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Understanding cloud computing

Cloud computing is transforming the business landscape

And you’ll be better positioned to leverage its advantages with deeper insight into the fundamentals.

Cape Town – If you asked your IT experts to define cloud computing in simple terms, how many explanations do you think you’d get? Two? Three? A different definition from each member of the team? It’s possible. Because cloud computing can be applied in many ways, to achieve a variety of outcomes and objectives.

What is cloud computing?

If you look up “cloud computing” in the dictionary, you’ll discover that it’s the practice of “using a network of remote servers hosted on the internet to store, manage, and process data, rather than a local server or a personal computer”. That’s true enough, but cloud computing has evolved so much over the past decade that a closer inspection is required to fully comprehend the current landscape.

At its core, cloud computing is about supplying computing services over the internet (also known as the “cloud”). Cloud computing allows you to utilise, process, manage and store data, files, programs and software in a remote, virtual environment that is secure and universally accessible from any device capable of connecting to the web. It might sound complicated, but you’re probably doing all of these things already. Let’s take a look at some everyday examples:

  • Data in the cloud. Do you have profiles on social media networks like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn? Your data (login details, profile information, friend lists, status updates) is being processed and stored in the cloud. That’s why you can access your account from your mobile phone at the office, or from a laptop overseas, quickly and easily.
  • Files in the cloud. Do you collect and curate your family photographs online? Digital file-storage services like Dropbox are virtual archives for your images, documents, presentations and reports. And cloud technology facilitates your access from any web-connected device.
  • Software in the cloud. Do you remember the days when the latest Microsoft Office software came in a box with an instruction manual and a disc to insert into your computer? Today, Microsoft Office is available via the cloud and you can subscribe for a tailored package that suits your needs.

From email to internet banking, cloud computing is powering many of our personal activities. But the technology is being harnessed by more and more businesses looking to streamline processes, boost productivity, and reduce costs.

How do businesses use cloud computing?

Businesses are turning to the cloud for processing power, database storage, application management, software provision, networking, or a combination thereof.

Traditionally, businesses have needed local hardware (hard drives, in-house servers, on-premises data centres) and software to enable people to do their jobs. The physical hardware requires space and ongoing care and maintenance; the software requires patches, updates, and licence-renewals. There are substantial cost implications in both cases, as well as the need for dedicated IT staff to monitor and manage the overall environment.

Cloud computing goes a long way towards reducing the need for expensive on-site computing assets, and cloud providers typically group their services by infrastructure, platform, and software. These services can be packaged according to your individual requirements, and are generally available on a pay-as-you-go basis.

Infrastructure as a service (or IaaS) is often the first building block, because it involves the servers, virtual machines, storage systems and networks you need as a foundation for your IT architecture.

Platform as a service (or PaaS) is the cloud-based environment that supports the development and deployment of web applications. Your developers will have the tools and database management systems they need to build, test, deploy and manage apps.

Software as a service (or SaaS) is designed to give people on-demand access to software applications via the cloud, without the hassle of regular upgrades or security patches. Email and calendar software are common examples.

What are the benefits of cloud computing?

The cloud computing market is growing at a steady pace, largely because businesses are becoming more aware of the three main advantages of moving to the cloud:

  • The cost factor. The technological terrain is constantly evolving. New hardware is unveiled every year. New software, too. Businesses are re-evaluating their IT spending – and reconsidering the substantial investment required to install and maintain on-site assets like servers and data centres. Cloud computing eliminates the need for such significant expenditure upfront, and opens the door for customised cost solutions.
  • The flexibility factor. The IT needs of every business will change over time. The growth and expansion of the enterprise will require the commensurate growth and expansion of its IT environment. Cloud computing enables agile scaling.
  • The security factor. Cybersecurity is a pressing concern for data-driven businesses. Cloud computing makes it simpler to carry out data backups and to pursue recovery initiatives in the event of a disaster.

As cloud experts, we’ve helped clients from across the business spectrum with their cloud migrations. If you’re ready to begin your journey to the cloud, book an assessment with one of our consultants today. We’re happy to explain how cloud technology can transform your organisation.

BUI is an official Microsoft Partner in South Africa, and an award-winning leader in identity and security solutions.

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