Cloud Computing Models Explained

Cloud Computing Models Explained 150 150 Kerry Butters

Cloud computing is becoming much more well known and many businesses and even homes are starting to utilise its services. Cloud computing uses the web and provides users with online storage options and services such as web-based email and video services. Businesses have either implemented cloud computing practices or are considering doing so.

Although cloud-computing practices have been around for some time now they have yet to receive full-blown recognition. Many services utilise cloud-computing practices and perhaps the best example is in free, web-based email services such as Gmail (how long it’s been around will give you more of a sense that cloud is nothing new).

Computer users, likely unknowingly, use the cloud when they contact friends through instant-messaging, video-messaging mediums, and voice-over-IP. Data-backup services also use the cloud and let users store data and files on a public or private online cloud account.

Cloud is increasingly popular

With cloud computing becoming so saturated it seems increasingly prevalent for businesses to utilise its services. However before that happens it’s a good idea to understand as thoroughly as possible the service that your business wishes to adopt. So, to help you get to grips with cloud-based principles, here’s an explanation of the three main categories of cloud computing.

Remember that cloud computing is a broad term that describes a range of services. The term cloud computing is over used and often practices are incorrectly attributed to this service. For cloud-based options to really benefit a business, that business must understand how the technology works.

The cloud is a very diverse term and one that needs to be simplified and defined to allow a business to utilise its application to the best possible potential. Let’s have a look at some of the components that make up the cloud-computing model –

·         Software as a Service (SaaS)

·         Platform as a Service (PaaS)

·         Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS).

The Cloud Computing Stack

Cloud computing has been described as a stack. This is due to the broad range of service that sits under the cloud umbrella. Cloud computing is a service that can be defined more easily in application than in general and although there are a number of definitions circling the internet the best one comes from the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST).

The NIST definition isn’t short so we’ll paraphrase. Cloud computing is a practice that allows for convenient, on-demand network access to a shared pool of configurable computing resources that can be found in the form of networks, servers, storage, applications, or services. Users can utilise and release cloud based services with minimal fuss and oversight making it an economical upgrade.

The simplest way to put it is that cloud computing offers users a bulk storage resource and the ability to access that resource on multiple devices when the user wants, quickly and easily. However, it can also just deliver applications through hosted desktop or it can host an entire organisation’s infrastructure, doing away with the need for businesses to build and maintain their own network.

There are a number of key benefits identified by NIST regarding the implementation of the cloud:

·         The end user has more control removing some of the delays associated with traditional IT services

·         Responsive design and the ability to access content from a variety of devices (smart phone, desktop, laptop, tablet)

·         Resources can be shared and pooled across a number of departments

·         It’s easily scalable and can increase easily as your business does

·         Easy to monitor service – it’s paid as a metered bill

So, there’s a pyramid structure to legitimate cloud computing practices and it’s good to understand the principles that accompany that layout. There is a number of traditional software vendors offering watered down cloud options – this is known as “cloud-washing.”

The three elements that make up this pyramid are:

·         IaaS is the hardware and software that powers everything – servers, storage, networks, operating systems

·         PaaS makes coding and deployment much easier by providing a very specific set of tools

·         SaaS hosts applications that are delivered over the web and designed for the end user

Let’s look at those categories in more detail. One thing to remember is that although we’re looking at the three categories as distinct, the differences are decreasing as cloud based services become less definable. In fact, specifically the lines between PaaS and IaaS has become blurred. They are still autonomous categories however and by considering them individually you can understand how they work cohesively.

Infrastructure as a Service

This is simple enough and it involves the hardware used to run cloud systems on your networks. Effectively, IaaS is network equipment like routers/switches, data-centre space, servers, and software for business. These data centres are fully outsourced ensuring no increase in workload or decrease in terms of productivity.

Cloud options are simple in application and allow for scalability and reliability. They also provide better security than a local network can provide and additionally cloud services are charged as utilities, making it easily payable and cost effective to what you’ve used.

IaaS vendors purchase in bulk, meaning that the cost is decreased for you the user. It makes sense then that IaaS provides cheaper access to infrastructure.

