Cloud computing, what could it do for you?
The concept of cloud computing is on everyone’s lips. As is the idea of ‘as a Service’ services that are offered in the cloud: Software-, Application- and Infrastructure-as-a-Service. But what is it all about? And would it help you and your business to advance? Come with us on a journey to the cloud!
The benefits of cloud computing
In ‘Cloud computing’, the ‘cloud’ stands for a network of servers. Put simply: instead of working on your own computer, you do your work via the Internet or another network on servers located somewhere else. The use of the word ‘cloud’ originates in the patent applications from the 1990s, with the Internet being represented as a cloud.
Cloud computing has many advantages. The infrastructure on which you work is always accessible, just like the platform and the application, wherever you happen to be and whatever device you are working with – smartphone, tablet, desktop... Furthermore, cloud computing is very scalable: if required, infrastructure can be expanded or scaled down. And last but not least, your business is relieved of the maintenance of the infrastructure since the cloud provider takes that over from you.
Cloud computing makes many IT tasks more efficient and simpler. Consider, for example:
- Big data analysis with massive flows of data
- Disaster recovery so that a business can quickly recover after a disaster thanks to the data being saved in the cloud and the duplication of its entire system in a virtual server
- Cloud backup and data recovery systems that are indispensable for any business, especially now that ransomware is becoming more prevalent
Do you want to find out if cloud computing is really the right solution for your company? We are going to list the pros and cons for you in this next article: Cloud computing: the pros and cons
Cloud services are part of cloud computing
No wonder then that more and more companies are switching to cloud computing. Whether that be a private cloud, public cloud or a mixture of both types (hybrid).
But cloud computing is more than just servers somewhere in the cloud. The servers need maintenance, for example, as well as monitoring, security, etc. You also need an operating system, and various software programs are essential if you want specific work to get done. And this has led to more and more aspects of computing being offered ‘as a service’.
Once again, the big plus point here is that these services make hardware and software available all the time and from anywhere, on any device. With the accompanying advantage that your own IT department is relieved of both the hardware maintenance and the software maintenance. This is now managed centrally so that time-consuming updates to each device become superfluous.
But do not go thinking that cloud computing and its associated services are reserved just for large companies. Increasingly more SMEs are making use of the cloud, and there are undoubtedly certain cloud computing services in your daily life as well that are gradually becoming indispensable to you.
We will therefore take a closer look at some IT aspects that are offered ‘as a Service’ and which could probably be useful to your business.
Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS)
Cloud storage such as Dropbox, Google Drive, OneDrive from Microsoft. You save your documents and other files securely in the cloud, and you have access from all your devices via an app or your browser from wherever you are.
In effect, you are renting a basic IT infrastructure via the Internet, with servers and virtual machines, storage space, networks and operating systems. This is ideal for start-up businesses, because it saves them what would be significant costs for investing in infrastructure. But this is also a great solution for existing businesses that are expanding, because they can easily purchase additional infrastructure if needed, or scale it back. It can also be used to cope with traffic peaks as required.
You are undoubtedly making full use of IaaS services, possibly without even realising it.
Cloud hosting such as the Cloud hosting from Combell. Your website or application is not hosted on your own server but on one belonging to a hosting provider. You do not have to have any technical knowledge to keep the server running – your provider looks after all that for you. And with managed hosting, such as that provided by Combell, you do not have to bother yourself about the infrastructure any longer but can instead concentrate on your own application. In this regard, scalability is extremely important – the infrastructure can be expanded immediately in the case of success.
A couple of examples of Combell customers that host their application in the Combell cloud: Quality Guard and Yesplan (read more about such applications in the Combell customer cases).
Online streaming platforms such as Netflix, Sling, Hulu and Amazon. Due to their on-demand character, these services experience large peaks in usage. By switching in-house data centres over to the cloud, they can expand their customer base without having to continually invest in new infrastructure.
Chatbots such as Siri, Alexa and Google Assistant. These virtual assistants are quite handy. But they rely on the cloud to work. Thanks to the scalable computing power of the cloud, information gets stored about you so that the bots can offer you personalised customer experiences that are adapted to the context. What underlies how these chatbots work is a combination of deep learning and neural networks linked to cloud storage.
Content as a service (CaaS)
CaaS is actually a subset of IaaS and occupies the middle ground between IaaS and PaaS. In IaaS, environments are powered by virtual machines (VMs), while with CaaS, containers are the basic source of working environments.
A ‘container’ is a standard software unit into which all the code is packaged, as well as everything associated with it to allow an application to run. These containers can be started up quickly and are easy to relocate from one computer environment to another. In this cloud service model, you can upload, organise, start, stop, scale and manage containers, applications and clusters.
Thanks to cloud computing and the associated services, you can start up your own business in an instant without huge investments!
Platform as a Service (PaaS)
Based on an IaaS model, a provider can add extra cloud-based services. As a developer, you are able to build and implement applications really easily in the environment you require.
Several Combell customers are making use of Combell’s IaaS offering to build their own application that they then offer as a platform. For example, the Combell customer SiteManager offers its application as a PaaS, based on the Combell infrastructure (read more about such applications in the Combell customer cases).
Software as a Service (SaaS)
The software is not located on your computer or that of your company network, but in the cloud. You take out a subscription to the software and the cloud provider takes care of the hosting and the entire IT infrastructure, including maintenance and security.
