What is the Cloud?
The “cloud” is a term used to denote services offered by “cloud computing service providers” who have abstracted physical computers, applications and networks so that those can be offered as services over the internet.
The easiest way to think about this is instead of buying your own computers, installing the wires, routers, firewalls and switches needed to build your own infrastructure, you can pay for those things as services instead. The cloud computing service providers then take care of all the background hassles of keeping all of that operational to provide the services you are paying for. You don’t rent space on a computer (as you would in a hosting situation), you simply get the actual services that you require. It’s a higher level abstraction compared to a hosting solution.
What Makes it Better?
The advantages can be profound, especially for smaller businesses.
You gain access to enterprise scale infrastructure without the capital and maintenance costs associated. Cloud providers use economies of scale to provide superior services at lower costs. Their infrastructure is usually cutting edge technology, which is continuously monitored and maintained. It’s impossible for a small business to replicate that without spending enormous amounts.
Reliability and availability is very high.
Security infrastructure complies with the highest standards. In contrast, many small business’s IT infrastructure evolved from a small scale, in a patch-work fashion. Finding and fixing all the security holes in a system like that can be very difficult and expensive. For small businesses particularly, cloud computing can make it easier to implement higher levels of security without spending vast amounts, or needing the necessary in-house skills.
Very high resilience. It’s easy to set-up fail-over or redundant instances which operate across multiple data centres, which can be distributed throughout the world. If a whole data centre fails, you might not even notice. Again, there is no way a small business can easily replicate that sort of infrastructure.
Hardware failures and maintenance become a thing of the past. Because you are buying a service, not space on any particular machine, you do not have to worry about the nuts and bolts anymore.
You only pay for what you use. For example, you may only need powerful computing power once a month. So why buy a large expensive server which is going to stand idle most of the time, when you can pay for that service, for a few hours per month, as and when you need it?
Cloud computing has the ability to easily deal with sudden dramatic changes in load. For example, if you periodically run specials or promotions which result in your infrastructure becoming overloaded at those times, while it idles doing nothing at other times, the cloud can make your life a lot easier. You can scale your system to match your load when you need it, while only paying for what you use.
What are the Risks?
Cloud computing requires robust and redundant access to the internet.
The biggest companies who offer the best services are off-shore, so forex rates become relevant. Political risks also may become relevant.
Your business becomes reliant on an external service provider.
How We Can Help
We can set up an environment for you within Amazon Web Services (AWS) which typically includes the following elements:
- A Virtual Private Cloud, with public and private subnets
- EC2 Instances (think of these as virtual computer servers)
- A RDS (Relational Database Service) which spans multiple data centres
- S3 File storage
- And much more..
If you are interested in trying out the cloud as an alternative to your current systems, we suggest picking a small unimportant part, which can be moved into the cloud on a trial basis. You can then use that to learn about how the cloud works and whether it is the right thing for you.
Please Contact Us to discuss how we can help you do that.