Platform as a Service

This provides users with full hardware architecture and software frameworks for enterprise applications to run from. Many customers desire flexible, robust, web-based applications and PaaS provides them with that opportunity. There has to be a platform for cloud services to run on and that’s what PaaS does. Developers can write code with no worry about an incompatible OS as the software is being written for a development environment – not Apple, Windows, or Linux.

Software as a Service

SaaS is a process of provisioning commercially available software and providing access to that data over the internet. The service provider ensures that all licenses are covered, meaning that the user has little to worry about. The provider also will handle upgrades, patches, and bug fixes.

Everything is now online and users can rent email services, contact management software, and scheduling software. It’s easily available on the internet and businesses can save money through not having to pay for expensive hardware to host the software, or get the software. A business doesn’t need its employees to develop cloud-based options and the SaaS provider handles the implementation on the back end. This frees your IT staff up to work on projects that are more worthwhile to your business.

So, cloud based services are a cheaper alternative to traditional IT support and infrastructure. With a better understanding of what it is, businesses can utilise this new service and free up hardware space and cost, make its workplace device-agnostic, and focus on more pertinent considerations.

The cloud allows businesses to save money, increase reliability, and make its networks more secure and highly scalable. Understanding the options will help considerably when implementing cloud based business practices.

[VIDEO] What is Cloud Computing?

[VIDEO] What is Cloud Computing? 150 150 Kerry Butters

Cloud computing has been around for some time but it’s only really in the past couple of years that the technology has really taken off. We’re now seeing more and more businesses adopting cloud services and many are now even moving beyond the most popular Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) model into Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) and Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS). However, with technology comes jargon that many people find difficult to understand or define and this is as true of cloud as anything else.

With that in mind, we’ve found a simple video from Saleforce which explains what the cloud is in simple terms for those who like to cut through buzzwords and jargon and cut to the chase.

If you’re confused by cloud and the many ill-defined descriptions which are littered around the net, then check out the video for a clear explanation of what it is and what it does.

Still not sure if the cloud is for you? Why not give us a call today to discuss what options might suit your business, we’ll be happy to help you determine the best solution for you.

How to Choose the Right Cloud Vendor

How to Choose the Right Cloud Vendor Kerry Butters

More and more now we are seeing businesses turn to the cloud to get an edge over their competitors. There are many advantages to moving your business into the cloud, including reduced hardware costs from bring your own device initiatives; more readily available talent through remote working and devices that pick up where you left off on another computer. These can all have positive impacts on your business and workflow.

Moving to the cloud also frees up your IT workers, as your chosen cloud vendor will take care of things like security, tech support, data backups and server maintenance. There is still a hesitation amongst some towards taking the leap to cloud however, as they don’t know what questions to ask when shopping around. So here’s a handy hotlist of questions to ask that’ll put your head firmly in the cloud.

What services do you require from your cloud vendor?

Vendors can offer you all sorts of services, including:

·         Storage (Video, audio, simple data etc) Dropbox, ZipCloud and JustCloud are all popular examples

·         Remote desktops – Extrasys and Bomgar

·         Accounting – Quickbooks, Freshbooks, Kashflow

·         CRM (Customer Relations Management)Salesforce, Goldmine

A Brief Definition of Cloud Computing

There are three basic types of cloud offering that you’re likely to come across when shopping for your service:

  • SaaS (Software as a Service)
  • IaaS (Infrastructure as a Service)
  • PaaS (Platform as a Service)

By far the most popular model as yet is SaaS, which is basically hosted software applications stored away from the business premises in a data centre. This can be as simplistic as email, or as sophisticated as virtualised desktops. IaaS allows businesses to have an IT infrastructure hosted in a data centre, without the need for huge capital expenditure when it comes to servers and other equipment. PaaS is similar to SaaS, but offers more, including the ability to host operating systems and develop application off site.

Decide What you Need

What you want from your vendor will also determine how much you pay. A full service vendor will obviously be much more expensive than a vendor that specialises in one area. Also, keep in mind that you only want to be paying for services that you need. It’s always worth approaching a company that you like about a reduced service agreement, sometimes they’ll be open to this if it gets them your business and you look like you might expand in the future.

How much security do you need?

