Guide | Cloud Computing

Friday, May 11th, 2018

Quick-start Guide to Cloud Computing

In a world where keeping employees connected is so crucial to success, businesses must evaluate the efficiency of their IT environments.

The number of enterprises adopting cloud computing services into their strategy is continuing to grow with it estimated that 3 out of 4 organisations will be adopting a hybrid cloud strategy in 2018.

It’s an out-of-the-box solution but it’s slowly becoming the norm. But why do businesses turn to the cloud? What exactly is cloud technology? What are the advantages of cloud computing? What are the risks of cloud computing?

This guide covers cloud computing basics, how it’s used in business and what you need to consider before moving to cloud computing. 

What is Cloud Computing in Simple Terms?

In the easiest terms, cloud computing means storing and accessing data programs over the internet, instead of your computer’s hard drive — that’s it!

Cloud setups can be the antidote to various business pains. But how? Read on to learn more.

What Cloud Computing Really Means

In simple terms, cloud computing means accessing, storing and hosting data and programs over the internet. Typically, a desktop would only access files on its local hard drive and files would be shared using file sharing solutions or using an in-house shared server, also known as a Network-Attached Storage drive (NAS).

Cloud computing works on the same principle of a shared drive except the user is not limited to residing within the four walls of the office, users can freely access a hosted desktop with any internet-enabled device that has the suitable permissions.

Insider secret: The Cloud is a metaphor for the internet, there is no actual cloud.

Cloud computing eliminates the need for processing to occur on local hardware, instead they are simply accessed over the internet and an external server does the heavy lifting. Using this technique, it means even the weakest computer can run the world’s most powerful software.

If you were to explain cloud computing to a child

Say you’re a pie maker and you make pies. You have two ovens so you can make two pies at a time. Sometimes you need to make 3 or 4 pies at once, but can’t do that because you only have 2 ovens. So you just make them one after the other. This is traditional computing.

There is a man in town with 50 ovens. Whenever the pie makers need to use ovens, they just use his, for a small fee. This way, if we need to bake 4 or 5 pies at a time, we can, but if we don’t need as many we don’t have to rent as many . Translating ovens to computers, this, in essence, is cloud computing.

Examples of Cloud Computing

The impact of cloud computing on society has been huge but barely recognised; we use cloud computing in daily life. An example of cloud computing would be a typical e-mail inbox. The messages, the files and the settings are hosted on the e-mail providers servers and are freely accessible by anyone with the login details.

Other examples of cloud computing in daily life is the streaming of files that are hosted elsewhere (think Spotify or Netflix).

Do we really need cloud computing?

Fundamentally, no… Businesses can operate, people can still share files and life will progress without cloud computing, but what it does offer is a very simple method of exponentially growing a business beyond the limitations of four contained walls.

But just imagine if every Spotify user had to download their entire musical archive before you could listen to your favourite Prince song… Or imagine if every Netflix subscriber had to visit their local Netflix shop and take home what they wanted to watch that evening (some of you may remember Blockbuster!).

CLOUD COMPUTING TERMINOLOGY AND CONCEPTS

 

Types of Cloud Computing Service

While many different delivery models for cloud computing services exist, three main services are a requirement for making cloud computing a strategic part of an overall computing infrastructure. These include Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) and Platform as a Service (PaaS). IaaS is the services that enable you to gain access to computer and storage resources in an on-demand model. PaaS is the services that sit on top of IaaS and enables you to build applications to support the business.

In 2017, 49% of IT investment was spent on a full private cloud solution, 32% was IaaS and 29% was SaaS.

Software as a Service (SAAS)

Cloud-based apps are also known as Software as a Service. This means they run on a distant computer ‘in the cloud’ and are owned and operated by others that connect to users’ computers via the internet.

This allows for instant use for innovative business applications with the ability to access these apps and data from any connected computer.

In the event that your computer was stolen or damaged you wouldn’t need to worry as no data is actually stored on the laptops hard drive.

Platform as a Service (PaaS)

Platform as a service provides a cloud-based environment with everything required to support the building and delivery of cloud applications- without the cost and complexity of buying and managing hardware, software, provisioning and hosting.

This means you can develop and deploy applications faster with reduced complexity.

Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS)

Infrastructure as a Service provides companies with computing resources including servers, networking, storage and data centre space on a pay-per-use basis.

With IaaS there is no need to invest in your own hardware with the added advantage of scalability depending on your workloads.

COMPARING PRIVATE, PUBLIC and Hybrid CLOUD TECHNOLOGIES

There isn’t a big difference between how the technologies work, rather it’s the permissions and credentials required to access each.

PRIVATE CLOUD

A private cloud is an infrastructure operated solely for a single organisation, whether managed and hosted internally or by a third party. Private clouds provide more control of resources.

PUBLIC CLOUD

Public clouds are owned and operated by companies that offer easy access over a public network to affordable computing resources. With public cloud services, users don’t need to purchase hardware, software or supporting infrastructure, which is owned and managed by providers.

HYBRID CLOUD

A hybrid cloud uses a private cloud foundation combined with the strategic integration and use of public cloud services. The reality is, a private cloud can’t exist in isolation from the rest of a company’s IT resources and the public cloud. Most companies will evolve to manage workloads across data centres, private clouds, and public clouds – thereby creating hybrid clouds.

Learn more about the differences between public, private and hybrid.

CLOUD STORAGE VS. CLOUD COMPUTING

The difference between cloud computing and cloud storage is in it’s application. Data being stored in the Cloud is classed as storage whereas when applications start to process that data and use it to effect change; that’s Cloud Computing.

Put simply, cloud storage is a data storage and sharing medium whilst cloud computing gives you the ability to work remotely, outsource IT and improve productivity.

See here for a full list of terms used in the world of cloud services and what they mean.

How Cloud Computing is Used In Business

The impact of cloud computing in business is significant with revenue growth of up to 53% when compared to organisations who have not adopted the technology.

Depending on the size of the business, the biggest benefits and the drivers of adopting cloud technologies is the greater organisational speed, better allocation of IT resources and cost-savings.

The biggest driver for a business to migrate to a cloud-based service is security and the ability to respond quickly to changing market conditions. 

Business owners and decision makers need to consider how cloud computing can help their business reach the next level and stay competitive. With cloud service providers taking care of delivery and maintenance of the IT model, businesses can request different apps to be delivered in the cloud depending on individual employee requirements. The strategic importance of cloud computing in business organisations is largely defined by the company itself however for those who haven’t adopted it yet, here are some examples of it’s application.

Examples of Companies Using Cloud Computing

 EMS, Event Marketing Solutions are a provider of vehicle-based marketing roadshows. Frustrated at the laggy, previous IT setup, a hosted desktop service enabled EMS to work using a system that looked identical to their previous desktops. Behind the scenes however, was an enterprise-grade server delivering ultra-fast processing power. EMS now experiences minimal disruption to their work and output.

Finlay James relied on unreliable, slow and clunky VPNs to access data. Rather than upgrading their hardware, Finlay James opted for a hosted desktop service which stored their data in a secure manner and allowed staff members rapid, 24/7 access to a server hosted virtual desktop.

Finlay James

Direct Recruitment are recruitment specialists. Previously, they were limited to using the computers in the office, however, since adopting cloud computing, they can now work remotely and securely from anywhere allowing them to respond to queries in real-time rather than having to rely on computers in the office.

Age UK Newcastle was operating with infrastructure that couldn’t cope with the rapidly increasing and decreasing user numbers in line with the fluctuations of demand. Using a cloud-based solution now gives Age UK Newcastle the option to scale up or down as flexibly as the demand changes. In addition, they now have the mobility to operate from iPads and mobile devices.

Age UK Newcastle

Read more case studies of companies we’ve worked with. 

Advantages of Cloud Computing for Business

According to the GTAI 2015, organizations actively using cloud, mobility and big data technologies are experiencing up to 53% higher revenue growth rates than those that have not invested in these technologies.

The advantages of cloud computing for business includes reduced capital expenditure on hardware, easily scalable infrastructure and the option to work remotely from anywhere.

It’s Cheaper Than Running an Internal Server

Cost is a significant barrier with 1 in 5 businesses not knowing if the benefits are worth the cost. 

