cloud computing technologies
 

Benefits of Leveraging Cloud-Based Computing Technologies & Solutions: The SME Perspective


What is cloud computing

Cloud computing is the practice of using network of remote computing infrastructures (e.g. computer servers, virtualization technologies, storage systems & network devices) hosted on the Internet to store, manage, and process data for end users as against using local server or personal computer to achieve same. Cloud computing uses the concept of on-demand availability of remote computer system resources, especially data storage and computing power, without direct active management by local users.

Every organization irrespective of the industry or sector that it plays in require storing, processing and retrieval of business records/data or other information in a computer system in the course of doing business. As such, it is required to have computing devices (e.g. desktop computers, laptops, tablets, smartphones, servers, network devices, mainframe, etc.). Small and medium scale (SMEs) establishments are not exempted. Depending on the volume of data to be stored, retrieved and processed, there may be need for an organization to set up a data center, which can be in the form of a small IT server room to a standard tier 2 or 3 data center hosting high-end computing equipment from established original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) like IBM, Oracle, Intel, HP, Dell/EMC, Cisco, Checkpoint, Symantec, Juniper, etc. It also requires racks and environmental control and fire suppression equipment to protect the equipment from environmental hazards in addition to significant Investments in power supply equipment to ensure uninterrupted power.

Would you imagine where as an organization or SME starting out and trying to grow a business, minimize operating cost (for which IT cost is a major cost component) and at the same time remain profitable? You want to use technology solutions to unlock the potentials of your business operations and processes for high performance/yield, ensure productivity of your workforce without the cost breaking your bank account or having significant impact on your bottom-line? Your choices are slim as you will at some point consider leveraging cloud technologies where you can have access to computing technologies/solutions without having to deploy any within your premises. Cloud computing give you access to marmot of solutions, applications and technologies that will enable you process, store and retrieve your business data at any time, from anywhere while also ensuring that they are protected from unauthorized access or tampering.

Some of the popular Cloud Service Providers available are Microsoft Azure, Amazon Web Service (AWS), Google Cloud, etc. Cloud computing technologies can be used either as infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS), platform-as-a-service (PaaS) or Software-as-a-service (SaaS).

Infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS):

Under IaaS, organization subscribe to shared IT infrastructures such as servers (physical or virtualized), network infrastructures (switches, routers, & firewalls) or storage systems hosted in a cloud service provider’s data center such as Azure, AWS, Google data centers. Here, infrastructures are leased or provisioned on a pay-as-you-use (PAYU) or on-demand basis, giving organizations and SMEs the flexibility to only deploy infrastructure that they need at the time. You do not need to deploy any computing equipment on your business premises other than PCs (workstations), LAN and internet connectivity through which you can access your provisioned infrastructures in the cloud.

Platform-as-a-service (PaaS):

Under PaaS, organization access platforms like operating systems (Windows, UNIX, LINUX, IOS), databases (MSSQL, MySQL, Oracle), Development Environment (DevOps tools), Web servers (Apache, TomCat, IIS) to host their applications without having to put anything on premise or worry about provisioning the services. SMEs can start developing and deploying their apps as quickly as possible given that all tools are already provisioned in the cloud platform for use. Of course, there is room for on-demand or pay-as-you-use service. This will save the business owner the headache or resource of having to purchase those application or system software licenses, which oftentimes are expensive but also accords them the opportunity to pay for platforms or tools that they need or use on demand.

Software-as-a-service (SaaS):

SaaS provides the business owner the flexibility of using avalanche of end-user software or applications available in cloud providers’ software store. For example, access to various Microsoft applications in their Office 365 platform (MS Office applications -Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Access, Frontpage, Outlook, Visio, etc.), collaboration tools such as Microsoft Team (for chat and conferencing), Skype for Business, Yammer (MS Social Media platform); Workflow tools such as MS SharePoint; Customer Relationship Management (CRM) tool like MS Dynamics 365 CRM; Cloud storage platform like OneDrive; Development Tool like MSDN, GitHub, Microsoft Azure DevOps, among other. For Google platform, software such as Gmail, GoogleDrive, Google Cloud APIs (e.g. Google Map, Firebase, OAUTH2, Recaptcha, 2FA), Google Developer, Google Webmaster tool, etc.

In all, organizations, SMEs and business owners enjoys the flexibility of paying for infrastructures, platforms or software/applications based on need or as they use them rather than deploying redundant equipment on premise.

Here are some of the benefits and gains of leveraging cloud-based technologies and solutions.

1. Improve business performance and workforce productivity:

With lots of data analytics, business intelligence, data processing tools/applications in abundance on cloud platforms as SaaS or PaaS, Organizations and SMEs will have the opportunity to efficiently deploy tools to make quicker and informed business decisions, improve turnaround time for business/service delivery, process large data/transactions faster, improve internal processes and employee productivity. These tools are readily available for organizations who need them while the cloud service providers have put necessary controls in place to ensure confidentiality, integrity and availability of subscriber business data.

2. Reduction in IT Cost:

With on-demand or pay-as-you-use (PAYU) billing model adopted by most cloud service providers, it will be cheaper, and more cost effective to use cloud-based technologies than deploy such technologies on premise especially for SMEs who may not have economies of scale to their advantage. This might be different for large corporations with larger computer networks and high computing demands who can leverage on economies of scale even though records have also shown that opting for cloud-based solutions is cheaper and more beneficial than managing such service on premise. Cloud-based solutions and technologies obviously saves organization of having to purchase IT equipment, pay huge technical support cost and also acquire expensive user licenses that may not be put to effective use, result in huge savings in IT cost (deployment and running cost). Where necessary, organization could consider hybrid cloud deployment architecture where mission critical applications with high risk and impact of data breach are deployed on premise and other ancillary solutions deployed in the cloud while connectivity are maintained between cloud and on-premise infrastructures.

3. Faster Deployment of Solutions:

Cloud-based technologies provides opportunity to deploy business solutions (applications and services) faster, reach target customers and other stakeholders quicker. It gives more viable means of getting to the market in faster and in good time before competitors do. This is most applicable in DevOps and application platforms-as-a-service solutions where cloud services are leveraged to development, test, deploy and manage web applications. Time, effort and resources are saved during development my leveraging development solutions (component reuse, functions and interface integration) available for builders to plug into for faster development.

These are the Powers of Cloud computing technologies.

 

Nwabueze Ohia

(Tech Blogger, Author & Cyber Security Consultant)

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