You hear about it every day, but do you really know what cloud computing is? Do you know what providers are talking about when they sell ‘Software as a Service’?
Let us explain.
Forget your local computer. Forget on-site servers. The cloud is all about storing and accessing data and programs over the internet. The cloud is (technically) a physical thing, but it is quite literally, anywhere and everywhere.
Think about taking a photograph with your smartphone. Initially the image is physically kept on your phone’s storage but when you upload the image onto something like Dropbox, the image is now on the cloud.
You may have also heard the term SaaS in relation to cloud products. Software as a Service (SaaS) refers to a distribution model where applications are hosted by a service provider and made available to customers over the internet. Data is kept on one or more physical machines, but the end user doesn’t need to maintain the hardware or even the software environment.
By delivering services to users over the cloud (a.k.a. the internet), providers of cloud technology do away with the need for users to have a physical product. Previously, customers purchased new software in a physical form and installed it onto their computer via a disk. This is not the case for cloud products.
Microsoft on the cloud
Microsoft’s latest cloud offering, Office 365, is a cloud-based version of the familiar productivity suite. Among its many offerings, Office 365 provides users with access to Microsoft Office over the internet. There is no need to purchase a physical product and install it, instead users pay an ongoing yearly subscription for continued access to the latest version of the software.
There are many benefits to using the cloud. Some of these include:
- Automatic updates: users are always running the latest versions of software
- Compatibility: all users have the same version of software
- Easier collaboration: between co-workers, even those working remotely
- Global accessibility
- Easier administration: critical functions like file storage, disaster recovery and backup are run by cloud providers
- Greater efficiency: removes the need to manage on-premise servers and the issues that arise when these servers no longer meet demand
- Economies of scale: Use as much as you need
- Pay as you go: Pay for as much as you need and avoid the large outlay involved in the upfront purchase of new software or servers
The great benefit of the cloud is that it is available for any business no matter its size or budget. Given the benefits and the availability, every office should utilise cloud technology as a way to gain a competitive edge and future-proof their business.