September 6, 2016
Talking about clouds used to mean that you were talking about the weather. These days, though, referencing “the cloud” likely means you are talking about accessing on-demand computing resources through the internet. Rather than using a personal computer or local server to store and manage data, using the cloud means that a business (or individual) is leveraging a network of remote servers to host and process their data. The reasons to choose cloud computing are numerous and we’ll review several of the ways that our business, and that of our clients, has benefited from using the cloud.
The Cloud is Cost Effective
The bottom line is important to every business, so we’ll start there. Because most cloud providers operate using a “utility” pay structure, cloud computing enables you to pay for just what you need. Monthly cost is based on usage, storage, bandwidth and computing power required. Some providers even offer services on very low volumes for free. This is an incredible benefit to us when we’re developing or experimenting or beta testing. There’s no need to make a big hardware investment until we’re clear on what our customers will need in the real world. In fact, cloud computing enables us to start small, and very easily and smoothly scale up as our customers’ demand increases.
Contrast that model to owning our own servers and adding resources in large chunks. Immediately after purchasing a server, or a bigger hard drive, or more memory, there’s a period of time when we’re paying for excess capacity while waiting to fill the demand for the newly purchased resources. In addition, we would have to buy hardware in anticipation of the highest peak demand, even though most of the time, the servers will run at a much smaller capacity than the high point.
Consider the recent Pokémon Go craze. Without cloud computing, Niantic, the creator of the popular game, would have had to purchase A LOT of hardware and server resources to meet the crazy demand spikes that occur when every kid in the neighborhood is searching for a Bulbasuar. It’s critical to be able to handle those peak moments, but the same coverage can be provided at lower cost when using a shared resource.
The Cloud Provides Operational Agility
In addition to cost savings, sharing resources also allows for operational agility. In cloud computing the service provider takes responsibility for scaling the demand on the server without any effort on the user’s part. For example, a business like Netflix would pretty regularly have much higher usage at 8pm on a Saturday night than 10am Monday morning. Cloud computing allows the server to meet that high demand during family movie night by dedicating more resources and then reduce those resources as the demand decreases come Monday.
As mentioned in the example above, Netflix could choose to invest in hardware to meet the high demand times. That still wouldn’t be enough, though, to handle things like a new movie release or an unexpectedly popular show. Cloud computing enables businesses with fluctuating bandwidth requirements to scale up and down to closely match demand without requiring intensive resource management.
The Cloud is Reliable
The redundancy that is built into a managed service platform also means greater reliability. In the rare event of a failure on the cloud servers, the service provider is able to easily transition applications and services to other available servers they manage. Now, instead of a late night emergency repair, we just receive an email to let us know there was a problem that was fixed.
In a similar vein, companies who aren’t using the cloud to run their businesses can benefit from this redundancy by using the cloud as a backup for their data. Implementing a robust data recovery plan is important for any business, but requires investment and expertise to do it on your own. The cloud provides an alternate, reliable option.
The Cloud Facilitates Strategic Focus
After using a co-location facility for server needs at InspiringApps for many years, we realized that managing the hardware itself was time-consuming and costly. When a problem arose, someone had to go to the co-location facility, bring a tool box, and make repairs or install emergency hardware. Similarly, staying on top of software updates and security enhancements also took time and skill.
Using a cloud service provider means we don’t need to own, manage, or maintain the facility, servers, or software. Our expertise is in app development, and we want to stay focused on our key business objectives. We can put our efforts toward growing our business by leveraging the expertise of those whose business is data storage.
The Cloud is Easy to Implement
Cloud computing is offered by many large and small providers, so it’s easy to find someone who offers the services needed for a variety of different business scenarios. Our main provider for cloud computing services is Amazon Web Services (AWS). Amazon’s costs are extremely affordable, even for small companies, so we recommend AWS almost exclusively to our customers. As important, Amazon continues to innovate and release new products in their suite at an astonishing rate. Their products provide us with different useful tools in our toolbox to allow us to pair just the right cloud service with the needs of each client project.
In a nutshell, cloud computing has changed the way we operate over the years. It’s made us more effective, saved us money, and been more convenient. Because of this, we’ll continue to use it for our business, and recommend you consider implementing it for yours.
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