The cloud refers to a virtual infrastructure that delivers hosted services over the internet. While many shy away from the concept because it seems overwhelming, it is not as complicated as it may seem. Think of it like having access to a giant computer without needing a server, laptop, or desktop computer of your own. It is often depicted as a fluffy white mass in diagrams and illustrations, representing the internet and the many servers that make up the cloud.
Cloud Computing Benefits
As a consumer, you may not realize how much you are already using the cloud. Every time you use Facebook, Gmail, Apple Music, or Netflix, you are using a cloud service. But when you think about using it for your business, the benefits are significant:
- Affordable - One of the key benefits of the cloud is that it allows users to access and use computing resources on-demand or through a subscription model, without having to pay as much as they would to maintain their own physical infrastructure. This is especially beneficial for small- and medium-sized businesses that do not have the budget or expertise to manage their own servers or IT teams.
- Scalable - The cloud is also highly scalable, which means that users can easily increase or decrease the amount of resources they use as their business grows or shrinks. These resources could be the number of users or servers. As your business needs change, so can the parts of your software. This can help businesses save money and become more agile in only paying for what they actually need.
- Security - The cloud can also offer businesses enterprise-level security and compliance value. Many providers of industry-specific, cloud-based software solutions offer built-in security features and compliance certifications along with fully-trained cloud security experts that devote their time to oversee the constantly evolving threat landscape. This level of protection is hard to match on-premise, can help protect against data breaches, and ensures that businesses meet regulatory requirements.
Types of Cloud Services
There are several types of cloud services available, including Software-as-a-Service (SaaS), Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS), and Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS).
- SaaS - Providers such as ECI Software Solutions, Google G Suite, and Microsoft Office 365 deliver software applications online. This allows businesses to access and use software applications remotely from an internet browser, without having to install or run them on their own, specific machines. Cloud-based software applications can be accessed from desktop computers, tablets, and even smartphones, making it highly beneficial – and a necessity in many cases – for traveling business owners and executives, as well as employees who work in the field or need mobile access.
- IaaS - Providers such as Amazon Web Services (AWS) and Microsoft Azure offer virtual computing resources such as servers, storage, and networking over the internet. This allows businesses to rent computing resources on-demand, without having to invest in and maintain their own physical infrastructure.
- PaaS - Providers such as Heroku and AWS Elastic Beanstalk offer a platform for developing, running, and managing applications in the cloud. This can help speed up development time and reduce costs.
Interested in this topic? Learn more about the differences in types of cloud services.
Overall, the cloud is a powerful and flexible way for businesses and organizations to access and use computing resources over the internet while becoming more cost-effective and agile.
Stay on top of industry trends and insights.
Subscribe to the Big Ideas for SMBs blog.