We all know how the IT industry loves to use buzzwords for all sorts of products those words don't really apply to. That's the case with cloud computing and old-fashioned hosting.
Both are hosted off-site and accessed through an Internet connection. But the way they work under the bonnet is very different—and that has a big impact on how well your IT will support your business in the future, in a world where collaboration, innovation and digital transformation are the keys to success.
Hosted applications are typically purchased and owned by your business, installed on a remote server and accessed over a secure network connection using client software installed on the user's device. These applications are not typically web-enabled and require network infrastructure capable of running a virtual private network (VPN) and enabling software such as Remote Desktop/Terminal Services or Citrix.
Cloud applications are fully web-enabled, so that all you need to use them is a web browser running on any device in any location. You can run your own software in a cloud set-up, but most cloud applications, such as G Suite, are provided as Software as a Service (SaaS), supporting many businesses using shared infrastructure. The cloud provider owns the software as well as the servers and provides a secure connection all the way to your browser. You pay an annual license fee, which may be based on how much you use the system or on how many user accounts you need.
Here are four areas where cloud computing give you an advantage over old-fashioned hosting:
- Team collaboration. Cloud-based apps like G Suite are designed from the ground up to allow coworkers across the globe to create, edit and view documents together—as if they were working next to each other. With web browser access, your team can use any device, running any operating system, without the need to install—and manage—additional software. Integrated calendars, mail and video conferencing make scheduling virtual meetings a breeze. The result? Decisions can be made more quickly and it's easier for people to brainstorm and innovate.
- Agile IT. Rather than running your IT on specific hardware, the way traditional hosting does, cloud computing uses a large pool of shared infrastructure to give you as much computing power as you need at any time. That means you can scale quickly, from zero to millions of transactions—and back down again—in seconds, without spending time purchasing and provisioning hardware. With pricing models that include per-second billing, Google's cloud infrastructure means you'll also only pay for what you use.
- Data analytics and visualisation. Research by the Economist Intelligence Unit found that companies that use data to make decisions are more likely to perform better than their peers. With cloud computing, you can quickly tap into tools such as BigQuery, Google's serverless, highly scalable, low-cost enterprise data warehouse. That means you can concentrate on getting value out of your data right now, without first spending time setting up your own complex and expensive infrastructure.
- Rapid application development. To take advantage of the insights you're getting from your data—as well as other opportunities to innovate or digitally transform your business—you need a development process that lets you quickly launch new apps or update existing ones. Cloud computing lets you spin up new production servers in seconds without having to worry about procuring and configuring new hardware. Cloud storage takes away the headaches of worrying about storing, accessing and backing up your data. And Google hosting offers a wide range of familiar development environments, APIs and other tools that support agile software development. All that lets you deliver and deploy production-quality code to support new business processes and features every few weeks rather than every few years.
If you want to find out more about how your business can benefit from the genuine shift in IT provided by cloud computing, why not come and talk to the experts in our business transformation team.