Cloud Computing Services
Why you need the cloud
When it comes to you or your small business, you might ask, why would I need to use ‘the cloud’? From a regular computer backup, to hosting your first website, to managing transactions for your new startup, a scalable cloud solution might be just what you need. In example, let’s start with an average user who does not own a business but is looking into purchasing a cloud solution. They would most likely be looking for software as a service, or SaaS. These are solutions that can easily be accessed and used via a web browser, to perform a function that could not usually be done on the user’s PC. This could be something as simple a cloud storage like Google Drive or Dropbox or another disk backup service, to blog software like Wordpress or online productivity software like Microsoft Office 365. A common application between all of these is the ability to share and collaborate files with others easily, which can be especially useful when a user does not meet the PC requirements to run the software, has too limited internet bandwidth to host the data from their end, or would like to avoid the security risks associated with peer-to-peer file sharing.
Software as a service
Software as a service can also be especially useful for small or startup businesses. This expands the scope to functions such as transaction processing, accounting, internal communication and scheduling, and managing your online presence. SaaS can help create your online storefront for you, handle the automation of advertisement and marketing, and manage multiple social media accounts from a single dashboard. While a business may end up paying for multiple SaaS licenses to meet various needs, these services are usually scalable and will cost no more than what you need them for. Software as a service will become a less viable solution as functionality needs increase however, and eventually a business may find itself needing more in terms of customizability and management of data. This is where a business may want to consider either the traditional approach, which involves a large investment to purchase server hardware and warehousing, and the hiring or contract of IT staff and software developers, or a cloud solution such as platform as a service (PaaS) or infrastructure as a service (IaaS).
Platform as a service
Platform as a service provides a framework environment for software developers to deploy code. Amazon AWS, Microsoft Azure, Oracle Cloud, and Google App Engine all offer PaaS for various programming languages. These cloud solutions are especially popular for markup languages and databases, such as HTML or XML, but also countless other generally high-level languages. As convenient as it may be to not have to purchase or maintain any of the server hardware or IT staff on site, a growing large business may still want their own hardware to be able to keep their software up to date, and confidential data on their local network. Communication with a cloud service provider may be difficult, and their network administrator might not approve an update to the environment that you are using that your developers have requested. In order to have control of the machines you rent on the cloud, you will need infrastructure as a service (IaaS).
Infrastructure as a service
Infrastructure as a Service is essentially a data center on demand, giving your company almost full control over the allotted virtual hardware. These solutions are often accessed via You are able to easily select and scale to the hardware you need, without the needs for high speed and redundant internet, redundant power supply, air conditioning and fire suppression, and staffing that an on site data center would entail. While SaaS and PaaS may host many clients from a single machine, with IaaS you get full control of the hardware you rent, in addition to the added bonus of ample redundancy that comes with any cloud computing service. In fact, because the cloud service provider only needs one large facility with all redundancies in place, they are able to cost effectively mirror your data across multiple servers with identical hardware. IaaS can actually be cheaper than SaaS or PaaS, because as with most cloud services, you only pay for the resources you consume, and IaaS solutions are often more lightweight than their alternatives. IaaS solutions are ideal for a rapidly growing business that needs a cheap and fast way to manage their data that will be able to scale as they go.
Other notable cloud computing services include, but are not limited to gaming and blockchain networks, or blockchain as a service (BaaS). These new technologies emerging to the market rely heavily on the ever increasing supply of advanced graphics processing hardware rather than conventional CPU driven tasks. Cloud gaming services can provide a monthly subscription for high definition entertainment at prices much cheaper than purchasing dedicated entertainment hardware, but are heavily limited by the bandwidth allowed by an ISP. A decade ago, the bandwidth required to stream this kind of content would have likely been as pricey as a high end PC, but while upstream bandwidth continue to be the bottleneck, depending on geographic location and availability, a cloud gaming service may be a preferable alternative. Blockchain networks utilize the same type of graphics hardware that a cloud service can readily provide to run a decentralized system that excels at tracking specific entities. They are extremely secure and are often used to process units as currency, but have dozens of other applications for experimental businesses, including the tracking of merchandise and supply chain management.
Providers, Pricing, Pros and Cons
There are many options when it comes to choosing a cloud computing service for your or your business. Most providers even offer free options, either up to a certain amount of storage or processing, or in Amazon’s case, for the first year. Pricing may be similar, ranging hugely anywhere from $5-10/month and scaling with the number of users, subscribers, servers, or other unit of measure. However, the features and services offered by different providers can often be a deciding factor. IBM Cloud and Amazon AWS are known to be highly customizable, while Rackspace Cloud is said to have excellent customer support. Digital Ocean and Google Cloud have simple and user friendly interfaces that can make scaling up your service to meet your needs just a button click away.
Cloud computing services are the go-to for any business seeking an easier and cheaper approach to their data management, and can help in many ways to bolster their online presence. There are even well priced and useful options for average people who do not own a business, and those few who like to host their own services and websites without the need to use their home network. Thanks to the increasing popularity and use of these services, ISPs are encouraged to offer more competitive prices and bandwidth options to both commercial and residential customers. Additionally, the increased efficiency of processing data from single larger facilities and the centralization of hardware leads to more redundancies, cheaper prices, and may have environmental benefits as well. This is because some of the inefficiency that comes with client side processing, including purchase of hardware that goes unused, and the high power draw of high-end PCs, is mitigated by utilizing the cloud. The most important thing to consider before moving your data to the cloud is its safety and security. You offload not only your infrastructure, but also your responsibility to keep your and your customer’s potentially confidential data safe. Always consider the possibility of a breach of data, temporary loss of service, and possibly international law before investing in a cloud computing solution.