Cloud Computing

It's all the buzz at the moment. So what is Cloud Computing and how would you use it in your business.

The term 'cloud computing' describes computing services, hosted in an off-premises datacentre, that are available to a consumer on an ad-hoc basis via an internet connection.

When you subscribe to a cloud service you have access to the datacentre's infrastructure over a internet connection.

Think of cloud computing as renting a fully serviced apartment instead of buying your own home. Clearly there are advantages in terms of convenience, but there are obvious restrictions on how you can live and what you can alter.

For a business, cloud computing can stand in for (or replace) computing requirements or supplement existing IT infrastructure with a hybrid system.

The services offered can be divided into these categories...

  • Software-as-a-Service (SaaS), where the business subscribes to an application it can access over the Internet.
  • Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS), where a business can create its own custom applications for use within the company.
  • Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS), where the cloud service provides computing, such as dedicated servers, web hosting or storage that can be "rented out" by other companies.

The use of cloud computing services has recently grown exponentially with the some of the main players being Microsoft with 'Azure', Amazon with 'Amazon Web Services (AWS)', Google and Rackspace.

So, what can you do with cloud computing?

  • Store, and share your data. Examples include Microsoft OneDrive, DropBox and Google Storage.
  • Back up your data to the cloud.
  • Host your public corporate web site, eCommerce business or intranet
  • Make use of cloud applications such as Microsoft Office 365
  • Have your own dedicated and managed remote server
  • Host a custom solution to be available to the business, customers or the public

Pros

  • Lower upfront costs and reduced infrastructure costs.
  • Reduced IT support costs. The provider is responsible for managing and maintaining their infrastructure
  • Only pay for what you use. Billing units (computing units) are typically charged on a per hour basis.
  • Easy to grow your applications. Add services if and when required. Conversely remove services when their no longer needed.
  • Scale up or down on demand. For example a web site can be configured to auto-scale as load increases or decreases.
  • Redundancy. Services can be configured for local or multi region redundancy or fail-over.
  • Managed Provisioning. You can create a new service, such as a web site from a template, storage account or virtual machine in just a few minutes.
  • Built in Logging and Reporting.
  • Access to the latest technologies, hardware and software versions.
  • Reliablity. Everything managed under SLAs.
  • Fully managed gateway and internal security.
  • Overall environmental benefit (lower carbon emissions) of many users efficiently sharing large systems.

Cons

  • Potentially higher long term ongoing operating costs.
  • Absolute dependency on the chosen service provider.
  • Risk of being locked into proprietary or vendor-recommended systems.
  • Potential privacy and security risks of storing your data on the provider's system possibly at a foriegn datacentre?
  • Dependency on a reliable Internet connection.

Object Media is a Microsoft Partner. We can consult on, initiate and manage Microsoft Azure cloud computing requirements for your organisation.