Most businesses today use some form of cloud computing, even though many admit to feeling bamboozled by the range of services on offer. It’s true that cloud computing can seem a confusing landscape, with many different free or subscription packages available.
Here, our Technical Director Ben Jones explains exactly what the cloud is, and examines the public, private and hybrid options available.
What is the cloud?
Put simply, cloud computing refers to the concept of using a remote computer or server to store data or run programs. Most of us use the cloud every day in work and home life, whether or not we realise it. When you connect to the internet to use a service like YouTube or BBC iPlayer, that’s the cloud in action. If you use Google Docs, web-based email or file-sharing services such as Dropbox, again you are tapping in to the cloud. Even social media platforms like Facebook or Tumblr are essentially cloud-based applications.
‘Cloud’ refers to the fact that the stored data or program is remote to your device – it’s happening elsewhere. In truth, the name is misleading, as cloud computing relies on a vast network of cables and data centres that are very much located down on earth, not up in the atmosphere!
How is the cloud used for business?
There are countless ways in which businesses can benefit from using the cloud. When it comes to data storage, using the cloud over physical on-site file storage can offer attractive cost-savings. There’s also the flexibility of being able to access data on any device, from anywhere in the world. Cloud applications typically update automatically, so there is less pressure to keep your own systems updated and maintained. Consequently, cloud services tend to be speedy and efficient, with reduced danger of outages and downtime.
What are the differences between private and public cloud services?
Public clouds share physical hardware (cables and servers in data centres) and are operated by a third-party provider, such as Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure, Google Cloud Platform or IBM Cloud. You will share this hardware with other subscribers, or ‘tenants’.
Private clouds are hosted either on your business premises or at a service provider’s data centre. The infrastructure is dedicated solely to your business and it’s customisable.
There’s also a third route – ‘hybrid cloud’ – which is essentially a combination of these two approaches. A company using the hybrid model will have some storage and services with a public provider, and other elements of the business will operate via a private cloud.
Is the cloud more vulnerable to cyber attack?
It’s an inescapable fact that all digital data is open to cyber attack at some level, whether that data is stored on the isolated memory of a private device, or remotely via the cloud.
Security is a hot topic for anyone involved in the IT industry and tech companies are working around the clock to prevent breaches occurring. There is one argument that using the public cloud makes a business less likely to be attacked, since there are so many layers of deterrent. Service patches and fixes are automatically applied behind the scenes, meaning that a customer should not even be aware that a breach was attempted.
On the other hand, storing a vast amount of sensitive data in the public cloud undoubtedly makes your business a target in the eyes of a potential attacker. If a threat arises on a shared infrastructure, all tenants are vulnerable.
Private cloud solutions, such as FitzCloud, offer a higher level of control and security by segregating that environment.
What’s best for my business?
Which model you opt for depends on a number of factors, including your current levels of usage, regulatory issues that apply to your sector, and the sensitivity of your data. We’d be happy to arrange an informal, no-obligation meeting to discuss the various cloud solutions open to your business. As a leading IT consultancy based in central London, we are proud to offer outstanding service to our clients across the UK. Why not give us a call on 020 3727 6021, or get in touch via our contact form? We look forward to hearing from you!