Computers continue to move centre-stage in our world and it is difficult to remember how we ever managed without them. Indeed, it is obvious that most modern businesses could not function without them. Similarly, many average-sized enterprises would never have become the global corporations they are now without information communication technology (ICT). Such is the ubiquity of ICT these days that it has become all but invisible to us.
The latest roll-out of ICT is the Cloud, how often we hear this buzzword and simply accept its legitimacy as just another part of the technological world enveloping us. But what is this unseen entity and what can it do? Put simply, the cloud is ‘internet-based computing’. In contrast, the first wave of computing was ‘desktop-based computing’, where files were stored and data processed on your own personal computer; or in the case of businesses, on computers physically located within the company building.
Better internet connectivity, however, means it’s now easier and more efficient to pay-as-you-go for rented computing space, located in a remote data centre, than investing in your own physical on-site equipment.
That the Cloud is so accessible and egalitarian is seen in the fact that a plethora of new companies have come into being by using the Cloud’s advantages over traditional computing. Quicker set-up times and lower operating costs are just two of the benefits new companies gain when they base their operations in the Cloud. That is not to say established businesses have been left behind – many have moved quickly and now trade equally from the Cloud, giving them a multichannel market position in many cases.
Popular Cloud Services
In addition to the customary operations of file storage and processing power, the Cloud now supports many other essential business functions including HR, finance, and even creative design. Many of these are offered ‘as-a-Service’ from the Cloud, and businesses have control to pick and choose the exact suite of services they require. Here we list some popular enterprise-level Cloud services:
SAP Human Capital Management
Moving beyond the management of personnel, SAP’s Human Capital Management (HCM) service aims to facilitate recruitment, training, performance monitoring, and workforce planning. Resources such as eLearning, discussion forums, and presentations are stored in the Cloud to allow easy access for all staff.
CISCO have enhanced their initial offering of video conferencing with a wide range of file-sharing and presentation options. The ability to share and synchronise your personal calendar with others through a Cloud service means you’re connected and up-to-date with work no matter your location.
Microsoft Office 365
Office 365 is to Cloud subscribers what Microsoft Office is to desktop users. In addition to regular features like Word and Excel, Office 365 provides storage space and email services, among others. Social networking functions are also available.
Adobe Creative Suite
Adobe’s Creative Cloud gives subscribers online access to its full suite of desktop and mobile apps. Since the software behind the various tools is maintained centrally in the Cloud, Adobe customers automatically and seamlessly receive the latest updates without having to install anything on their local computers.
Slightly different from the previous examples, Zendesk is a Cloud-based enterprise that builds specific software for companies to manage their customer relationships. Their products can help resolve customer support tickets, create targeted campaigns and client engagement, and analyse customers’ entire experience.
When we talk about the Cloud it can usually be broken down into three main parts:
- Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) – comparable to traditional hardware equipment;
- Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) – the operating system (e.g. Microsoft Windows or Apple’s iOS) on top of which applications run; and,
- Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) – the applications themselves, such as those examples given above.
In each of these categories, one of the main advantages the Cloud has over desktop computing is that the most advanced security updates can be rolled out almost instantly.
Concerns regarding data protection and hacking are being addressed by Cloud providers in an efficient and mission-critical manner that were unimaginable a decade ago. As internet connectivity and Cloud-hosting data centres become indispensable, we are moving to a world where ICT, and the Cloud in particular, offers us Everything-as-a-Service.