A decade ago, many people were still unfamiliar with cloud computing. Today, most citizens do their banking, shopping, and socializing in the cloud. Business is also being done in the cloud, especially in the post-Covid era, where hybrid workgroups are the new norm.
According to Flexera’s 2021 State of the Cloud Report, 92% of organizations use multiple cloud services, while 90% migrate to the cloud faster than expected due to Covid-19. But how do the different clouds work? What advantages does cloud computing offer companies? And what are the benefits of using a single cloud provider whenever possible?
What We Mean By Cloud Computing
Cloud computing delivers IT resources (servers, software, data storage and processing power) over the Internet on a pay-as-you-go basis. Instead of investing in expensive equipment and building large server rooms on company premises to host data and communications, companies outsource their services to a cloud provider with a global network of secure data centers. Instead of buying software licenses, installing the software on multiple computers, and updating it regularly on each machine, companies pay subscription fees to use online portals and platforms hosted and maintained by cloud providers.
Users can access these cloud-based solutions by logging in from anywhere, using any device with an Internet connection, and storing files in shared online databases. This is not always possible on company servers with limited storage space and computing power. Your computer hard drive is not suitable either, preventing other team members from accessing it.
Typical Uses Of Cloud Computing
Cloud computing includes a wide range of services that replace legacy business software. They also offer new features that have emerged in the cloud:
– File Storage And Sharing: Cloud storage solutions like Google Drive and Dropbox offer businesses unlimited storage capacity. They also enable teams to access information from anywhere, collaborate on documents in real-time, and ensure version control.
Data Protection And Disaster Recovery: Cloud-based data protection solutions such as Backblaze, Acronis, and Amazon Web Services enable companies to store critical data in the cloud automatically. It is safe there and can be quickly restored if a natural disaster or IT incident destroys the data stored on on-premises servers.
– Big Data Analytics: When raw enterprise data is synchronized in the cloud, companies can leverage it for predictive analytics, artificial intelligence (AI) enhanced strategic planning, Internet of Things (IoT) automation, and a host of other future-facing capabilities. Cloud-based big data analytics solutions can be task-specific, industry-specific, or a native component of other cloud-based software.
– Business Processes: There are cloud-based solutions for CRM (Salesforce, HubSpot), operational resource planning (Oracle, SAP), accounting (FreshBooks, Quickbooks), human resources (Bamboo, Namely), and virtually any other type of business software that is used to require installation media was.
– Communication: Cloud communication solutions include unified communications, collaborative work applications, virtual presentation tools, contact center solutions and communication APIs.
These Service Models For Cloud Computing Exist
There are four primary service models for cloud computing, depending on the types and scale of IT resources deployed:
– Software-as-a-Service (SaaS): The most popular cloud service is a complete third-party application designed for a specific function, such as customer relationship management (CRM) or document sharing. The SaaS provider manages the cloud application remotely and takes care of maintenance, troubleshooting and updates.
– Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS): PaaS provides a development framework for building software, allowing users to build custom applications and tech stacks without starting from scratch. The backend is already equipped with a secure infrastructure, data integration, hosting facilities and a programming environment with API libraries and preconfigured application functions.
– Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS): Like PaaS, IaaS guarantees a secure IT infrastructure with hosting facilities and storage space, but companies bring their applications, operating systems and middleware and manage their data. This gives the IT department more control but provides a virtual data centre that eliminates purchasing hardware.
– Desktop-as-a-Service (DaaS): DaaS is a cloud-based virtual desktop with a unified workspace without specific hardware requirements. Users can access “their desktop” via a web portal from any internet-enabled device, including SaaS solutions and virtualized traditional applications.
According to Gartner, SaaS represents the most significant public cloud services market segment. Overall, the market grew by 21% last year and reached a volume of $332.3 billion in 2021. SaaS accounted for $122.6 billion of that in 2021. However, IaaS and DaaS saw the fastest year-over-year growth since 2020, at 38.5% and 67.7%.