From reduced electricity bills to removing the need to replace dated hardware, it’s obvious for businesses with more than ten staff members that they could save money. However, for smaller teams and one-off projects it can make much less sense to adopt a cloud-based solution and to use local hardware instead.

Data Backup and Unrivaled Security 

Data backup and storage are among the most common uses of the cloud for small businesses. 63% of cloud users in an AT&T survey said they rely on these cloud functions the most.

Cloud backup and storage can help protect your company from malware and natural disasters that could jeopardise business critical data if it was stored. If data was stored on site and an incident did occur, businesses would be badly affected to potentially the point of all activity being forced to a halt.

By opting for the cloud, businesses of all sizes are able to cope with the growing number of threats being posed amongst data at an enterprise level and IT can instead, focus on tasks at hand rather than monitoring IT activity.

The cloud enables additional security when it comes to users logging in to their desktops to access their data and apps. Cloud providers, like Atlas Cloud, offer Two-Factor Authentication and Multi-Factor Authentication to increase cloud security even more. Two-Factor Authentication is used a lot in online banking, where the user requires something they know (such as a password) and something they possess (like a smartphone receiving a generated code or a card-entry reader) to log in.

Cloud service providers need to ensure their data centre and service complies with security accreditations. We provide SSL encryption between client devices and our ISO 27001 data centres ensure that data being streamed from the data centre to the client user device is encrypted and could not be read even if someone were to hack into it.

Simply Scalable

When businesses are planning to expand their workforce, it can involve time-consuming planning, consideration and an entire re-think to budget spending in order to facilitate growing staff numbers.

This can often make smaller businesses hesitant to the idea of expanding, despite the fact that expansion is a huge player in the success of achieving financial goals.

Businesses should consider moving their IT set-up to a cloud way of working to allow for more flexibility and opportunity to progress further as a business through an improvement of talent and capabilities.

By opting for cloud virtual desktop services, businesses are no longer confined to pieces of hardware that could become unused and therefore result in a waste of budget. Instead, the cloud can offer businesses a way to increase their operations cost-effectively by supplying them with an IaaS model which is based on changing employee requirements.

REMOTE and Flexible WORKING

The option to go mobile is extremely appealing to modern day workers. As all data and apps never leave the data centre, user desktops can be accessed safely and securely from any device. As a result, a business can support a highly diverse environment of devices, access methods and user types — as well as allow workers to bring and use their own equipment for work (Bring Your Own Device) — without sacrificing security.

Your staff will be much happier if they are allowed to fit working around what they need to do in their personal life. It’s about supplying a choice to work in the office or from home. It’s about allowing them to make their contracted hours up in ways that work for them and trusting them to do so. If they are better at working later in the day, why not offer a later starting time? Their effectiveness isn’t based on how long they spend in an office, but rather about their output on a day-to-day basis.

HOW CLOUD COMPUTING REDUCES CAPEX

Cloud computing cuts out the high cost of hardware. You can simply pay-as-you go and enjoy a subscription based model that’s kind to your cash flow. The journey of digital transformation is taken care of by a managed service provider and is increased with the ability to match changing business requirements with agility.

As businesses plan for growth, they need to reconsider their entire setup. Although daunting, it’s important that they consider how the process of start-up to scale-up can be achieved with as minimum disruption as possible.

Reduces Electricity Bills

Traditional data hardware systems require intense power supplies, cooling and a lot of electricity. By moving business software such as email, ERP and more to the cloud, this can save enough electricity each year to power Los Angeles for 12 months. This means the cloud would lower energy consumption of these software applications by 87%.

We’re happy to help you get you up and running in the cloud – and the quicker you get started, the quicker you’ll be able to reap the environmental benefits of the cloud.

Disadvantages of Cloud Computing

With small scale or short-term projects in particular, cloud computing has the potential to be cost ineffective. To avoid this, businesses should scale both down and up when transferring their IT infrastructure.

One of the largest challenges that faces cloud computing is ‘vendor lock-in’, otherwise known as implicit dependency. When there are significant differences between cloud computing providers and vendor systems, migrating from one cloud platform to another becomes costly and difficult. What’s more, meeting the new requirements of a host provider, and re-configuring applications, can put your data at risk of security breaches.

