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What are cloud services?

13 September 2021      
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Cloud technology has been around for some time now, providing businesses with on-demand computing services that support business growth, while optimising performance and enhancing security. But what exactly are cloud services and how can they benefit your organisation?

What are cloud services?

Simply put, cloud services are services that are delivered to users over the internet (“the cloud”). There are a wide range of cloud services available, each designed to provide access to applications and resources without the need for internal infrastructure or traditional hardware.

Services can include the delivery of servers, storage, networks, platforms, databases, software, analytics and intelligence. You might already be using cloud services in some form without even realising.

What do cloud services do?

Cloud services enable businesses to store information and data on physical or virtual servers, helping businesses to lower operating costs, run their infrastructure more efficiently and scale as needs change. There are many more benefits to cloud computing services, which we’ll come onto later.

How do cloud services work?

As above, cloud services store data on remote servers accessed via an internet connection. This information and data is then maintained and controlled by cloud computing providers and their cloud platforms. Typically, businesses only pay for the cloud services they use, making them economically viable for many.

Customers can access their stored information and other cloud services via the provider’s server, ensuring they don’t need to host the applications or data on their own on-premise servers. In contrast to traditional hardware and software solutions, users simply need a computer, network connection and operating system to access cloud services.

Types of cloud computing

Cloud computing is bespoke by nature. Different businesses have different needs, so their cloud computing services should be different too. Before you decide which cloud services you need in your organisation, you’ll need to determine the type of cloud environment you need.

There are three main types of cloud platforms that a business can implement their cloud services on:

Public cloud

Public clouds are managed solely by the cloud provider, delivering computing resources over the internet for customers to access via their web browser. All hardware, software and supporting infrastructure is owned by the cloud provider. Examples of public cloud include Microsoft Azure and Amazon Web Services.

Private cloud

Private clouds are cloud computing resources that are used exclusively by a single business, often those that wish to store more sensitive data. They are often physically located on a company’s on-site data centre, but third-party service providers can also be engaged to host their private cloud. All services and infrastructure are maintained on a private network and access can be via browsers or virtual machines.

Hybrid cloud

As the name suggests, hybrid clouds combine both public and private cloud environments, using technology that enables the sharing of data and applications. Moving data and applications between public and private cloud means that businesses can benefit from greater flexibility and optimised security, compliance and infrastructure.

Types of cloud services

Once a cloud deployment type has been decided, you can start to think about the types of cloud services you need for your business. There are three basic types: Infrastructure as a Service, Software as a Service, and Platform as a Service.

Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS)

Infrastructure as a Service is where companies rent IT infrastructure from a cloud provider, usually on a pay-as-you-go basis. Infrastructure could include storage, networks, operating systems, servers and virtual machines. 

IaaS offers the complete data centre framework that organisations need to run cloud services, without the personal maintenance or upkeep. Businesses that use IaaS eliminate the need for resource-intensive, on-site installations which can be costly and time-consuming.

Software as a Service (SaaS)

Software as a Service is a distribution model that allows software applications to be instantly delivered across the internet, usually on a subscription basis. Cloud providers host and manage the applications and data in their own servers, databases, network and computing resources.

However, Independent Software Vendors (ISVs) might also contract a third-party cloud provider to host the application in the provider’s data centre. End users can then access the applications via their web browser on any device.

SaaS products include email, calendar and office tool applications such as Microsoft Office 365.

Platform as a Service (PaaS)

Platform as a Service enables developers to build cloud applications without setting up or managing the underlying infrastructure of servers, storage, networks and databases. PaaS cloud computing services deliver an instant environment in which software applications can be developed, tested, delivered and managed. 

The solution means organisations can benefit from quick turnarounds and practically no maintenance. PaaS providers will supply a database, operating system and programming language to make it easy for developers to create bespoke web or mobile applications.

Benefits of cloud services

As we’ve already mentioned, there are several benefits to cloud services for all types of businesses. More organisations are moving away from traditional IT resources and solutions, and into cloud-based solutions to reap these benefits and ensure their business is prepared for the future of digital and the modern workplace.

Some of the key advantages to cloud services include: 

Improved performance & collaboration

By using cloud services, businesses can increase their opportunities for collaboration. Especially in a remote workforce. Cloud services enable employees to easily access, share and edit files in real time, from any location. With increased collaboration and the ability for teams to get things done quicker, general business performance is also improved.

Greater cost efficiencies

With no capital expenditure on expensive hardware and software, as well as setting up and maintaining on-site data centres, cloud services can really save you money. By engaging with a cloud provider, you negate the need for any of this stuff. And that’s before you factor in paying for round-the-clock electricity and IT specialists to manage your infrastructure.

Additionally, many cloud services are offered on a subscription or pay-as-you go basis, ensuring you never over-pay for the services you receive.

Scalability

One of the key drivers to cloud services is the ability to scale as your business needs change. You can simply flex your IT resources up and down as you need to, ensuring you only use and pay for what you require at any given time. And with remote working becoming the future of the workplace, flexibility is key.

Enhanced security

With professional cloud services from a reputable provider, you can also benefit from strengthened security measures. Many cloud providers offer technologies and controls that help protect your data, applications, and infrastructure from ever-growing cyber threats. In addition, most cloud computing services are run on large secure data centres that are regularly upgraded to the highest security standards.

Greater productivity

If you keep your IT resources in-house, your teams are often spending lots of time setting up hardware, patching software and completing other mundane IT tasks. However, cloud services can completely remove the need for many of these maintenance activities, freeing up your IT teams to focus on their core business objectives.

Reduced carbon footprint

With less physical servers and potentially no need for an on-site data centre at all, businesses can significantly reduce their carbon footprint. In addition, with more opportunities for file sharing and collaboration, there is less need for your employees to use energy and spend money printing documents.

So, there you have it. Cloud services explained. If you’re looking for further information about exactly how cloud services can support and enhance your business, get in touch with us today for a free consultation.