Cloud Hosting Main Models
Four cloud infrastructure models exist public, private, hybrid, or multi-cloud. They differ in who owns and manages what:
– Public Clouds: With public clouds, the IT infrastructure is owned and managed by a third party. Customers pay a subscription fee to use the service. You share resources with other “cloud tenants”, keeping data separate and secure.
Private Clouds: In a private cloud, the company owns and manages the IT infrastructure and cloud computing resources. They pay a subscription fee to use the third-party software but host the data on their own shadow. Also referred to as “data centers,” private clouds reside either on on-premises servers or are hosted by a third party. In both cases, the network remains confidential, and IT resources are not shared.
– Hybrid clouds: In a hybrid cloud environment, companies host some applications and sensitive data in a private cloud. Other applications and information end up in public clouds, where they take advantage of cloud computing on a pay-as-you-go basis.
– Multi-clouds: In a multi-cloud environment, companies use multiple SaaS and PaaS solutions, often from different providers. These solutions can be integrated, but there is no such thing as a private cloud.
Multi and hybrid clouds are becoming increasingly popular. According to the Flexera report, 92% of companies use a multi-cloud strategy, and 82% use a hybrid cloud strategy. On average, companies use 2.5 public and 2.7 private clouds.
Benefits Of Cloud Computing Technology
With an effective cloud migration strategy and the right vendors in place, companies gain access to technologies that:
Supporting Remote And Hybrid Workforces
Many knowledge workers already have experience working from home, so they no longer want to return to the office every workday. Employers are now exploring hybrid working models that offer their teams flexibility beyond the pandemic. As of September 2021, 76% of workers who have been working remotely during the pandemic told Gallup that their employers would allow them to work at least part-time from home going forward.
With cloud computing, employees can access their work tools and business communications anywhere. All they need is a device with an internet connection and a login.
Integrate Systems And Optimize Data
Cloud-based solutions can often be integrated to improve collaboration and increase workflow efficiency. For example, a unified communications platform can be combined with a CRM. As a result, employees can see customer information when answering incoming calls and automatically log these calls in the CRM.
Integrating systems enables organizations to pull data out of silos and apply predictive analytics that provides valuable insights for strategic decision-making. Gartner predicts that by 2022, 90% of organizations will “regard information as a critical business asset and analytics as an essential competency.”
Use AI And IoT Technology
Once all data is in one cloud (or interconnected clouds), companies have a lot of opportunities. For example, you can apply machine learning algorithms to automate processes, use IoT technologies to optimize supply chains, and use predictive analytics to eliminate inefficiencies. This makes the company future-proof.
Cloud services also allow businesses to deploy new tools and features such as virtual assistants, chatbots, and other AI-powered solutions.
Enable Agility And Innovation
Markets across all industries are becoming increasingly competitive while consumer expectations rise and rise. Companies must be prepared to adapt quickly lest they be eclipsed by disruption to survive and thrive. They also need to focus on continually improving the customer experience, or they will fall behind the competition.
With an effective cloud strategy, companies can innovate faster, deploy resources strategically, and gain valuable insights into optimizing the customer journey. Good cloud providers constantly add new features and product upgrades, so customers always have access to the latest and greatest features.
Ensure Reliability, Security And Disaster Recovery
If the technology no longer works, the company suffers. If there is a threat of data loss, the company’s reputation and (in some industries) legal standing are also at risk.
The servers are considered resilient and reliable with a public cloud infrastructure because they are constantly updated and geographically dispersed. This protects them from local disasters that could affect service availability and recovery from an outage. IT engineers handle data backup, whose main job is to oversee security and ensure data protection logs remain practical and up-to-date.
Reduces IT Complexity
With a public cloud, IT doesn’t have to maintain hardware or servers, update fleets of computers, and worry about backing up data or troubleshooting. This gives her more time for innovative projects.
While managing a private cloud is more complex and requires more IT resources, using SaaS, IaaS, or PaaS saves IT from developing everything from scratch and routinely updating software.
With just-in-time subscription pricing for critical business systems and applications that never become obsolete, cloud solutions save companies big bucks on hardware costs, integrations, and IT support.
According to ZK Research, they typically save 30-40% over five years by switching to a SaaS solution. Accenture also found that migrating parts of an organization to public clouds reduces the total cost of ownership by up to 40%.
