The cloud is one of the most widely-adopted technologies in recent memory, despite existing in its current form for a relatively short time. The concept of treating software as a service didn’t exist until the late 90s, and it wasn’t until Web 2.0 was in full swing that the thought of decentralized, browser-hosted applications became realistic.
The transition to the cloud has been a smooth one, going almost unnoticed by many users. A future in which nearly every workspace is virtual and nearly all data storage is decentralized may not be very far away; experts are predicting steady growth in this area in the years ahead. Wikibon predicts that enterprise cloud spending will increase by 16% annually between 2016 and 2026.
Gartner predicted that IT spending would spike from $209 to $247 billion in 2017, and will comprise more than half of all money spent on IT outsourcing by 2020.
Cloud computing has evolved beyond any single solution, and now exists as a fusion of many well-known technologies and services. In order to understand how your business can put the cloud to work, however, you should first learn more about what exactly the cloud is and how it creates such incredible value.
The Cloud: An Introduction
At its core, the cloud is all about empowering you through decentralization. Traditionally, any application you wished to use on your devices had to be stored locally. MP3 players had to be manually loaded from a computer; applications like Microsoft Office, Adobe Photoshop, or any game had to be installed from a disc. Transferring a file involved sending it via email or uploading it to a storage device to be physically carried between computers.
The cloud turns that notion on its head. When you work in the cloud, your computer functions as a window into a vast digital landscape. Rather than store files locally, eating up storage space, it’s simple to upload them into a cloud storage folder, from which they can be accessed at any time from any device. Your data and applications no longer live on your computer; it’s merely a terminal on which you can access them.
Is cloud computing secure?
That’s not to say the cloud isn’t secure. Your data isn’t floating around in the air like an actual cloud. It has a distinct physical home, somewhere in a data center run by the cloud service of your choice. In these data centers, servers process and store staggering amounts of data, using a mixture of physical security and encryption to keep it safe for users like you. Data is constantly shuffled between servers to more efficiently utilize available space.
This decentralization offers unparalleled stability and security; if one server breaks down, there are dozens or hundreds of redundancies to prevent the loss of your data.
Data storage is the most intuitive and widely-known cloud function, but the cloud has found its way into almost every piece of consumer software on the market.
The Cloud in Action: SaaS & Virtualization
Cloud computing goes hand in hand with several very closely related solutions. You’ve likely heard the term “software as a service” at some point. The new model for software sales in inextricably linked to cloud computing. SaaS involved users (both individuals and enterprises) paying to access online software applications. This stands in stark contrast to the old model of purchasing perpetual software licenses for static software.
You probably remember purchasing the Microsoft Office suite on a set of discs just a few years ago. As one of the most popular software offerings ever, the Office suite received major upgrades every few years, but retained its core function as the years passed.
Recently, Microsoft opted to begin phasing out the old Office model for Office 365, a hosted version of the software that could be purchased, downloaded, and regularly updated for a subscription fee. Updates and patches allow Office 365 to mature without aging, and the cloud-based nature of many of its features have allowed for seamless integration between programs.
Other companies are following the same model in different industries. Adobe’s Creative Cloud is a subscription-based suite featuring a wide offering of creative programs, and Valve’s Steam application has all but done away with buying computer games in disc form.
Even Netflix is now an example of software as a service, replacing their archaic mail order system with subscription-based streaming. Cloud-based applications come in many shapes and sizes and serve various business functions.
All of this is made possible by virtualization, a phenomenon you’re less likely to have heard of. Virtualization is the process of running multiple independent systems and applications on one piece of hardware. Small businesses often don’t work with enough data to occupy an entire server, meaning that hosting their data and applications locally can lead to wasting money on hardware and maintenance.
Visualize it like this: a server is a large, empty building with air conditioning, pre-installed lighting, and a full-time maintenance staff. If your business moves in, it will have everything it could possibly need, but it will only use a small portion of the building’s resources despite paying for all of them. If other businesses move in and set up shop, however, building use will become progressively more efficient until it reaches capacity.
While virtualization has been around for a while now both conceptually and practically, cloud computing is making it more effective than ever, especially for smaller businesses.
Your Transition to the Cloud
So how can your business adopt cloud computing, and what kinds of benefits can you expect to see?
The first step towards cloud adoption is deciding what kind of cloud strategy you want to pursue.
Speaking with a professional IT consultant about what functions of your business would do well when paired with cloud services is a key first step.
Successful cloud adoption is all about keeping an open mind. If you’ve spent the last 20+ years using traditional workflows, the thought of embracing a truly collaborative virtual workspace like Google Drive may seem new and a bit intimidating. Commitment to cloud adoption will bear results, but patience and faith in the process is key.
Cloud adoption will have a major effect on your business’s culture, empowering employees to work from anywhere on a wide variety of devices. Bring-your-own-device (BYOD) policies will become almost essential; 60% of American businesses currently allow employees to work at least partially from a personal device.
As employees adjust to working from their own devices, you also have the option to allow remote work. This expands your business functions far outside the confines of your brick and mortar office. Software and infrastructure as a service will lift the burden of periodic hardware and software updates and bring stability to your IT budget.
Cloud Services by 3Points
Cloud services cover a wide variety of potential solutions that can deliver massive value to your business. But cloud adoption is a major commitment. If you think your business is ready to take that next step and begin the process of migration to the cloud, the 3Points team is standing by to help.
Our commitment to Chicagoland drives us to help every one of our clients reach their full potential. Our IT consulting and state-of-the-industry cloud services will give your business the tools it needs to grow into the future. If you’re interested in learning more, just reach out today – one non-binding conversation could revolutionize the way your business operates.