The internet and business have both been through some dramatic changes over the course of the last decade or so. Social media has given consumers a voice, taking the power from the corporate space and placing it firmly in the hands of the customer. Faster internet connections and mobile devices mean that we can now consume a variety of multimedia content from our sitting rooms and whilst on the go.
For the talented entrepreneur, there now exists huge opportunity to carve out a substantial niche in the business world. But with increased opportunity comes more competition, so it’s up to the individual to ensure that the business performs at its peak right from the start. In years gone by, access to high-end technology was really only for the big players, but this is something that has changed, thanks largely to the cloud.
Cloud Takes Off
Cloud computing is nothing new, it’s actually been around for many years. However, it’s only within the last couple that it’s captured the imagination of the public and begun to take off and gain traction in industry. Whilst many dismissed cloud as nothing more than a techie buzz word a couple of years ago, this is clearly not the case and the cloud can now be found in many businesses and indeed also has its uses for consumers.
Initially, there were many doubts surrounding security and the cloud. This was to my mind slightly ridiculous, since robust security and backup processes are an area which many businesses fail in. In fact, a recent survey found that many companies fail to implement even the most basic security such as antivirus software and vulnerability scanning. With this in mind, it’s likely that the cloud is more secure than the majority of onsite set-ups.
Payment Model Offers Flexibility
The cloud offers a lot in terms of flexibility and scalability to the young hungry startup. Whilst in the past technology products often meant a huge amount on capital expenditure, this isn’t at all necessary when using cloud services. Payment models tend to be ‘pay monthly’, with no tied in contracts and businesses able to pay for what they need, as and when they need it.
When using cloud services such as hosted desktop, there’s no requirement to spend out on expensive, top-notch computers and software licenses either. Thin clients with no storage capability can be used as all of the applications and the data that they generate can be hosted in the cloud.
Just like any technology, the cloud can be difficult to understand to the layman, mostly due to the tech industry’s love affair with jargon. There are three main cloud models that you’re likely to come across when researching what’s available for business.
By far the most popular up until this year has been the SaaS model (Software-as-a-Service). This model is generally concerned with applications, as the name suggests. These are hosted by the cloud services company in a data center, which should be in the same country ideally, as different countries have various laws surrounding data. Data centers are made up of powerful server clusters which are protected by hardware and software firewalls and often, additional physical security that’s onsite. Data centers are usually always on ‘24/7’ and tend to have disaster recovery plans should the worst happen and there’s a fire, a malware attack, or if hardware fails. When the latter happens, often businesses don’t even notice any downtime on their systems, as data is simply rerouted to another part of the network.
Virtual Desktops and IaaS
Virtual desktops and other SaaS services are widely used in business and can be for as little as hosting your email account in the cloud (think Gmail and you will begin to understand how long cloud services have been around). However, such offerings can also be much more extensive, with many businesses choosing to host their entire CMS, CRM and accounting systems with their providers.
The second most popular cloud model is now gaining more traction in the market as the technology becomes increasingly trusted. This is IaaS (Infrastructure-as-a-Service) which as the name implies, means that a company can have all of their IT network infrastructure (aside from end user workstations) hosted in the cloud. Again, this is substantially cheaper than setting up a physical network at the business premises, with servers and email servers.
It can’t be stressed enough how much these technologies have to offer in terms of cash-saving benefits, flexibility and scalability. A startup need only pay for what it uses and needn’t spend huge amounts of cash on hardware and software, meaning that startup and running costs are significantly reduced.
The third, less used model is PaaS (Platform-as-a-Service) and this is used more as a developmental area than anything else. Developers can and do build and test their own applications in the cloud as well as run existing ones. This isn’t as popular a model as the other two, as not many businesses have the need for their own development and testing servers.
There are plenty of variations on all of these and it’s highly likely that you’ll come across other cloud offerings which can essentially be put into one of these main three categories. For example, Security-as-a-Service is one that I have come across reasonably often, but this can really be applied to the SaaS model as it’s likely that for the most part the security will come in the form of applications.
Hybrid, AWS, Choice …
The growing popularity of the cloud means that there is now a lot of choice on the market. Amazon Web Services are extremely popular, for example and some companies even have their own private cloud set up. This is often where you’ll see the word hybrid pop-up too. Hybrid is a mixture of public and private cloud and can be useful for those companies who need to ensure that data exists just within their own company network, behind the corporate firewall.
This can be mixed with public cloud, such as that offered by Amazon, depending on the needs of the business. Needless to say, there are ways in which the cloud can be set up to suit pretty much every type of business on the planet.
For the entrepreneur, the cloud offers a road into starting a business without too much in the way of cash. Couple this with modern growth hacking techniques and you can effectively do away with the large, Hollywood-movie-scale glitzy launch and grow a business quickly without a huge level of investment. The savvy entrepreneur is one that utilises the latest technologies with the latest techniques in order to achieve high growth and a sustainable business.
Kerry Butters is a technology writer from the UK and writes prolifically across all techie subjects for some of the world’s leading sites. Also a published author, Kerry writes today on behalf of Power Admin LLC, a US provider of server and file monitoring and remote desktop solutions.