The reliance on the internet. If you’re internet goes down, it can cause downtime.

To avoid these downsides, ensure you scope out exactly what a cloud provider is offering. With Atlas Cloud you can cache data and pick it back up when you connect back to the internet and our engineers will thoroughly assess the needs of your business before suggestion a solution.

Learn more about the organisations we’ve helped

How to Set Up Cloud Computing For a Small Business

 Deciding on the right cloud model for your business may seem overwhelming. However, beginning your cloud journey is simple. First of all, identify a few starting points.

Once you have a better understanding of your technology requirements, as well as the wider business strategy, you can map out a set of cloud options that will support the changing needs of your business. You also need a network of partners on-hand to support the integration process.

All successful projects require a roadmap, which can take your IT infrastructure from a slow-paced, ineffective environment to a dynamic IT platform for your team. This may sound like common sense, but very often businesses fail to both plan for the future, or recognise the importance of IT and business relationships. In fact, the most successful companies create a strong partnership between the IT and business departments.

There are two things to consider when planning for the cloud. These are:

✓ First, a set of business considerations 

✓ Second, a set of technical considerations

 

Business Considerations When Choosing Cloud Computing

 

1. ASSESS YOUR SITUATION

 It’s easy to back away from the idea of cloud computing if you do not fully assess how it would affect your business. Think of issues your business faces and review how the cloud can ease this. For example, working on a project with colleagues? Sick of sending files back and forth via email? The cloud eliminates this with live documents allowing for one version of the truth to be worked on.

2. KNOW YOUR GOALS

Why does your enterprise want to adopt a cloud computing strategy? It’s essential to know how your enterprise would benefit from adopting a cloud computing strategy and what your goals would be. You need this information to establish a realistic cloud adoption strategy. Businesses should plan to leverage existing collateral with software as a service (SaaS), infrastructure as a service (IaaS) and platform as a service (PaaS) strategies. Things which should be considered when determining goals include:

  • Are services or applications currently constrained due to time to market needs?
  • Is there a need for improved scalability?
  • Are there requirements or needs to provide constant access to consumers, customers or devices?

Which Cloud Computing Platform Should I choose?

Once the business and IT teams are able to work in tandem with one another, creating your cloud strategy will be much easier. One of the most important considerations when implementing a new cloud platform, is that you must adopt a forward-thinking approach and create an adaptable IT environment that will suit future projects.

The first step is deciding which Cloud technology to invest in. Businesses can operate using public cloud infrastructure but to reap all the benefits of cloud computing, a private cloud-based solution is the best.

Requirements for Cloud Computing Infrastructure

Hardware Requirements 

You will need a total of two devices: one will act as a server and the other as the client.

You will also need to use one to ten Gigabit Ethernet network equipment, as it’s likely the cloud will manage larger data transfers.

Finally, you will need hardware that is enabled for full virtualization. For example, processors capable of using AMD-V or Intel VT technologies. This is to allow more flexibility when you choose a hypervisor and virtual infrastructure manager (VIM).

Software Requirements 

 
Your needs and resources will shape your virtual infrastructure manager (VIM), also known as a cloud framework. Eucalyptus, OpenStack, OpenNebula are effective open-source solutions, each varying slightly to the other.

Cloud management software, such as RightScale, may be required to handle routine tasks such as instantiation, monitoring, definition of policies, VMs setup etc. However, VIM tools are also equipped to deal with many of these tasks.

Additional Resources

Cloud Platform University Online is an interactive, scenario-based training resource to equip you with the foundational elements of selling and supporting Microsoft cloud and enterprise technologies.

Microsoft Partner University provides training guides and certification options, organized by products, competencies, accreditations and business focus.

Opsgillity has more than 70 online classes focused on Architects, Developers, DevOps, Operations, Sales and Decision Makers.


Citrix Sharefile

 

This cloud-based file sharing system enables your team to work together in a secure, online environment.


Office 365

 

365 for Business gives you access to all of your critical applications from any location, on any device.


Sage Cloud

 

As the cloud partner for UK and Ireland, we are experts in hosting and managing your financial and accounting software.


Hosted Desktops

 

Access your favourite suite of tools and the world’s most powerful software anywhere, from any internet-connected device.


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