Why the Cloud Makes Sense for Business
The word “cloud” gets thrown around an awful lot today. We’re inundated with its casual use as virtually every company weaves the term into their marketing, whether they offer true cloud applications, or are just adding a virtualized veneer to their existing products and services. And why is that the case? It is because cloud computing has finally gained mainstream acceptance in the business world, and for good reasons.
But before we explore some of those reasons, it is worth noting that cloud computing is not a new concept, even though the name is. Delivery of applications and services in the cloud (over IP) has been around for the past two decades under different labels. Terms like like grid, hosted, software as a service (SaaS) and on-demand are just a few synonyms. We’ve just finally reached a point where the underlying networks and computing technologies have matured enough to support mission critical business applications.
So what are some of the benefits of cloud computing?
Quite often, the first thing that comes to mind when people think of the cloud is the economic impact. It is true that public the most well known type of cloud applications (public cloud) eliminate costly up-front capital expenditure (CAPEX) in exchange for a pay-as-you-go or operational expense (OPEX) model that is very appealing to many organizations. It is also true that with most cloud models there are varying levels of savings from improved processes and more efficient technology and human resource utilization. However, the benefits of cloud computing are much broader than that, including (in no particular order):
- Ubiquitous access – one of the key attributes of cloud computing is the inherent location independence associated with IP delivery. Where end-users reside in relation to the technology infrastructure is irrelevant as long as there is sufficient bandwidth. Such universal access extends applications to remote or mobile employees and customers, removes geographic restrictions and paves the way for centralization and other productivity enhancers.
- Elasticity – business is no longer static, so supporting technology needs to adapt to planned or unexpected conditions and seasonal demands. Cloud computing generally facilitates dynamic addition or removal of resources to match changing workloads, in sharp contrast to traditional legacy technology where IT departments had to make costly investments in resources up front to handle projected peak demand, then watch much of those resources go unutilized while keeping fingers crossed that there would be enough if the time came.
- Scalability – whether your business is consuming or providing applications, cloud technology is scalable by design, enabling you to roll out services in a manner that fits business requirements, then grow or scale back resources as necessary. This allows organizations to start small and then expand in line with business growth.
- Agility – organizations that can quickly adapt and respond to changing business conditions have a better chance of prospering. Universally available, scalable and elastic resources inherent in cloud computing are necessary ingredients to support such business agility. In addition, cloud has shifted some technology decisions into the hands of business users, which removes many of the traditional technology bottlenecks that inhibit agility.
- Innovation – all of the above-mentioned cloud computing benefits create a fertile environment for business innovation. With the cloud it is possible to quickly model cloud-based applications, test them on varied audiences, and modify them with far less risk and investment than traditional technology allowed. Plus, through web services and related means, cloud applications are generally more open to integration with other technologies, which creates new opportunities for collaboration and further innovation.
- Efficiency – another benefit of the cloud is the ability to take advantage of shared resources on both a staff and technology level. While the degree of resource pooling depends on the specific cloud type and application, in general it opens up the door for centralization and standardization that contributes to more efficient maintenance, administration, training and support.
These are just a few of the reasons that cloud computing is here to stay and why businesses around the world are embracing it. According to Gartner, by 2015, end-user spending on public cloud services alone could be more than $180 billion. Will your organization be a successful part of that figure? If you’re not already using the cloud to its potential, do your research and utilize the advice of knowledgeable professionals to help you determine the type of cloud applications and delivery models that will have the greatest impact on your organization.