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Cloud computing is an umbrella term for a number of computing trends, all involving storing data through the internet and making good use of its potential to simplify the way we use computers and extend their capabilities.
The "cloud" is the internet, and cloud computing is about putting more of your material ‘up’ there and less on PCs or servers that a business runs and manages for itself.
Small businesses may wonder how putting documents, customer details and applications online can help a company grow and what benefits cloud computing has compared to buying your own storage hardware and keeping it, and managing it, in your own offices.
So here’s a quick run down on the three main ways of using cloud computing services and how they might change the way businesses work.
Software as a Service (SaaS)
This is the most common form of cloud computing used by small businesses. It involves using software hosted on remote servers. These applications can be run through your web browser.
This is helping businesses reduce their spend on software and the technical support needed to keep it running smoothely. SaaS can give a business much greater flexibility, without much additional cost and allows businesses to quickly and easily meet their changing needs. With SaaS you don’t need to worry about updating software as your service provider does this on your behalf. There’s a wide range of services you can bring in from the web now, not just email, but also appraisal systems for your staff, project management tools, customer relationship management systems and shared workspaces for teams.
Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS)
This allows businesses to use virtual hardware resources to build their own IT infrastructure. IaaS’s flexibility to modify or expand capacity as required is one of its main benefits. Outsourcing hardware requirements can also lower the costs of purchasing hardware and the internal expertise to maintain it. Although there are some concerns around security and data protection, cloud computing can give your business access to professionally managed back-up for all of your business information.
This can also help reduce equipment wastage, since any change in your hardware needs will be managed by your infrastructure provider. Service providers invest in large-scale data centres and offer a greener alternative to the traditional IT approach. Server space, data storage facilities or networking hardware are all examples of IaaS.
Platform as a Service (PaaS)
This is using online application development to build and adapt applications to suit your business needs. The tools and hardware you need to do this, known as 'cloudware', are easily accessed through the web.
Cloud computing can help ensure that you always have access to the latest technology. This can also give you access to IT functionality that may be too expensive to buy outright. Businesses will no longer need the same levels of IT expertise for upgrading or developing applications which saves companies both time and money. It’s a revolution your business will want to join.