streaming sites. Where public cloud services are provided to businesses, the businesses are effectively ‘renting’ space on the provider’s cloud alongside other business customers, in order to store and manage files, and use the provider’s applications.

Private clouds

Private cloud are cloud infrastructure operated solely for a single organization, whether managed internally or by a third party, and hosted either internally or externally. Typically only the largest organisations will go to the time and expense of creating and managing a private cloud.

How does it work?

There are a wide range of cloud service providers, with major providers like Google and Microsoft offering a range of services applicable to all businesses (such as data storage, facilitating online collaboration, and standard business software applications) alongside smaller providers offering sector specific, niche software.

Cloud services to businesses are typically charged on a ‘pay as you go’ basis, so it’s important to understand what exactly the pricing model offers and how much use your business expects from your cloud provider. This will help ensure that you are getting the best possible value for money.

Clouds work via an ‘on-demand’ basis, so if clients want to use more data or access more applications they can either change the terms of their plan, or simply select these options and be billed for them later. This means businesses do not have to spend time arranging for an individual or team to provide and maintain this functionality for them as they would under the traditional non-cloud model.

What are the benefits?

Businesses can save time and money by using clouds as there is no longer the need to purchase extensive IT infrastructure and employ people to maintain it.

Software applications are already established on the cloud, meaning businesses can get up and running quickly, perfect for start-ups and smaller businesses who cannot afford to allocate significant up-front costs on IT infrastructure.

Cloud services make collaboration between colleagues easier, as everyone you have authorised access to, can work on and share documents and information. By facilitating this open method of working businesses become more efficient (especially around large and complex projects involving multiple stakeholders), helping to avoid a ‘silo’ mentality where individuals and teams work in isolation.

How is my data kept secure on the cloud?

A common question from businesses contemplating moving to cloud services is about the security of their data and who has access to it.

Cloud services offer security as good as or often better than the traditional model of businesses owning and maintaining their own infrastructure. Cloud providers can devote significant information security resources to protecting their client’s data, at a level that their client’s often can’t match.

Businesses using cloud services do need to take into consideration who has access to their cloud service, especially as access can be spread across many users and devices, including mobile devices.

Conclusion

Cloud computing is by now an established and effective way for businesses to manage their services and for their customers to use and buy for them. However as with any major change to a business it’s crucial to understand what you want to achieve, and what option is best for you before making the move.

If you are interested in making the change to a cloud based operating model you could benefit from professional help to make the process as effective and efficient as possible.