If there is one technology that’s come to define the IT world over the past 2 decades, it’s the cloud. Offering scalable software solutions, platforms, computing power and infrastructure, via flexible price plans, the cloud lets businesses access transformative IT capabilities without the upfront costs associated with traditional IT projects.
As a leading IT provider to firms across York, North and East Yorkshire, Armco IT has been instrumental over the years in helping countless SMEs migrate their IT services to the cloud and take advantage of all the benefits it provides. Chief among these benefits is the cloud’s ability to scale effortlessly, giving businesses access to malleable IT resources that can be quickly adapted to changing needs and demands.
So what exactly is cloud computing?
Cloud computing refers to the delivery of computing services (such as servers, storage, databases, networking, software, and more) virtually, via the internet.
As opposed to traditional hosting, which sees software and applications housed locally, either on individual devices or a network’s servers, the cloud moves these services to offsite data centres. In most instances, these resources are managed and hosted by cloud service providers, who typically charge for their services on a pay-per-use or subscription-type basis.
This article aims to provide a brief guide to the benefits of cloud-hosting, and explain the meaning behind some of the terminology you’ll likely encounter when exploring your cloud IT options for the first time. Let’s begin!
SaaS, PaaS and IaaS, what’s the difference?
To fully understand cloud computing you first have to understand the 3 main cloud service models:
Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) involves the provision of virtualised computing resources, such as storage, virtual machines and networking. IaaS affords maximum control, and as such, is the best choice for migrating existing apps and services to the cloud with minimal code changes.
Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) relates to the provision of platforms and environments that are conducive to the development, deployment and management of custom applications, such as websites or databases. By providing a virtualised environment, PaaS allows developers to focus on app development without having to worry about the constraints and maintenance requirements of the underlying hardware.
Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) provides ready-to-use software platforms, most commonly on a subscription basis. SaaS avoids the need to install an instance of a software application in your local server. Instead, you simply access the cloud-hosted software service via a web browser and you’re good to go. This is perhaps the most widely leveraged cloud service model, with examples of SaaS products including the likes of Salesforce, Microsoft 365 and Dropbox.
Public, Private and Hybrid Cloud, which is right for me?
In addition to the 3 service models we’ve just mentioned, the cloud can also be leveraged through three common deployment models: public, private and hybrid.
Public Cloud infrastructure is owned and operated by a third-party cloud service provider, with well-known examples including Microsoft Azure, Amazon Web Services (AWS) and IBM cloud. This is the deployment model we’re generally referring to for the purposes of this article, as no other deployment model affords the same level of scalability and flexibility.
Private Cloud infrastructure refers to deployments that run on dedicated infrastructure used exclusively by a single organisation or entity. Organisations that deploy private clouds typically own and manage the server and networking infrastructure that supports it. Hosting can vary, with some organisations running their private cloud in an on-site data centre, while others opt for colocation, which sees the dedicated infrastructure housed in a third party’s data centre. Private clouds are typically used by organisations with very stringent data security and compliance needs, which necessitate the maximum level of privacy and control.
Hybrid Cloud refers to a deployment that mixes both public and private cloud elements. Hybrid cloud setups can combine the scalability, flexible nature of public cloud services, with the greater customisation potential afforded by private clouds, thus delivering a satisfactory compromise that provides benefits from both models.
Five Benefits of Cloud Hosting
Cloud hosting is fast becoming the go-to choice for business IT deployments. For growth-hungry SMEs, the cloud is a particularly shrewd hosting option, as it provides resilient, secure and reliable infrastructure free from the capital expenses and unyielding nature of on-premises IT projects. Here are 5 more key benefits of cloud hosting that you should know about…
Cloud Hosting Helps Maintain Business Continuity
Cloud services providers go to great lengths to maximise the uptime of their servers. Microsoft Azure currently commits to uptime guarantees of 99.9% for its services, illustrating the reliability and service resilience on offer.
Such high availability can largely be attributed to the impressive amount of redundancy built into the data centres of leading cloud service providers. This includes the likes of redundant power supplies, failover internet connections, redundant cooling systems, geo-redundancy (which replicates data to multiple sites for disaster recovery purposes), load balancing, backup generators and much more.
