Most of us have been told as children to, "Get your head out of the clouds!" But it's time to ignore that advice.
Luckily the cloud is not complicated; it's just a way to think about services like software, infrastructure and platforms as they are run through the Internet. For those willing to make the change, the cloud can mean time and money saved.
You may have heard of cloud services without knowing what they were. The three main categories are Software-as-a-Service (SaaS), Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) and Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS).
SaaS directly delivers programs and applications to the end user via the Internet. Many companies most appreciate that SaaS lets them use as much software as they need with the ability to easily scale up or down, while simply paying a monthly fee for what they use. So many providers have come into the SaaS marketplace that Comcast created a cloud-based marketplace, Upware, as a resource for hosted applications.
IaaS meets business hardware needs for things such as storage capacity, bandwidth and server needs. Businesses get the hardware they need without having to buy or maintain actual equipment. PaaS allows companies to create applications or software using tools and libraries from a provider. Companies can create things like custom apps or websites without have to worry about hosting capabilities or buying and managing hardware and software.
While the cloud is helpful for businesses of all sizes, one of its biggest impacts is leveling the playing field for small businesses. Cloud computing gives businesses of all sizes access to sophisticated software at a lower cost, is more easily scalable for growing businesses and makes security attainable for everyone.
Before beginning to use the cloud, be sure to consider a few things as you decide.
- Evaluate more than one service provider. Use free trials in your assessment.
- It's okay to test the waters and build familiarity with cloud computing before using it for all business needs.
- As cloud vendors are the ones providing the management, hosting and other services, make sure they offer adequate customer support.
- Read provider agreements carefully and make sure you understand what you will pay, what services you receive and whether there are early termination fees.
Don't let these words of advice scare you off. You should be cautious approaching any big business decision, but cloud services are so quickly becoming the norm that you'll soon realize the benefits.