You may have used Cloud services five times before breakfast without even knowing it.
It may have taken the form of checking your Gmail account, uploading photos to Instagram, sharing a file with a coworker via Dropbox, or using a GPS-enabled map app to get where you need to go. If at work you use Github, Salesforce, or Workday, you depend on Cloud services as well.
Cloud services are permanently stitched into the fabric of the Information Age.
Understanding the Cloud can unlock new horizons of productivity and profitability for you and your business.
What Are Cloud Services?
Cloud services are a subset of the Internet comprising software or services delivered by the Internet. They represent a model for shared and at-will access to software, processing, and data storage.
The term was coined by IT professionals who would often represent the Internet as a cloud icon in network diagrams.
The IT staff was responsible for the architecture of local servers, but the Internet was out of their control and therefore irrelevant to the network architecture.
When software and services became available online, the cloud iconography was repurposed to refer to those services as existing “in the Cloud.”
To understand better what Cloud Services are, let’s take a look at what they aren’t.
A program or piece of software that is installed on your computer’s hard drive is not considered a part of the cloud, because it is right there on your computer with no dependence on the Internet.
To qualify as a cloud-based service, the user must upload content to a cloud infrastructure, in addition to receiving content back.
Whereas social media services are cloud services, eCommerce sites are not.
An eCommerce web site cannot be manipulated in this way by its end-users. Although an eCommerce store may have loyal shoppers, it is not a “cloud service” from their perspective.
How Do Cloud Services Work?
Cloud services have a “front end” and a “back end.”
The “front end” is what the end user or client sees and interacts with on their computer or mobile screen. Secondary native applications may enable the cloud service to be used — for example, a web browser to view Facebook or the Dropbox mobile app.
The back end is the “cloud” section of the service. It lives on a series of computers, data storage systems, and servers operated by the cloud services provider. Typically a dedicated server is assigned to each application.
What Are the Main Types of Cloud Services?
Cloud services typically get broken down into three subcategories.
Software as a Service (SaaS)
This is what comes to mind when most people think about Cloud services — your iClouds, Adobe Creative Clouds, Twitters … anything a typical consumer might buy, download, subscribe to and use on a daily basis.
For companies taking a software product to market, SaaS has the advantage over native software of being far more scalable in its distribution potential.
Platform as a Service (PaaS)
The boon of SaaS developers. The end user of an app doesn’t interact with it directly but does so indirectly because the app is built on it.
Rather than having to acquire the infrastructure on their own at prohibitive costs, with PaaS app developers can access databases, programming capabilities, web servers, and operating systems to design and launch their SaaS product, all for a small monthly fee rather than a huge startup expense.
Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS)
This benefits people who need advanced computing power but don’t have the budget for high-end equipment.
For a small monthly fee, IaaS delivers raw computing power in the form of CDNs, network firewalls, load balancers, and storage space.
These three categories form the “Cloud Stack.” SaaS is often built on PaaS using IaaS. For example, the popular SaaS Dropbox is built on Amazon AWS, a popular PaaS and IaaS provider.
What Are the Advantages to Using Cloud Services?
Moving to the Cloud boasts many advantages for individuals and companies of all sizes.
It’s An Affordable Alternative
Especially for startups with tight budgets, the ability to rent virtual access to powerful platforms and computing hardware is a massive advantage. Equipment that costs many thousands of dollars to buy could be accessed in the Cloud for hundreds of dollars a month or less.
Cloud software can create similar savings. Whereas Adobe Photoshop used to cost $1,300 or more, Creative Cloud subscribers get full access to Photoshop for $20/month. That’s a big barrier of entry lifted for the aspiring photographer or graphic designer — and an effortless revenue stream for Adobe without the overhead of a physical software product.
It Features 24/7 Support and Accessibility
Mobility is a big deal in today’s business environment. Cloud services can make it possible for an employee or business owner to work and collaborate from anywhere in the world with an internet connection, including on airplanes with WiFi and over mobile tower or satellite networks.
The flexibility of capacity is also a major advantage. If you expect increased activity on your software due to a sale or seasonal spike, computing capacity from your IaaS provider can be dialed up at your request (usually for a nominal increase in expense), and then dialed back down once everything returns to normal.
Security is a concern for most businesses, especially those that handle sensitive data. Cloud services providers are usually in a position to invest in first-class cybersecurity. After all, it’s a big selling point for Cloud services.
Cloud Service security measures also include backups that can save your life if you need to retrieve data in the event that your computer, hardware, or software gets lost.
Conversely, if sensitive information needs to be deleted from the Cloud, it can be done from anywhere in the world with an Internet connection.
It’s Environmentally Friendly
Finally, with reduced need or demand for hardware, Cloud services reduce a company’s carbon footprint and reduce the carbon footprint of the tech industry as a whole. Cloud services are good for the planet, including actual clouds.
Disadvantages of Cloud Services
So what’s the catch? As you can probably guess, you need an Internet connection to access Cloud services. If that is not possible for some reason, dependence on Cloud services could grind your business to a halt.
In contracting a Cloud services company, you are giving up some control over your operations or your product.
Your cybersecurity is at the mercy of the security practices of the provider. If a technical issue does occur, it is unlikely you can fix it in-house. You will have to get on the phone or a chat with your Cloud services provider.
These liabilities to the Cloud model underline the need to do your homework and choose the right provider to entrust with critical functions.
Who Offers Business Cloud Services?
Any company with the ability to maintain the servers, computers, and best practices for Cloud Computing can offer Cloud services.
These include some of the largest companies in the world, like Amazon, Google, Microsoft, and Apple.
You don’t have to go big or go home, however.
Smaller companies can offer Cloud services of equal or even better quality. With a boutique provider, you reap the benefit of individualized attention, competitive pricing, and plans customized to your needs.
Vintage IT Services is recognized as one of the fastest-growing Cloud service providers in the world.
From our headquarters in Austin, Texas, we maintain a state-of-the-art data center, fully-redundant and virtualized to provide world-class cloud backup, cloud storage, and cloud restorations.
Call Vintage IT Services today to discuss bespoke SaaS, PaaS, and IaaS solutions we can offer your business.