Cloud computing could best be defined as Internet-based computing – an organization receives services or uses software that are provided to them via the Internet through a remote server.
There’s also a variety of cloud computing service types: private, public or hybrid cloud infrastructure services are available for the purpose of sharing physical resources, hosting applications, or provide online file storage/access. Each cloud service can provide benefits, especially to small and medium businesses (SMBs) in terms of increased storage capability, reduced costs to acquire computer resources, and hosting customer relationship management (CRM) applications.
It is no secret that every business always strives to do a better job at engaging customers, or otherwise improve performance and increase productivity. Cloud computing may be the right solution and the most profound technological shift to date. It is “the race to the cloud,” one might say, as cloud computing appears to be transforming the IT industry.
The “cloud” fundamentally changes how work is done in an office since it is essentially provides the computer infrastructure, but as a service. This solution offers maximum cost-efficiency through on-demand network access to a shared pool of resources, such as IT networks, servers, online storage, and web-based computer applications.
Businesses have the option to be relieved from the burden of having to buy hardware and software to be installed on site. Savings come also from not needing a large IT-management team. Each business can also decide how much of its IT infrastructure can be supported by the cloud and how much should be done on-site.
Businesses can choose cloud services in terms of the following:
- Infrastructure as a service (IaaS)
- Platform as a Service (PaaS)
- Software as a service (SaaS).
There are quite a few cloud computing companies out there to choose from.
Microsoft, for example, is one company that is still a new player in the cloud market with its own cloud-computing networks: the cloud-based Office 365 productivity suite and Windows Azure, which were released in 2011 and 2009 respectively. They are both Windows-as-a-service platforms.
Microsoft’s latest cloud-computing network, the System Center 2012, is essentially Microsoft Private Cloud. It is an integrated virtual and physical IT management solution, which may require Windows Server 2008 R2 SP1, for SMBs that want to embrace cloud computing to manage private or public cloud applications and services. Microsoft’s cloud solution is likely to help reduce costs, improve application availability and enhance service delivery to data centers.
Microsoft cloud computing is, presently, very popular among SMB users, but other companies offer online “cloud” services. Google, for example, has Google Docs. Google and Microsoft offer similar products and services and are almost equal in terms of functionality. The better company providing an online service really depends on one’s requirements. What has some customers deciding on Google Docs is that it is slightly less expensive than Microsoft’s Office 365 online services. Another advantage that Google Docs has over Office 365 is that it provides real-time online business collaboration which Microsoft’s “co-authoring” concept lacks and limits.
Who knows for certain which company’s services will “own” the cloud?
All that is certain is, at the present time, the race to move business software to the cloud is going forward and more SMBs are utilizing cloud computing to meet their needs.