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What is the Cloud

19th May 2022
‘It’s in the Cloud,’ they say. But what is ‘the Cloud’? Are my photos, documents and passwords floating somewhere above my head in a technological nimbostratus? And what was wrong with the old way of computing? And relax... In this short article, we’ll answer these questions, and some other commonly asked questions about the Cloud, and we’ll also explain how SMEs could save an average of 36% on IT costs, if they switched over to the Cloud. If you find the article helpful, please give it a share, and if you’d like to find out how the Cloud could transform your business, give us a call on 0800 955 8041 to speak directly to one of our team of Cloud specialists.

What is the Cloud?

Without complicating things too much - the Cloud is the internet.

We could sound clever and say - ‘It’s a global network of external servers that manage and process your data’ – but essentially, it’s the internet.

What’s all the fuss about the Cloud then?

Simply put, the Cloud is a better way of using the internet.

It’s about taking the physical server and all the hardware and software associated with it, onto the internet.

Once in the Cloud (on the internet), all the data and the services your server used to provide, can be accessed via most modern devices (as long as you have WIFI) anywhere in the world.

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Why did we need the Cloud?

If you were running a small business ‘back in the day’ and wanted to manage your own IT network, things got expensive.

Firstly, you’d need a server.

If you had a small office, 3 or 4 staff, and not a huge customer base - depending on your budget and IT requirements, you’d pay around £400 - £900 for an entry-level server.

At the top of the SME scale, you’d expect to pay anything from £4000 - £10,000 and upwards for a high-end tower or rack server.

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‘Not too bad,’ I hear you say – ‘a business needs to invest once in a while.’ But, on top of the initial outlay for the server, you’d need to factor in:

  • Servicing and managing costs
  • Data backup
  • Cyber security
  • Ongoing customer support
  • Extra (ventilated or possibly air-conditioned) space needed to house the server.

OK, it wasn’t all bad. Businesses and organisations functioned and some still function using physical servers, so what else does the Cloud have to offer over on-premise servers and systems?

Storage for a start…

Yes, servers are pretty good storage solutions, particularly if you run a small business with a limited amount of data. But what about as your business grows, and the amount of data you hold grows with it?

More data means bigger servers, and bigger servers require more space, and eventually, your on-premise server becomes like a tenant that isn’t paying rent.

In the Cloud however, you get to store all the data you want, which you can access at any time, and you have no reason to extend the size of your office.

In fact… many of the businesses that have made the move into the Cloud, have got rid of their office entirely, as all the data they need is simple to access from anywhere, and on pretty much any modern device.

And that’s not all they get..

Another plus for these ‘savvy’ companies that migrated their IT networks to the Cloud, is that they’re now paid-up members to the worlds largest library of virtual software, getting rid of the need to keep building computing components for each new project.

And…

Because this virtual software, such as Microsoft 365, Windows Virtual Desktop and Microsoft Intune etc., are on a pay-as-you-use basis, companies now in the Cloud, are finding it much easier and more cost-efficient to compete on an equal footing, with much larger companies.

What is a Cloud Service Provider?

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So, you’ve decided to migrate to the Cloud, but to do that, it is best to employ a Cloud Service Provider (CSP). A Cloud Service Provider is a third-party company that provides the Cloud service model best suited to your needs, such as:

IaaS (Infrastructure As A Service): A Cloud-based service for companies that want their IT infrastructure handled externally. Typically pay-as-you-go, IaaS is the ideal solution for businesses whose data storage and other IT requirements fluctuate throughout the year.

• SaaS (Software As A Service): A way of getting your software, such as Office 365, Gmail or Hotmail, via an application rather than downloading it. One of the main advantages of the SaaS model for the smaller business, is that customers pay a lot less for software, making it easier to compete with larger businesses.

• PaaS (Platform As A Service): A service that allows customers to develop, test, deploy and manage everything, from simple apps to enterprise applications, whilst the Cloud Provider handles software licenses and app infrastructure.

Think of your Cloud Service Provider like your gas or electricity company – you could try to produce your own gas or generate your own electricity, but all things considered, some things are better left to people in the know.

So, how do you choose a good Cloud Service Provider?

Choosing your CSP is a big decision. After all, this is the company that you’re trusting to look after all your company applications and data. So, before going ahead with the first CSP you find on the internet, here are a few questions you might like to ask.

• What are their finances like? – In other words, have they got a good financial track record, and the financial stability to operate successfully over a long period of time?

• What are they like with organisation, governance, planning and risk management? – You need a CSP that has a good management structure with risk management policies in place, and a formal process of assessing third-party service providers and vendors.

• Can you trust them? – Before signing up, do some background checks on your potential CSP. Look at its reviews and reputation, who its partners are, and how much experience they have with providing Cloud services.

• Do they understand your business? – Try to choose a CSP that already provides other companies in your sector with Cloud services. This’ll mean they have an insiders view of what you want your new Cloud infrastructure to achieve.

• Do they provide performance reports? – Your chosen CSP should be able to provide genuine performance reports from past jobs.

• Do they monitor services? – A good CSP will constantly monitor your Cloud services, keeping an eye on changes that may impact your business.

• Is their billing automated? – This is so you can monitor the resources you’re using and what they cost at any point. You might also want to ensure your CSP has good support for billing related issues. **

• Do they make it easy to deploy, manage and upgrade services? – This is about making yours and your teams lives simpler and more effective for your business.

• What are their security practices? – This is one of the most important questions to ask, and covers things such as security infrastructure, security policies, data backup, and even physical security at their HQ.

And finally… how can the Cloud help SMEs save on average, 36% on IT services? The main reason SMEs save by getting into the Cloud, is that they no longer have to spend money on services they’re not using.

Imagine you run a florist or a school uniform shop – your takings and customer numbers are going to differ depending on the time of year. What happens to all that storage when things go quiet?

Answer: Nothing. You just continue paying for something you’re not using.

With the Cloud however, you only pay for the services and storage you require. So, if you have a quiet period, you pay very little and sometimes nothing at all. But, when it gets busier, the Cloud automatically provides the level of service you need to see you through, and you only pay for what you use.

According to hostingtribunal.com:

‘The average savings from Cloud migration come to around 15% on all IT spending. Small and medium businesses benefit the most, as they spend 36% less money on IT that way.’

And…breathe

The Cloud is the future – there’s no getting away from it.

The Cloud has made computing inside and outside the workplace far more flexible, accessible and cost-efficient. It’s also given SMEs the scalability to grow faster and beyond expectations.

A Global Phenomenon

With the global Cloud Computing Market set to exceed $330 billion this year, and 80% of companies expected to migrate to the Cloud by 2025, the time for doubting is running out.

So, if you’ve thought about the Cloud or are keen to get in but not sure how to go about it, contact JamCrackers for your FREE Cloud Consultation.

We have all the technical know-how to answer any question you might have, and to find the perfect Cloud solution for your business.