What is Cloud Computing?
Simply put, cloud computing is a method of providing a standard set of shared computing resources with the objective of providing ubiquitous IT services delivery. Cloud computing can be understood as an approach to a shared infrastructure in which large pool of systems are linked together in public or private networks to provide IT services. Cloud infrastructure normally consists of clusters of servers, networked storage, and related hardware with adequate fault tolerance to provide service availability. Cloud computing services focus on the user, since they decouple computing services from underlying technology resulting in extremely user friendly. The need for adopting cloud services is very much in demand by enterprise organizations, government, educational institutions, SMEs and also small organizations and individuals.
In cloud a business company can use an appropriate resource to accomplish a task and return the resource back to the pool. From the perspective of the user the technology virtually remains invisible. Cloud computing service is available for many service areas and the major services are: IaaS, PaaS, SaaS and PaaS. They are briefly given below:
- Infrastructure as a service (IaaS) allows users to obtain storage, networks, and basic computing resources as a service. Users can deploy systems software (an OS) on the infrastructure.
- Platform as a Service (PaaS) provide the facility to build and deploy newly developed applications on the cloud infrastructure. PaaS also has the ability to provide a computing environment and the related development and deployment stack needed to deliver a solution to the consumer.
- Software as a Service (SaaS) offers to deliver the application in which the processes are matured to run on a cloud infrastructure. The application can be accessed from clients in different locations through a web-browser. A typical example is web-based email.
The cloud computing services are available as three models namely the private cloud which is a secure infrastructure owned and used internally by an organization, like in a corporate office; the public cloud model which allows global use of resources, but the infrastructure is owned by one party, for example Gmail from Google; the other model is called the hybrid cloud which is a combination of both private and public cloud model scenarios.
Cloud models provide services that are not easily available in a normal client server based network infrastructure. The advantages of using a cloud in businesses are many. The advantages include,
- The ability to scale up or down as the need for resources increases or decreases. This is also known as elasticity
- Provisioning and de-provisioning of resources is automatic respectively with self-service metering
- Centralized pooling of IT resources (storage, data and applications)
- Billing and metering of service usage. Users can monitor their resource usage and pay for per resource or pay for each service availed.
- Applications and services are available efficiently and without disruptions
- Reduced costs in IT infrastructure maintenance and management
Larger enterprises have higher IT budgets and they are able to reach the global market quickly by using the internet. SMEs often face the challenge of competing with bigger enterprises and the cloud provides the much needed leverage for them to capture potential opportunities found beyond their geographical boundaries.
The Cloud Maximizes Business Performance
During the last decade, the technological advances in electronics and digital equipments have progressed rapidly resulting in massive use of hardware components to increase the operational efficiency in IT environments. This trend has invited many issues related to manageability of resources, high costs for running the equipment and power related issues for efficiently using IT infrastructure to achieve business objectives. CIOs and IT managers often come across these issues in their day-to-day working. The need to manage IT as a unified resource gave rise to cloud computing because the infrastructure is scalable, flexible, and can be managed by the users themselves. Moreover, the cloud can provide superior computing performance for business operations and market expansion without failure. This paved the way for adopting cloud computing models that are currently available from major IT and data center vendors.
- Elasticity: In a normal client-server system the resources are fixed and are designed for certain amount of computing power, network and storage. When the need for more storage or computing power arises additional hardware is required. Similarly when the volume of transactions is low, the higher configurations and resources become redundant. In the case of a cloud, the resources are available to expand as the business data expands and can also scale down. This feature offers the availability of bandwidth, storage, etc the company can utilize the exact amount of resources required and pay for what is used.
- Economy of Scale: Cloud computing provides the ability to allow many companies to share their best practices and technical expertise. For example, a SME may not be able to incur cost on hiring skilled personnel, but by collaborating in a cloud they may obtain this benefit without any cost.
- Self-service and Metering: This is ideal for most companies because IT staff in a company can request the amount of resource required to fulfill the company’s needs. Cloud service providers offer an interface by which the user can request the resource, or a seat or license for one or many user(s). The user is billed for the type of resource and the number of resources used in the system.
- Business Process Services: The cloud infrastructure can has the ability to handle repetitive business processes such as payroll processing, supply chain monitoring, automated production processes, etc. A self-service interface allows the use of this service and customization is also possible.
- Security and Management Services: Cloud services use the same internet data-links for transferring data and they co-exist with the world-wide web. Hence it critical to protect these systems from viruses and threats related to data protection and privacy. A well-planned security strategy is mandatory for companies planning to adopt any type of cloud service.
- Optimized IT and cost benefits: IT optimization is possible in a cloud computing because resources are configured for maximum cost-benefit. Cost benefit is high in the cloud because the cloud models supports massive scalability to meet periods of demand while avoiding extended periods of under-utilized IT capacity. Users with a mouse click can quickly expand or contract a service without requiring overhauls to the core data center. Business companies can eliminate cost on deploying and running an on-premise IT infrastructure. There is cost savings in personnel too. The other cloud benefits include low cost of ownership, which fosters higher profitability, enabling a business to more easily reinvest in their business expansion programs.
- Collaboration Services: With the cloud it is easy to collaborate because of its ability to use networks on the internet. The cloud platform can collaborate between employees, partners, businesses and customers in different locations. Social business collaboration is quickly gaining popularity. This service enables companies to collaborate with the right experts at the right time to achieve business goals.
The services mentioned above are broad in nature and available with any cloud service. Companies that rely heavily on the internet to expand their business and retain customers require better performing IT systems where cloud computing service is an ideal option. SMEs derive many attractive benefits by using the cloud service because adopting an appropriate model for their business is proved to drastically reduce their IT infrastructure and resource costs. An SME can simply deploy an application in the cloud and avoid the costs of managing the application (namely IT staff, storage, hardware, network, etc). Further, the application running on a cloud is highly efficient and available 24×7 without break downs, resulting in customer retention and a happy user experience.