As companies strive to become more efficient, competitive and streamlined, cloud technology is becoming increasingly popular as it continues to form part of a longer-term digital transformation strategy for many organisations. Demand for cloud services has reached unprecedented levels during COVID-19, as companies have relied on it for communication, tighter security and cost savings as they have been forced to adopt remote working practices.
What is cloud computing?
Cloud computing is the delivery of computing services such as servers, storage, databases, networking and software over the internet, instead of through physical hardware located on premises. Most people use the cloud on a daily-basis, without even realising it, from communication via G-mail to file sharing via Dropbox.
Different types of Cloud
Businesses can utilise cloud solutions in different ways – a set-up that works for one environment may not be suitable for another. There are three different types of cloud computing, as discussed in more detail below:
A public cloud is is owned and run by third party cloud service providers such as Amazon Web Services and Microsoft Azure. Data is stored on a shared public cloud managed by the service provider, which you can access and manage through an online account.
A private cloud is used exclusively by a single business or organisation. This can be physically located at an on-site data centre owned by the business or can be hosted by a third-party provider, however the services and infrastructure are maintained on a private network.
A hybrid cloud utilises functionality of both private and public clouds, which in effect allows for greater flexibility and more deployment options.
Below is a diagram of benefits and drawbacks of all three different types of cloud
Types of Cloud Service
Saas – Software as a service – also known as cloud applications, offers internet applications through 3rd party providers. Because these applications are provided over the internet, there’s no need to manually install, manage and update software.
Examples of SaaS: Microsoft Office 365
PaaS – Platform as a service – this form of cloud service offers a framework for developers to build upon and create customised applications. All servers, storage, and networking is managed by the enterprise or a third-party provider, while applications are managed by the developers.
Examples of PaaS: Google App Engine
IaaS – Infrastructure as a service – the most flexible of cloud computing models, IaaS offers the full IT infrastructure including servers, network, storage and operating systems. Users have full control of their infrastructure and still have access to their data centre, it’s just managed and outsourced through a virtual data centre in the cloud instead of on premises.
Examples of IaaS: Microsoft Azure, AWS
Benefits of using the cloud
Cloud computing removes the need for physical hardware that was traditionally purchased upfront and stored on customer premises. As the physical devices are no-longer maintained by the customer, the cost of ongoing and maintenance part replenishment is eliminated. The infrastructure no-longer requires space within the customer environment, which is often an expensive office premium, and associated physical services such as power and cooling are no longer required, further reducing costs. Most cloud services operate on a pay-as-you-go basis, so you only pay for what you consume, and longer term contracts usually result in considerable savings.
With the cloud, you have the ability to choose how much of what you require, when and where you require it. This applies to things such as computing power, storage and bandwidth. This is especially useful for start-up businesses who need to scale up in order to accommodate growth, but equally useful for scenarios in which a company faces a decrease in demand.
As there is no need for manual tasks such as setting up hardware and software or patching, IT teams are free to work on other areas of the business, increasing productivity.
Data stored on the cloud is always backed up, so there’s no need to worry about it getting destroyed in the event of of a disaster. It also means that if anything was to happen, being able to access your data via the cloud allows you to continue business as usual, minimising downtime.
Cloud solutions offer automatic updates to ensure you are making use of the latest technology, which can include software updates, server upgrades and computer power upgrades.
You may think data is less secure in the cloud as it is stored off premises, however most cloud providers are constantly working on security measures, which include practises such as data encryption, using the latest firewalls and enabling multi-factor authentication. They also have dedicated cyber security teams to monitor suspicious activity. Storing data in the cloud also diminishes the possibility of in house data breaches.
Real World Example
The cloud gives organisations the ability to utilise elasticity within their IT environment. Netflix launched in 1998, initially renting DVDs through the US Postal Service, but saw the future was in on-demand streaming of video and content.
Netflix started their steaming service is 2007, just as the internet was fast enough and cheap enough to begin streaming video services. When launching, Netflix began building their own data-centres, with their own equipment. They built two data-centres which incurred huge capital cost initially and took a large amount of time and resource to even get to point of turning the services online. Netflix soon realised that with the service growing at such a pace, they were going to run out of computing power and didn’t have the resources, or time, to build another data-centre at the same pace to meet customer demand.
For three days in August 2008, Netflix experienced an outage within their environment, a database corruption that took all services offline. This forced them to adapt and re-think their strategy. They realised that as their business was growing at such a pace, they needed to change the way they delivered the content to consumers. In late 2008, Netflix decided to move services to AWS (Amazon Web Services), just as AWS was becoming established.
The migration took eight years to fully migrate all services to AWS EC2 instances. During that time, Netflix increased it’s customer base by eight-fold. The environment is now built with redundancy and resiliency in mind, which Netflix couldn’t have achieved on their own. With availability zones configured in different AWS data-centres across the world, they adopt an approach that works to reduce downtime and maximise customer experience, which has worked well for them.
You would think that this move would have resulted in huge additional costs for Netflix, but the actual result means Netflix saves money using AWS, with the actual cost per streaming view now a fraction of the cost of when they used original data-centres. The scalability is key to the savings made. When the service needed more servers, Netflix could scale up, purchase the additional servers and then remove them when the demand decreased. They were also able to add greater computing power to the core cloud infrastructure to cope with a permanent increase in demand.
Netflix has over 15 million subscribers and uses more than 150,000 server instances on AWS, a true reflection of how the cloud can help the success of an organisation.
Cloud for remote workforces
With so many workforces being forced to go remote through the COVID-19 pandemic, many have adopted cloud solutions to enable employees to work from home efficiently with immediate effect, and these companies will undoubtedly remain using the cloud moving forward for the same reasons. While applications such as Microsoft 365 allow employees to access files from anywhere, Microsoft Teams enables them to stay connected through messenger and video conference while working remotely.
There has also been a surge in adoption of cloud-based security tools, which have been deployed to protect sensitive information in remote workforces. DaaS (Desktop as a service) solutions are being sought out by many organisations who plan to continue supporting remote working, as it allows users to access important applications and desktops on any device.
For more information about cloud services or migrating to the cloud, please contact us today.