Scale With Ease
For most companies, the number of employees fluctuates over time, increasing in excellent years and decreasing again in bad economic times. This meant estimating roughly how many licenses the company would need for the subscription period with traditional software.
With cloud services, they pay based on the number of users or the services they need. Adding or removing users is a breeze. Most cloud applications are highly customizable: features can be turned on and off based on the size and needs of the business. The performance, storage space and bandwidth can also be flexibly selected if requirements change.
Of course, the customization and scalability capabilities and the ability to take advantage of all the other cloud computing benefits mentioned above depend on the particular cloud provider.
Also Read: The Most Important Cloud Trends At A Glance
Choosing A Cloud Provider
But how do decision-makers find the right providers for their requirements? When evaluating potential technology partners, it’s essential to consider certain aspects of each vendor:
– Features and development plan: Does the solution have all the features that the company or departments concerned need or might need in the future? Does the vendor’s development roadmap align with the company’s IT vision? Are there AI-based features supporting automation and taking the hard work off end-users?
– Location: Are all services available at every company location, and, more importantly, do they work reliably? If the employees work in different locations or the global customer base, does the service work for everyone?
– Service and support: What is the average availability of the cloud provider? Does it reimburse customers for lost time if the service goes down? How much support does it offer? What is the average response time for support requests?
– Integrations and APIs: Does the solution integrate with other essential business software? Does the vendor have tools to integrate legacy software or proprietary technologies? Does it provide open APIs that allow customers to integrate their applications?
– Scalability: Scalability is one of the key benefits of cloud computing, but does the provider have the capacity and capacity to adapt to the ever-changing needs of the business? How quickly can users be added or removed?
–Security and data protection compliance: How does data backup work? Is the solution certified for compliance with industry-wide regulations (e.g. payment card industry standard)? How is it aligned with international privacy laws like the European General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR)?
– History and Reputation: How long has the provider been in business? What is their track record? What do existing or previous customers say about the service and customer support?
It is advisable to collect as much information as possible about potential suppliers. If a solution doesn’t meet the needs of the business, moving to a new cloud provider doesn’t mean making significant investments in hardware and infrastructure. You have to learn a new (hopefully better) system.
Less Is More: Number Of Cloud Providers
Most companies today work in a multi-cloud environment. And with good reason: there is no single solution that meets all the IT needs of an entire company. But there are cloud solutions that meet all the needs of a single department or function.
Cloud communication example: A complete communication stack includes all of these:
– Unified Communications (UCaaS): Multi-channel communication platforms that replace traditional phone systems with advanced features such as call recording and cellular phone synchronization.
Contact-Center-as-a-Service (CCaaS): Multi-channel communication platforms designed specifically for customer interactions, with voice assistants and intelligent call routing features.
– Communications-Platform-as-Service (CPaaS): Development platforms that enable companies to integrate various communication APIs such as chatbots and SMS marketing.
– Team Collaboration: Applications that allow teams to collaborate and share information.
– Virtual presentation tools: video-based software used in webinars, training courses or conferences.
Some cloud communication providers combine these functions, but in many cases, the different parts are provided by other cloud providers and are already integrated into one platform. This might be seamless enough for end-users, but from an IT perspective, difficulties can arise when there are service outages or technical support issues that the vendor cannot resolve. Even if customers want new functions that the provider does not offer because they do not have the technology, there can be friction.
Vonage owns its entire technology stack, including UCaaS, CCaaS, CPaaS, team collaboration and virtual presentation tools. All can be combined in a single platform. Vonage is responsible for customer data and can respond to customers’ changing communications needs with complete control of the technology and development plan. There is only one bill to pay – and only one party to take responsibility for technical issues.
Cloud computing offers many benefits, but results also depend on each organization’s cloud infrastructure and technology stack. However, most cloud migrations have one thing in common: In the competitive digital age, where everything is constantly changing, customers expect seamless interactions and employees can work from anywhere; companies must be flexible and agile. Cloud computing paves the way.
Also Read: Data Backup Trends In The Cloud