No matter what kind of a business you run, the security of both your own and your customer’s data is paramount. Security should always be a consideration when moving business processes to the cloud, but the level of that security will be determined by the kind of business you’re running:

·         Basic security measures would be necessary for small businesses that don’t store customer details

·         Medium security is important for enterprises that take customer information such as credit card and personal address details

·         High security is essential for any business that handles sensitive data like banks or security companies

Bear in mind that it’s very likely any cloud vendor that you choose will more than likely have better security than you do at your business premises. Data centres tend to have a robust data recovery process, have carried out all of the necessary risk management procedures and have physical as well as cyber security solutions.

Many small to medium sized businesses also tend to fail when it comes to backing up data effectively; again, this is not something that you should need to worry about when choosing a vendor, but do ask questions:

  • What security measures are in place
  • Can you see a copy of the risk management/disaster recovery documents
  • What’s covered at SLA level with regard to security
  • Are regular audits carried out
  • What certification does the vendor hold

What’s the server performance like?

Performance can be a killer for remote and local workers alike. If they can’t access what they need as quickly or faster than they would have were they working in the office, then it’s unlikely you’ll reap the benefits of cloud computing. A business is looking for the best performing servers it can afford that deliver the best possible results. The adoption of cloud services should make your business’ infrastructure run better than it would without it.

Performance and security are perhaps the two most important things to consider when choosing a cloud vendor.

Can they scale their service?

This question can save you a lot of hassle in the long run. As your business grows you need to be able to grow your cloud presence with it, so make sure that the vendor is capable of expanding with you. Otherwise you may find yourself shopping for new vendors in a year.

How much help do they provide with setup?

Depending on how tech literate a company you are, this may not be a big deal. But most businesses have workers who would benefit from a comprehensive introduction to the new system. Some providers will send someone to educate your workers; others might just provide a downloadable guide for reference. The less time employees take to get up to speed with a new piece of technology the faster you can start reaping the benefits.

Customer service

Whilst you may want help introducing your workers to the cloud, you will definitely want good customer service in place if something goes wrong. Spending a little more money on good, immediate customer service can make a significant difference to your business if something goes wrong at crunch time. If it’s a Service Level Agreement (SLA) contract, then ask the vendor to specify exactly what their responsibilities are before you sign. For example, asking who is responsible for software updates and backup procedures – some may require you to carry these out remotely.

What systems have been put in place in the event of data loss?

There are few things as potentially disastrous to a business as data loss. You should make sure that the vendor you choose has excellent backup systems in place as well as a recovery plan should something go wrong.

Where is the data centre itself and how secure is it?

Location is something that’s become more important to many businesses in the wake of the NSA scandal and it’s thought that the story impacted badly on the US cloud industry. Location is important to you for speed and security, so choosing one local to Europe is advisable if you’re in the UK. This is especially true if you handle sensitive customer data, as different laws apply when you cross borders. Check out the size and scope of the data centre too; if a data bank is kept in a locked room at the back of an office, it’s going to be at much more risk to attack than a data bank in a specialised facility with security measures in place.

What’s the provider’s downtime history?

The lower this is, the better. Even the best cloud providers have occasional downtime, either planned or unplanned. So it’s all about how little time they spend out of action. For a business, any time the cloud is down is time you’re losing money, so it’s good to ask about downtime when considering a vendor.

Microsoft Hosted Exchange services promise 99.9% up time, couple that with its numerous data centres across the world, and you’ve got a very tempting package.

Will I be able to access the cloud anywhere?

If you have a BYOD policy then make sure that the vendor can service all the different types of device being used. If you can only access the cloud from specific devices then you lose a lot of the benefits of the cloud.

Cloud Vendor Pedigree

This encompasses a lot of what’s already been said, but it bears repeating. If a company is good, you should be able to tell from their customers. Look for vendors with big name clients that have been with them for an extended period of time. If a vendor has a lot of short-term clients who then move on to competitors, this likely means the vendor is in some way unsatisfactory.

These questions should help you and your business move towards a cloud vendor well suited to your goals. Remember that, above all, function, security and performance are the key features of a great vendor. Find those things and you’re well on track for successful deployment to the cloud.

Confused by the cloud? Do you need advice on deployment or even consultation on building a data centre? Get in touch with us today to chat about how we can help your business when it comes to cloud computing.

Image: Perspecsys