Have you ever sent yourself an email with an attachment from your home computer and accessed it in the office the next day? That’s the basic cloud storage. It’s the earliest form of cloud computing where you save attachments in your inbox and access them on another device. The cloud has been around for more than a decade. But it has been so widespread, and the term has been used so profusely that many people don’t even know what it means.

If you’re new to cloud services, you will find that the technical jargon can be quite overwhelming. This is why we have a beginner’s guide that will cover the basics of cloud computing and the services relating to it.

So, what is this “cloud” exactly?

Cloud services are flexible, scalable, and secure. You have the advantage of choosing the services you need, exactly when you need them.

The cloud describes a network of servers accessed over the Internet. Data centres, which are found across the world, hold these servers whose primary functions include storing, managing, and processing data.

Cloud computing refers to the on-demand delivery of IT resources and computing services through the Internet (or the cloud), such as:

  • Networking
  • Intelligence
  • Software
  • Databases
  • Storage
  • Analytics

Because the resources and services are on the cloud, you can obtain them much faster, regardless of their size, type, and location. Although there is a charge when you use the cloud, it is more affordable since you only pay for the cloud services you use.

Three Types of Cloud Services

Cloud computing services can be divided into three models:

1. Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS)

When you sign up for IaaS, you gain access to virtual machines, networking hardware, storage, and similar computing resources on a pay-as-you-go basis. You have complete control over them, allowing you to choose the operating system and applications to use. In most cases, you can scale resources as needed.

Since IaaS has raw computing services, it requires high-level IT expertise. Companies that use IaaS are those that are tech-savvy and with IT-trained employees.

Some of the popular IaaS providers include Google Cloud Platform, Microsoft Azure, and Amazon Web Services.

2. Platform as a Service (PaaS)

PaaS offers a platform for developers where they can create, deploy, and manage applications without requiring infrastructure. Signing up for this cloud service gives you the tools for application development and testing.

Prominent names of PaaS providers include Google App Engine, Microsoft Azure App Service, and Heroku.

3. Software as a Service (SaaS)

Perhaps the most recognisable cloud service is SaaS, which gives users access to software apps hosted by a provider. These applications can be opened and used through a web browser or an app. The cloud provider fully manages the SaaS applications. You only have to pay for the software to subscribe periodically or access certain features.

Popular SaaS applications include Dropbox, Microsoft Office 365, and Salesforce.

All three stack on top of one another. Software services are under one platform, and a platform service is offered under IaaS. Meanwhile, the infrastructure is the foundation where all services are built.

It’s important to note that other cloud service models are out there, including Functions as a Service (FaaS) and Container as a Service (CaaS). FaaS, also considered serverless, lets developers deploy small code fragments to respond to specific events. Despite its name, FaaS does utilise a server. Meanwhile, CaaS gives you access to a platform where you can deploy and manage containers.

In today's rapidly changing digital landscape, embracing cloud services is becoming increasingly vital for businesses of all sizes.

Benefits of Cloud Services

You’re probably thinking, why choose the cloud? But the real question is, “Why not?” With cloud computing, you accomplish more with a whole lot less. Instead of purchasing and maintaining computing products and services, you can simply use a cloud service. You can do it all by yourself, which saves you the cost, time, and effort. Here’s how:

  • It’s on-demand. Cloud services are on-demand. Think of it like Netflix, which is a platform that allows you to watch your favourite TV shows and movies. You can access the cloud anytime and anywhere without worrying about space and size limits.
  • It’s way cheaper. Forget about buying computers or renting an office space. Various models of cloud services offer plenty of savings because there is no need for on-premise infrastructure. You can also choose to reduce your IT staff size. The data centre is responsible for ensuring the servers work round-the-clock, meaning you can access your files whenever you need them.
  • It’s speedy. The servers are generally hosted in geographically-dispersed data centres, guaranteeing faster and more reliable access to applications and data. This is especially true when compared to on-premise solutions. Additionally, cloud providers choose high-speed Internet connections and optimised networks to maintain their performance.
  • It’s scalable. Cloud services provide access to computing resources that can be scaled up or down depending on your changing requirements. If there is a seasonal demand or a sudden spike in workload or traffic, a cloud service can quickly and easily handle the situation. As a business owner, you will recognise this as a great benefit as it helps avoid over and under-provisioning resources. Plus, you only pay for the service you need.
  • It increases productivity. Accessing data, applications, and resources anytime and anywhere using any device can help with productivity. Some cloud services allow users to collaborate on projects and documents in real time, whilst others offer access to critical data without needing to be physically present in the workplace. You can also find cloud services with automation tools to streamline repetitive tasks and increase workflow efficiency.

Just like with any service, cloud services are not created equal. The performance can vary depending on the provider, service type, network connection, and data centre location. That’s why selecting a suitable cloud service provider that will benefit your business is essential.

How to Choose the Right Cloud Service Provider

With numerous cloud service providers, how do you know which is best for your business? One of the first steps you should undertake is to identify the needs and goals of your business. That way, when you research cloud service providers, you can contrast them effectively based on those requirements and objectives. Be sure to compare their offerings before you sign up for the service and look for the following qualities:

  • You need a reliable service from the cloud provider. That’s why you should look into their uptime guarantee, which you can typically find in their Service Level Agreement (SLA). Also, enquire about how they plan to compensate customers in case of downtime.
  • A good provider offers strong security measures. After all, your data will be on the cloud, which should be protected with access controls, multi-factor authentication, and data encryption, among others.
  • The service should be capable of growing with your business.
  • Make sure the cloud services align with your budget. Some providers have fees, such as storage costs and data transfer charges. Be wary of these hidden costs.
  • Even if you are tech-savvy, you need a provider that offers knowledgeable support 24/7. Whether it’s through chat, phone, or online, you should be able to reach the company and get the answer to your queries immediately.

The service you choose will depend on the size of your business and its structure. Also, consider how much work you need to outsource to determine the appropriate cloud service to support your operations.

ICT Group can offer you cloud computing services that meet the needs of your business. Give us a call to see how we can assist you.