Here, again, there is the benefit of lower start-up costs: you do not have to purchase any software, but you rent it instead via a subscription model. Furthermore, the software is always up to date without you having to purchase or install new versions. And in the event that you are not impressed with the software, you can simply switch to another package. These services cover different areas:
Communication such as Skype and WhatsApp. These cloud services combine many tools, such as e-mail, voice, chat, videoconferencing, etc. They provide their ‘communication as a service’ via the cloud and store the data generated in the cloud as well.
Productivity such as Google Docs and Microsoft 365 (Office 365). Documents are saved in the cloud and the tools are available on any computer via the cloud. Not only do you have all your documents at hand immediately, but it is also much easier to collaborate on documents. The many advantages of Microsoft 365 at Combell are summarized in our article 7 reasons to choose Microsoft 365 (Office 365).
Business Management tools such as Salesforce. You just order these business tools and feed them with your own data. By this means, you can have Customer Relationship Management (CRM) and Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) available anywhere for the sales team, courtesy of the cloud.
Desktop as a Service
And why should you not relocate your entire computing to the cloud? Not just your documents, but also all your own software programs? This allows you to work in your own familiar environment. Simply log in to your secure account and get started. In addition, the virtual computer you get with the "Combell Online Desktop" package from Combell is better protected than your home or office machine: Combell manages the firewall, the latest antivirus software and also takes care of automatic backups.
In short: with cloud computing and the associated services, you can start up your own business in an instant without huge investment. Rent your IT infrastructure as a service, with no worries about maintenance and without incurring heavy costs. You want e-mail services or need a customer database: no worries, thanks to Microsoft 365 and Salesforce as-a-service, you can get started immediately. Or do you have an idea for an application that you want to offer from the cloud? That too is possible thanks to Infrastructure-as-a-Service services such as Combell’s managed hosting.
Read more about FaaS, the newest 'as a Service' form: Function-as-a-Service: the vanishing trick for your infrastructure
Get to know cloud computing terminology
New forms of cloud computing
There are noticeable trends in cloud computing as well. Such as the increasing detachment from the underlying structure which is becoming, as it were, more and more ‘nebulous’. Some new forms:
Serverless computing: a computing model in which the cloud provider provisions and manages the servers. In this setup, developers can devote more time to building their apps and less time to managing the infrastructure.
Elastic computing: the facility to provision processing power, memory and storage resources or to scale them back in relation to the actual demand, without having to concern yourself about arranging the capacity and engineering to support peak usage.
Vertical Cloud Computing: the optimisation of cloud computing and cloud services for a specific vertical industry or a specific application.
Cloud computing characteristics
With that detachment from the infrastructure, clouds can be shared or you can transfer applications from cloud to cloud. In general, you therefore have more flexibility. Cloud computing is becoming more ‘lean & mean’:
Multi-tenant: a term employed to describe the situation in which multiple users are using the same public cloud
Virtualisation: this involves the creation not of a physical version but of a virtual version of a computing environment that includes hardware, operating system, storage devices, etc.
Cloud portability: the degree to which applications and the associated data can be transferred from one cloud provider to another, or from a public to a private cloud and vice versa.
Cloud computing techniques
This flexibility opens the door to new techniques such as cloud bursting. But, at the same time, sound preparation for the transition to the cloud still remains a requirement.
Cloud enablement: making one or more services and infrastructures available to create a cloud computing environment.
Cloud bursting: a configuration that is set up between a private and a public cloud. When 100% of the source capacity in the private cloud is used up, then the overflowing traffic is directed to the public cloud via cloud bursting.
Cloud provisioning: the deployment of a cloud computing strategy by a company. This usually involves deciding first which applications and services will be located in the public cloud, and which will stay on-site, behind the firewall or in the private cloud. It also includes the development of the processes for access to the applications and services in the cloud, along with a system to audit and monitor who has access to these sources and is authorised to use them.
Components of a cloud computing setup
A network of clouds comprises a number of different elements, such as network, storage space, servers, virtualisation, operating system, middleware, runtime, data, applications, etc. More details on some of these:
Computer grids: groups of computers in a network, that work together to execute huge tasks, such as managing/analysing enormous datasets. In cloud computing, you can put together computer grids for a specific time and purpose, and pay only for actual usage.
Middleware: software that mediates between an operating system and the applications running on it. It facilitates communication and data management in distributed applications, such as cloud-based apps. So, for example, it can enable data in one database to be addressed via another database. Web servers, application servers and content management systems are examples of middleware.
Cloud computing: a rosy future
Recent figures from SRGResearch prove it: the number of cloud-based services and solutions will keep on growing. The expenditure by providers on cloud infrastructure in the last decade has risen from practically zero to almost 100 billion dollars.
On the other hand, expenditure on data centre hardware and software has stagnated with the advent of more cloud options. From 2009 to 2019, the annual expenditure on data centres rose by 4%, while that on cloud services, including IaaS, PaaS and hosted private cloud, rose by 45%. In 2019 alone, cloud increased by 40%. Currently, some 23% of IT workloads is taking place in public clouds like Combell’s, according to Forbes, and that is expected to increase over the next 3 years to at least 43%.
Are you thinking that the time is ripe for taking the big step and starting up your business using the cloud? Or do you want to migrate your business to the cloud and free up your IT department? Take a look at our managed services. Or contact our experts for specific questions: our IT and cloud consultants will be happy to help you on your way!