Most of these failover mechanisms would be cost prohibitive for SMEs to install in an on-premises data centre. Therefore, by hosting services in the cloud, you enjoy impressive uptime guarantees backed by enterprise-grade redundancy measures to help you meet your business continuity objectives.
Remote Accessibility is Never an Issue
While cloud hosting isn’t the only way to extend resource access to remote employees, it is widely acknowledged as the easiest and most scalable method of doing so.
A remote access VPN for example, is another way to deliver remote accessibility, but it’s recognised as being a high-maintenance, less flexible option than cloud hosting, and one that requires careful management and configuration to get right.
With cloud hosting, infrastructure maintenance is handled by the cloud service provider, and in the case of SaaS products, users can access software services remotely, with minimal setup. The plug-and-play nature of cloud hosting, therefore, makes for a convenient remote access option that benefits both businesses and end users alike.
Flexible Pricing That Mirrors Usage
Cloud service providers offer resources, platforms and software through a variety of pricing models. These pricing models make it easy for businesses to cost-effectively and flexibly manage their IT resource spending, thanks to pay-per-use pricing (or variations thereof) that ensures costs closely reflect the amount of resources actually used.
Resource-based pricing sees charges applied according to the amount of compute resources a deployment actually uses, such as number of virtual machines, CPU usage, memory, storage and network resources. Reserved instances allow organisations to save money by committing to blocks of resources in advance, and spot instances allow companies to bid on unused cloud resources for even greater savings.
No matter which cloud pricing model you opt for, the cloud makes it easy to extract maximum value from your IT budget and scale resource provision up and down quickly, in line with changing business demands.
Security is a Shared Responsibility
While your business remains ultimately responsible for the protection of data you host on the cloud, cloud services providers naturally want to keep cyber threat actors out of their infrastructure. This is achieved through the application of enterprise-grade security and redundancy features, underpinned in some cases, by multi-billion-dollar security budgets.
Security controls commonly applied in cloud data centres include intrusion detection and prevention systems (IDPS), data transfer encryption, geo-redundancy and firewalls, as well as state-of-the-art physical security measures encompassing access controls, 24/7 surveillance and monitoring, and a continuous security presence.
By hosting services in the cloud, you benefit from these advanced security measures by default, many of which would be cost-prohibitive to instate around an on-premises data centre.
Avoid the Constraints That Come with Fixed Infrastructure
In a traditional hosting setup, server resources are very strictly limited. If server capacity limits are breached at times of peak demand, resources like CPU, storage and memory may become fully utilised. With nothing left in the tank, such a scenario could lead to performance issues, slowdowns or even application failure.
In the cloud, resource allocation typically isn’t limited by the capacity of a single machine. Instead, a vast pool of virtualised resources is balanced and distributed across many tenants using a technique called ‘autoscaling.’ This ensures that additional resources are made available when capacity limits are approached, ensuring systems always have enough compute power available to cope with peaks in demand. This is yet another business continuity perk of cloud hosting, which ensures that critical IT services and functions aren’t afflicted by damaging outages due to hardware performance limitations.
Offering flexibility by default and cost-efficiency as standard, cloud-hosting grants access to a multitude of computing resources, development tools and software programmes without the cost-of-entry hurdles and limitations that traditionally accompanied such IT investments. By hosting IT services in the cloud, you prioritise operational agility, benefit from unmatched scalability and enjoy enterprise-grade cyber security controls deployed and managed by industry experts.
Armco IT: IT Support and Managed Services for Businesses Across York, North and East Yorkshire
There’s nothing we love more than seeing Yorkshire businesses flourish by harnessing the power of IT. Our team of dedicated engineers stands ready to help you overcome any technical challenge and deliver tailored solutions that help your business meet its goals and growth ambitions. From our base in Malton, we deliver proactive IT support and services across York, North and East Yorkshire. We have a strong track record in delivering impactful IT to clients across a wide range of sectors, including manufacturing, design and insurance, among many others. We focus on maintaining, optimising and securing your digital estate, so you can focus on the growth and success of your business. Contact our team and let us start our journey together today.