When people refer to “the cloud” nowadays it’s usually not the mass of condensed water vapor floating in the atmosphere they are talking about, but the cloud as if refers to cloud computing. Gartner reported earlier this year that the worldwide public cloud services market is expected to grow 18% in 2017 and ultimately total $246.8 billion. Additionally, a survey conducted by Clutch showed that nearly 70% of U.S. businesses said they were planning on increasing their spending on cloud computing in 2017. Needless to say, “the cloud” is here to stay.

But What is “the Cloud”?

It may not be news to you that more and more companies are switching over to “the cloud”, but what is it? In order to fully understand its benefits, this post will give you a beginner’s guide to the cloud and what essentially is so good about it.

How Did the Cloud Get Its Name?

Business Insider reported last year that one of the earliest uses of the term was in a diagram from US Patent 5,485,455, “Network having secure fast packet switching and guaranteed quality of service,” that was filed in January 1994. The figure of the diagram depicts the network model as a cloud-shaped figure. While the authors of the patent didn’t mean to illustrate the network as a cloud, that is how it essentially got its name.

Nevertheless, the term didn’t grow in popularity until Amazon Web Services launched Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2) in 2006. After that, many other companies followed their way by launching software (Salesforce), storage (DropBox), and combinations of the two (Microsoft Office 365). By now, 2017, the term “the cloud” is virtually everywhere.

What is Cloud Computing?

Merriam Webster defines cloud computing as:

“the practice of storing regularly used computer data on multiple servers that can be accessed through the Internet”

Ultimately, it means that you rely on sharing computing resources rather than having your own local servers or personal devices to manage applications. Thus, companies who engage in cloud services, lease their digital assets and their employees essentially don’t know the location of the resources they are using. You can say these resources are simply “in the cloud” somewhere.

Three Types of Cloud Service Models

Cloud computing services is sold in three main models; Software as a Service (SaaS), Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS), and Platform as a Service (PaaS).

  • Software as a Service (SaaS): This method of delivering software offers businesses access to functions remotely via a Web-based service and at a much lower cost than licensed applications. Most businesses offers SaaS via a monthly fee and clients don’t have to invest in additional hardware or worry about set-up or maintenance.
  • Platform as a Service (PaaS): With this method, the entire platform is delivered as a service. This means that you would outsource your entire platform instead of having your own employees manage your hardware and software.
  • Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS): This method delivers the entire infrastructure as a service. Your company would essentially outsource the infrastructure but only pay for the resources you end up using.

While the three methods all differ from each other, they also share some similarities:

  1. You rent services instead of purchasing them, which means that IT becomes an operating expense rather than capital
  2. The platform vendors are responsible for all the maintenance, admin, troubleshooting, backup etc.
  3. Platform vendors are easy and flexible in customizing the services to you

Benefits of the Cloud

Related: 5 Top Benefits of Cloud Technology

The reason the cloud has gained so much traction in the past decade is because of all the benefits it provides. Forbes recently listed the following two benefits of the cloud:

  • Reliability: hardware and software redundancy protect you from loss of data
  • Integration: cloud services can integrate with other service systems such as project management, email and marketing, apps and social media

IBM’s dedicated Cloud page on their website lists flexibility, efficiency and strategic value as benefits of the cloud. Cloud computing offers the ability to scale, customization, and remote access via the Internet. Moreover, the cloud removes underlying infrastructure and maintenance costs. IBM also claims that “cloud services give enterprises a competitive advantage by providing the most innovative technology available”.

Related: Cloud Software – The Competitive Advantage

Some of the main benefits that our cloud based software clients mention are the following:

  • 24/7 support
  • Utility based
  • Easy and agile deployment
  • Frees up internal resources
  • Lower capital expenditure
  • Highly automated

We would love to hear what your opinions are on the cloud. Have you or do you plan on investing in cloud technology in 2017? What benefits does the cloud offer your business? Do you see any drawbacks with the cloud?

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