There is a lot to talk about in cloud computing. We can't just say, "Well, cloud services are really just the use of remote servers over the internet to store, manage, and process your data." It's not that simple or that easy to describe, so let's discuss the service model portion of the cloud which is really how it directly interacts with small businesses and how they are run.
Before we get into talking about the service model, here is a quick review of what cloud services seek to improve.
Long ago, when most businesses never really had an option to utilize cloud computing services, we had "managed IT" which covered pretty much everything we needed at the time. Managed IT meant taking care of everything yourself, or outsourcing it to professional IT companies. Under this model, you had local servers that hosted data and users. You had a local network that tied everything into the server. You had to constantly monitor and maintain the physical hardware. And in the event that you needed to scale the business, your prior hardware typically needed to be upgraded.
This provided its own series of issues and limitations.
For one, it is expensive. Keeping on top of the never-ending tech industry improvements and software upgrades meant that you always needed quality hardware. Additionally, if you needed to scale your business, the limited resources of your server was usually the variable that kept you back in the dark ages.
The need for professional IT services became a reality unless you decided to perform the technical aspect on your own. This, however, is usually a bad idea even if you are capable, because it conflicts with the goals of your company and takes time away from your company objectives. It was also typically time-prohibitive and cost the company even more after experiencing downtime, upgrades, learning-curves, and other technical problems/concerns.
Cloud services are designed to mitigate all of these issues and at the same time, cost you less in the long-term. This is where the service model of cloud computing comes into play.
The biggest advantage is that your data is stored on off-site servers. This alone takes care of many problems. There is no need for expensive server hardware or IT maintenance of the server. Data security is not needed outside of the data center or what the SLA states and upgrades/software requirements don't contribute to any lost time.
Additionally, barriers of entry regarding initial IT expenditures are practically non-existent. In most cloud environments, you can scale your hardware quickly and easily and it's based off of what hardware you require. So basically, you are only paying for what you use at that given time.
There are a few varying cloud services that are well depicted in the visual above. As we mentioned before, an "on premises" service are those completely managed locally, typically by managed IT services from a local company. This is where you are in control of everything that is involved in your business's technology component. You will have a local server to maintain, storage devices, data backups, software, operating systems, and anything in between.
As it moves across, we get to Infrastructure as a service (IaaS) which accounts for a lot of the small business transitions into cloud services. As you can see, there is still a good amount of control from the business where they have to maintain their own software, platform, and Operating systems, however, the service absolves the responsibility of storage redundancy/backups, servers, hosting the data, and how to access that information.
Platform as a Service is typically geared toward IT developers who want to spend more time coding and testing their applications instead of worrying about their OS updates or security patches. This service is designed for the creation of software and it's testing/deployment or when multiple developers are working on the same task.
Finally, Software as a Service is a model that essentially takes care of everything. It is software completely online to be used as a specific, account-based service. One of the best examples would be Office365, which is a subscription platform that offers e-mail hosting and online Microsoft programs controlled entirely from a business account. That account can be scaled up or down depending on the amount of users in the company and requires no responsibility from the end-user to manage services.
Ultimately, the variations in cloud service level is directly related to the amount of control and maintenance required. The more control you have in certain areas of the company's technology, the more it will cost you long-term. It would be prudent to understand how migrating to IaaS could benefit your company or small business so you can realize the long-term cost savings of decreasing down time, upgrade costs, and instant scalability, only paying for what you need to at the time.
If you would like to learn more, ask our team at Cloud 9 Computing Group and we will be happy to assist with any additional questions.