Cloud Services 101-3: Key Benefits

Originally published for blog.

As we discussed in our initial article of the series, Cloud Services 101: The Basics, the cloud services can be categorized into three areas, Infrastructure, Platform or Application related. In part 2 of the series (Cloud Services 101: Big Players in the Field) we touched up on some of the vendors in each of the categories, and how they are starting to offer services in more than one category.

Now that we understand a bit more about the definition and landscape of this field, let us move on to talking a bit deeper about the key advantages offered by cloud services; we can summarize them into five areas: Quick and Easy setup; Significant acquisition and operational cost savings; On-demand scalability; Anytime/Anywhere Access; and Always up-to-date.

IT setup, maintenance and support can be a time-consuming and expensive proposition.  This is especially true for small-to-medium businesses.   Cloud services essentially allows businesses to transfer the responsibility for IT maintenance, software upgrades and any system issues onto the service provider, allowing the business to focus on their core business instead of their IT infrastructure.

Quick and Easy to setup — There is no need to install new hardware or software as everything is run by the provider.  Typically you provision and manage the service via a web-based interface.

Significant acquisition and operational cost saving — Businesses that move to the cloud can experience an immediate savings on many different levels – IT hardware and software expenditure is cut dramatically, and fewer staff or support resources are needed for IT maintenance. Last September, analyst group IDC estimated that a business can instantly reduce their IT spending by approximatley 54%, moving to a cloud based solution.  Ultimately, cloud services helps significantly reduce CAPEX and/or move CAPEX to OPEX.

Always up-to-date/available —  Primarily because of the healthy competition, service providers constantly improve upon their offerings, upgrading their systems and adding new features, while insuring compatibility.   In turn you experience less downtime than when managing IT in-house, and any problems can be solved far quicker by being fixed centrally. IDC estimates that businesses operating in the cloud achieve 97% greater IT reliability.

On-demand scalability — If your business is growing fast or has seasonal spikes, you can go large quickly because cloud systems are built to cope with sharp increases in workload. Cloud based “pay as you go” style services, allow you to easily increase your use of cloud services as your business grows, or decrease if you need to temporarily scale down.

Anytime/Anywhere Access  —  Today’s employees expect to have the same technology and access, be they at work, home or on the go traveling.  They are used to to collaborating online and accessing their data from any mobile device at hand, not expecting to work in one location nor fixed to a 9 to 5 work-time schedule. Cloud services are designed from the ground-up to expect usage anywhere and anytime, and for the most part device independent.

The last point in this benefit topic is often debated as controversial… Our view follows:

Greater level of security — Argued by some, cloud services can be far more secure than traditional in-house IT, especially those used by small and medium business.  It’s all about economies of scale – many cloud suppliers employ security experts, invest vast amounts of money into securing their applications and develop technology beyond the means of any small business.

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