Cloud computing is not a new concept, but it is only recently that consumers and small business owners have started to accept the idea of purchasing data related services instead of a product that is delivered on a disc or as a digital download. The idea of having a third party control your data can be scary for some, but it is also a cost effective, flexible and liberating model for handling your data.
There are many different versions of the “as a service” business model. The most well-known is Software as a Service, but as Internet connection speeds have improved and data processing needs have become more complex, more and more business functions have been moved to the cloud. Here is a quick overview of some of the most interesting cloud offerings.
Software as a Service
Software as a Service is the most well-known of the cloud models. Microsoft Office 365 is an obvious example of Software as a Service. Other examples include Wave Accounting and the Salesforce CRM software. The Software as a Service model is a simple one. Instead of purchasing an application, installing it and then having to handle your own support and patching, you subscribe to a service that runs the software “in the cloud”.
SaaS can save some small businesses money, because instead of spending a fortune on a full license for an expensive software package they can pay a small monthly fee for the number of users that they require. SaaS helps developers by stopping piracy, and ensuring a steady income from subscription fees. Even bigger businesses that upgrade their software every few years can save money with SaaS because they get regular updates to the software that they are using built-in to the subscription cost.
Platform as a Service
The Platform as a Service model offers a full computing platform for businesses to use to do whatever they wish. Amazon’s EC2 is an example of a popular PaaS offering. This service allows businesses to take advantage of Amazon’s cloud servers. Instead of paying for an expensive, powerful server that will sit at only 20% utilization most of the time, the business can rent computing time from Amazon.
During periods of heavy load (such as a new product launch, a special sale, or seasonally high demand), the cloud service will “expand” to keep the company’s website or apps running smoothly. When utiliziation returns to normal, the extra computing power will be de-allocated, and the business will pay only for the small amount of resources that they are using.
PaaS makes sense for businesses that have unpredictable computing needs and that do not want to invest in powerful hardware that will rarely be used.
Network as a Service
The most well-known version of Network as a Service is the Virtual Private Network. VPNs are a secure communication method that allows remote workers to access data on your company network as if they were connected locally. VPN implementations range from sophisticated networks with hundreds of users to low-cost VPNs for home users.
The Invisible Cloud
The cloud is a part of everyday life. Even home users rely on cloud storage, streaming entertainment and even cloud gaming. Almost everything that you can do with a computer can be done inside the cloud – frequently at a lower cost and with a smaller set-up and support burden. It pays to keep an open mind about the potential of cloud implementations.
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