Cloud computing is undoubtedly a sector that few businesses can afford to ignore. In 2020, 50% of companies moved data to offsite servers. Although that gargantuan shift was prompted in response to the outbreak of coronavirus, cloud computing will become an ongoing trend moving forward.
Prior to the global pandemic, IBM reported that the majority of companies only move around 20% of their data to the cloud. A hybrid-cloud solution appears to be the most common choice for business.
The reason for that is primarily a lack of trust. Cloud computing is still in its infant years and the “old school” mentality of IT managers wants to protect their corner using traditional methods.
The paradigm will shift and more businesses will store more data in the cloud. But migrating to the cloud can be confusing. So what are your options and what can you expect from cloud computing?
What is the Cloud?
Cloud computing has been in the making since its trademark in 1997. After 24 years, it has permeated all aspects of life. When you take a photo on your phone, it goes onto the cloud. When you send an email, it goes onto the cloud. It’s a technology that almost everyone uses every day – not just a business storage tool.
At a surface level, the technological processes behind the cloud are simple. All the cloud does is provide an alternative means to store data. Instead of being stored locally in your business’ servers or hard drives, the data is exported to a remote server owned by a cloud computing provider.
Despite being called the cloud – which might give you the impression that your data is circling around somewhere in the ether – all data is grounded in the physical storage of data centres.
In other words, when you store data in the cloud, it’s stored on enormous facilities containing thousands of server blocks. When you want to access the data, you are essentially interacting with a remote storage facility from your desktop computer, laptop or smartphone.
To access the data, the concept is actually the same as if you were storing data in the hard drive of your computer or an external hard drive such as a memory stick.
The key difference with the cloud is that anybody with password access to your network can access your data. This makes it far easier to share data and collaborate.
Yet despite the benefit, it is arguably this concept that most deters decision-makers from switching to the cloud. If anybody with access to your network can access data stored on the network, you may feel your data is vulnerable.
That’s not the case. You can configure settings so that all users are given “permissions” for access. Anybody without permission to open private documents won’t be able to. Therefore, you can protect documents and make them “for your eyes only”.
Having said that, you should treat cloud computing with caution – but there is no reason to be overly cautious and limit the potential opportunities cloud computing offers businesses.
Most cloud providers will back your data up multiple times and invest in the most advanced cybersecurity technology. These efforts have led to 94% of businesses who adopt cloud computing seeing an improvement in their tech security, according to a RapidScale study.
Why Businesses Cannot Ignore Cloud Adoption
Cloud computing comes with vast benefits that are simply inaccessible for any business that has not moved onto the cloud. Learn about them below, and discover why your business cannot ignore cloud computing.
The main benefit of cloud computing is in its ability to enhance collaboration in your workplace. Team members can be half the world away and seamlessly work in the same document at the same time in real-time.
Before the cloud, people had to painstakingly photocopy every page of a document or email it – and it can be pot luck if the email client actually sends a data-heavy document. Editing the document is then a back and forth process and can get pretty confusing keeping track of the latest document.
The cloud has hugely simplified this situation, and any business will benefit from investing in a good productivity suite. These tools, such as Microsoft 365, give your staff access to the same documents simultaneously, as well as their favoured office applications.
Staff members can now access shared documents seamlessly and collaborate on the same document in real-time, allowing them to exercise their full creative capabilities.
The cloud can also give you and your staff the option of a hybrid workplace. All businesses have experienced remote work due to the pandemic, which forced employees out of the office and into work from home policies.
This situation was unbelievably popular amongst workers. With the commute gone, they have more time to spend with their families. Many found that they were more productive and working from home was more convenient and less expensive.
As a consequence, 73% of employees want to continue remote working in the post-pandemic era. The ramifications for employers are enormous because of this, as it has given employees a new working arrangement to bargain for.
If your business cannot offer flexible remote working options as standard, prospective employees may be reluctant to join your company. Younger generations also expect businesses to have the latest technologies.
Cloud computing is the only way to introduce remote work effectively. On hardware, with local servers, only devices directly connected to the network can access the data with any kind of consistent reliability, some companies did have remote connectivity options, but VPN’s proved to be unstable and troublesome for many. As many business owners discovered during the lockdown, this causes all manner of issues including a loss of productivity and inconvenience.
Meanwhile, the cloud comes with much more mobility and stability. Micro Pro, for instance, strive to provide our clients with an optimum network uptime of 99.999% available.
Cloud computing is so much more than just a data storage and productivity solution. Many cloud providers offer data analytics that can allow you to investigate the working patterns of your staff and the buying patterns of your customers.
The data reports will raise new insights for your business, and they can lead your business’s next action plan. Cloud analytics have already been used successfully by thousands of companies to operate more efficiently and increase their profit margins.
