As one of the greatest game-changers in the digital age, cloud computing has altered the way we create, access, and distribute information. One of the most noticeable advantages of moving your business to the cloud is that it offers small and medium enterprises (SMEs) substantial savings. As a result, cloud computing solutions, specifically software-as-a-service or SAAS, has become key to the operations and even service delivery of many small businesses. With continued innovation and changes in how we work due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, the future is expected to be extremely competitive. This article serves as a beginners’ guide to cloud computing and its benefits for small businesses.
What is cloud computing?
Cloud computing is an extensive virtual information bank that manages and stores information, runs applications, or delivers content or services through the internet. In simpler words, cloud computing deals with the cloud or the internet (check out our article on the Internet of Things (IoT) to learn more about how the cloud works).
The cloud is merely a less technical way of depicting computers and remote servers that can be accessed through the internet. For instance, when watching movies on Amazon Prime Video, the platform is accessing information from the cloud, since the video file is stored on one of Amazon’s servers. Similarly, if you use custom web applications like Shopify.com, you’re accessing your business from a server that’s positioned in different parts of the world.
Any software or service, moreover, that runs on the internet instead of on a computer, is regarded as the cloud. This includes streaming videos on Netflix or Hulu. Or even accessing social media sites such as YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram. Cloud computing even applies to email services, such as Gmail, Outlook 365, or Yahoo Mail. Small businesses can leverage a vast array of cloud solutions instead of using the conventional method of installing software directly onto a computer. All that is needed is a good internet connection. Virtually all the aspects of a business can be managed through the cloud.
Type of cloud computing services
Cloud computing is generally grouped into two broad categories– services offered and the location of cloud computing. First, let’s dissect the services category of cloud computing.
- Software as a service (SaaS):
presents extensive software features on the cloud. It allows users to access applications via the internet instead of installing software on a computer or your business network. Similarly, these services can be accessed on-demand including Microsoft’s online version of the office known as BPOS (Business Productivity Online Standard Suite).
- Platform as a Service (PaaS):
provides a platform that lets consumers run and manage app developments. Examples include Microsoft’s Azure and Google Application.
- Infrastructure as a service (IaaS):
presents virtualized computing resources in the cloud. IaaS offers virtual machines, abstracted hardware, and operating systems through the concepts of cloud computing. Examples are Rackspace Cloud Servers, Amazon S3, Flexiscale, and Amazon EC2.
The second category of cloud computing is based on location. There are diverse deployment models that control how a user can connect to a preferred cloud service. The following are examples of location.
- A private cloud
is offered over a private internal network and provides more control over security concerns and privacy issues. It is more costly because the same personnel, management, and maintenance expenditures are needed as with the traditional data center ownership. Nevertheless, it implements private hardware and a cloud network that is not shared with anyone outside the organization.
- The public cloud
offers vast storage and is more accessible to a wide array of users. It is hosted by the cloud vendor and accessed by numerous organizations and businesses through the public internet. Public cloud can be implemented for personal use and makes resources accessible to the public for purchase.
- Hybrid cloud services
allow users to apply private cloud services, on-premises infrastructure, and public clouds such as Amazon Web Services (AWS) and Microsoft Azure. For example, your organization can run critical applications on the private cloud, while other less critical applications are managed on the public cloud.
- Community cloud
includes sharing computing services and infrastructure to a limited set of organizations or workforce including banks or heads of trading firms.
Why use the Cloud?
Regardless of the nature and size of your SME, your business can benefit from cloud computing as opposed to utilizing traditional software.
- It saves money.
One of the most notable advantages of cloud computing is that it provides small businesses with cost-saving benefits. The leanest of start-ups to long-established businesses can realize considerable savings through the cutbacks from spending on IT resources, computer equipment, or software. After all, cloud computing fully utilizes hardware. The reduced initial costs of moving to the cloud, alongside other benefits, make it a valuable consideration for nearly every small business.
- It enhances a business’s flexibility.
Another advantage of moving a small business to the cloud is the enhanced flexibility it allows a business. Regardless of the nature of your business, there’s almost certainly a cloud solution that can easily automate your tasks more effectively. An example is Shopify, GSuite, and Slack.
- It keeps pace with your business growth.
Growth is the life’s blood of any business. It’s especially important for small businesses that have to master the art of not growing too quickly too soon and outperforming their infrastructure.
Cloud-based apps can support your small business’s ability to get things done in the future. A small business has the elasticity to add capacity when it is deemed fit, without needing to recreate the wheel.
Finding the right cloud solution for your business
Today, there are numerous SAAS providers out there offering comparable products, which can sometimes be difficult to make your business stand out from the pack. Thus, finding the perfect cloud-computing solution for your business is worth the consideration. Although, the kind of services and deployment you choose will largely depend on the specific needs of your business. Contact us if you need help tweaking a current solution to fit your business needs. We help small businesses customize SAAS products for their specific business. Contact us. to see how we can help you!