In a nutshell, the Cloud is a collection of massive computers, sometimes called server farms, that we connect to via the Internet. Where once we saved our files on a desktop computer (the hardware) and ran programmes on that computer’s operating system (the software), Cloud computing means we now just need a device to connect to the internet to carry out an array of applications.
The device could be a smartphone, a tablet, a laptop, or a traditional desktop computer. And it is hardly an understatement to say the applications available to us now are endless.
Essential business functions such as HR, finance, training, and planning can be supported and run from the Cloud. This is in addition to the established computing applications such as file storage and data processing.
So, how has Cloud use risen at such speed and become central to modern enterprises? And what can companies learn from this new entity and its agile structure?
Let’s take one question at a time and begin with a researcher called Gordon Moore.
In 1965, Moore predicted that the number of transistors on a circuit board (essentially, computer chips) would double every two years. Ten years later, his Intel colleague David House expanded Moore’s Law and said chip performance would double every 18 months. While not an exact law, this projection has been proven correct and computers have become faster and more powerful at an almost exponential rate – while becoming much cheaper in relative terms. As a result, both computing hardware (such as server farms) and networking equipment (the internet) have never been more accessible or economical to use. Hence, the rise of the Cloud.
But why has it become so important to businesses and what can they learn from its success? The answer to both questions can be seen in the natural agility of the Cloud: it is highly scalable, uses the latest technology, is cost-effective, and implements change as a matter of form. It is, in effect, what many companies aspire to be.
Benefits of Cloud
Let’s look a little closer at some of the key features of the Cloud and how companies can align with their benefits:
Companies purchase only what resources they need, in terms of storage space for example, but can rapidly scale up as required. In addition, the Cloud can establish new computing infrastructure in a matter of hours, whereas it may take days to set up the same physical machines on-site.
→ Company empowerment: Expand products and services within minimum disruption.
Rather than sending out updates to individual nodes, the Cloud centrally manages and upgrades software and other company in real-time. As with Moore’s Law and consistent improvement in computing performance, a base in the Cloud ensures companies are always up-to-date.
→ Company empowerment: Awareness of latest industry trends and opportunity to enter new markets.
The structure of the Cloud is such that companies do not have to purchase computing resources – they take out a lease on them instead. Thus, there is no up-front investment and no need for dedicated on-site personnel to manage the IT department. Similarly, the Cloud offers true pay-as-you-go pricing and companies can tailor their services package to individual needs.
→ Company empowerment: Reduce initial capital investment and operating costs.
Addressing Cloud Challenges
Aligning your company with the Cloud and its inherent responsive structure has the advantages outlined above, but there are challenges that must be addressed. The most obvious of these is data security – at a time of increasing cyber-attacks, will your data be safe in a remote server? As mentioned above, Cloud providers use the latest technologies available; in the case of reassuring customers, their very survival depends on it. As a result, their security policies have moved ahead of stand-alone infrastructures in many cases, with the latter now becoming an easier focal point for attacks. Cloud providers also have more control over employees and customers, meaning less vulnerability to breaches. One lesson here for companies is that trust in personnel, their capabilities and their technology know-how is paramount.
Another issue when using the Cloud is the cost and speed of access – network bandwidth is not free and how much time will it take to connect to data in a remote server? Again, we consider Moore’s Law: while bandwidth must be paid for, it is getting relatively cheaper all the time and considerably faster as network infrastructure and personnel devices improve in efficiency. This issue also presents companies with an opportunity to ask several big questions about their data. Most companies overestimate the amount of useful data they have, so moving to the Cloud allows them to prioritize their data and consider the bigger issue of how to keep it uniform and accessible as it moves across their network.
Where to start
Companies used to implement Cloud resources mainly for financial and technological reasons. Now however, the Cloud and its huge growth over the past decade can additionally provide a template for companies looking to inject fresh-thinking and innovation into their business. For those looking to incorporate Cloud into their business, perhaps the first question to ask is what are your current challenges and opportunities, and how could the Cloud’s structure help address them? From there, the business case can be built for adopting a Cloud approach, in technological, financial, and emulation senses.
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