The drinks company Sunny Delight is an excellent case study of cloud analytics being used to high effect. They used these analytics to inform their sales strategy so successfully that their profits increased by $2 million a year.
There was a time when cloud adoption only made sense for the most prominent businesses, with access to a tech budget that could afford worthwhile cloud storage.
The situation in the 2020s could not be further from this. Cloud computing is now advanced and available on unfathomable scales. The result has been affordable cloud storage options if you want to store 1GB or 1PB.
For example, users of Amazon Web Services can store a gigabyte for at most £0.017. If you need less than 15GB stored, some providers like Google Drive might offer this for free.
To put this into context, we must compare these prices to the costs of storing data on local hardware.
A hard drive that can hold 50GB of data will set you back around £65, or £1.30 per GB. For this to be cost-effective, you would have to store the data on the hard drive for 100 months, and you would benefit from none of the operational benefits offered by the cloud.
What Are Your Cloud Computing Options?
Cloud computing is not a single entity. There are three main types. They are private, public, and hybrid. The latter is best understood as a middle ground between the two. Most cloud providers will offer all three of these types of cloud computing, but you should still look for one that specialises in your unique needs.
Private Cloud Computing Solutions
A private cloud is a premium package. It is generally used by businesses that handle vast amounts of data. A private cloud is only used by one firm, so it is often located at the company’s data centre. However, some cloud providers offer to host private clouds as a lower-cost approach to private clouds.
The private cloud is the ultimate form of cloud computing as it can be customised to fit a business’s unique needs. While a fantastic IT support team will be required to set this up, the specific utility options that can be leveraged might bring vast productivity improvements to your enterprise.
Because the cloud is private, you will have total control over it. The resources you use are yours and yours alone. The lack of shared data centres means that your data is the safest in a private cloud.
Finally, private cloud solutions are very scaleable if a cloud provider operates them. If your business suddenly needs to store a lot more data, you can make a request to the provider, and they will arrange to store the extra data.
All these benefits come with a cost. A large cost. Subsequently, private cloud-computing options are beyond the financial scope of SMEs. If you want to operate your own data centre, it will cost your business around £1.1 million to set up. You will also have to cover substantial operating costs on top.
These operating costs are the other weakness of private clouds. With other solutions, the onus falls on the cloud provider to carry out the maintenance. But with the private cloud, you will need to invest in an in-house IT team of specialists to carry out essential maintenance. And cloud specialists are in short supply, so you should expect to pay top-dollar in wages to acquire an expert.
Public Cloud Solutions
The public cloud falls on the other end of the cost scale to private clouds, and because of that, it is the most common way to do cloud computing.
With a public cloud, all the data is stored on shared 3rd party data centres. We can think of using the public cloud as being tenants in an enormous apartment building. These clouds are used by millions of businesses worldwide and are a pillar that holds up the modern internet.
Low set-up and subscription costs come with a lack of maintenance costs. Cloud providers will store your data in an enormous data centre, and the servers will be maintained by the specialist IT technicians who work for the provider.
These specialists guarantee high reliability and public clouds rarely fail. You can expect limited downtime with public cloud computing.
Finally, public clouds are enormous, and they come with almost unlimited scalability. Plugging more data into the public cloud is a quick and easy process of simply uploading more and paying a slightly higher bill.
The main disadvantage of the public cloud is in the cybersecurity risk that they present. Cloud providers work hard to protect the data they control, but they are the target of cybercriminals worldwide.
Having said that, there are viable and affordable solutions. The only real concern is that you work with a reliable cloud service provider you can trust to protect your data and avoid breaches.
Hybrid Cloud Solutions
Hybrid cloud computing is the middle ground between private and public clouds. They allow businesses to benefit from the affordable data storage of a public cloud while leveraging a substantially smaller private cloud or hardware storage for their most valuable and personal data.
Hybrid clouds offer the best of both worlds. They come with reasonable affordability because the local storage infrastructure for the precious data will likely be available once the lower value data has been moved onto the cloud.
When you use a hybrid cloud, you have much more flexibility. Having decided which data to migrate, you are not stuck in the decision. You can move your data back and forth as much as you want.
Working out which data to migrate onto the cloud and which data to keep on local storage will be a time-consuming endeavour. All your data is valuable, and it will take a lot of time to work out which information is worth the extra protection and which data is suitable for the cloud.
Evaluating your Cloud Computing Options
Cloud computing does not have to be overly expensive. There are cost-effective solutions for almost every company. The important factor is that you install a storage system that is most beneficial to the operation of your company.
The other important factor is to work with a reputable cloud computing company that fulfils your needs and you can rely on to protect your data.
Before you choose a cloud service provider to help you migrate to the cloud, do your homework to understand what constitutes great IT support and what doesn’t.