What Cloud Services Deliver to Small and Medium Businesses

We’ve all heard of the “cloud.” And most us use it routinely, whether we realize it or not.

If you search on Google, shop on Amazon, watch Netflix, manage email, collaborate on Zoom or do any number of other things online, chances are you’ve been “in the cloud.” Or in the technical sense, you’ve used a cloud-based service.

In operational terms, the cloud is a model in which devices (phones, laptops, etc.) applications, servers, networks, data storage, development tools, and so on are enabled via the Internet.

In business terms, the cloud is the foundation for everything an enterprise requires to do business:

Internet access. With a public cloud environment, users “plug into” applications, data systems and other business tools using an internet connection. In-office or remote, a user can access your organization’s apps and systems from anywhere at any time.

Measured service. A cloud-based service, such as a Software as a Service (SaaS), is typically pay-as-you-go. That is, you pay only for the service(s) or app(s) you use, and only for the users who use them. Think of a utility company metering how much electricity your office uses and charging you based on consumption. The cloud and a SaaS-offered accounting app or CRM system is the same, on a per-user basis.

On-demand “self-service.” Again with SaaS as an example, an enterprise can request services and have them provisioned quickly. Since service providers maintain their apps and systems in the cloud, provisioning and activating a new service basically just an upload to each end user.

Rapid elasticity. Cloud platforms are elastic. Or better for your business, they’re adaptable. Your organization can expand its functionality and scale resource usage levels up or down quickly as needs change. An example here… and a question: With Covid-19 forcing many employees to unexpectedly work from home, has your business been able to pivot — without disruption — to accommodate a remote workforce?

The cloud’s foundation

Cloud services originate from physical data center locations worldwide and are accessed using the Internet rather than a local area network (LAN).

Microsoft’s Azure cloud framework and global infrastructure, for instance, includes more than 160 data centers arranged into regions. The infrastructure is linked by one of the largest interconnected networks on the planet, including an undersea cable that Microsoft installed in 2017 to connect the US to Europe.

This network enables each Azure data center to provide high availability, low latency, scalability, and the latest advancements in cloud infrastructure. More importantly, the Azure platform keeps data entirely within the trusted Microsoft network. Internet protocol (IP) traffic never enters the public Internet.

Like Microsoft, most cloud providers continually upgrade their data centers to the latest generation of technical resources to keep computing speed and effectiveness at max levels. Doing so offers several benefits over a corporate, on-premise data center, as follows.

Faster and more responsive

A significant benefit of the cloud is reduced network latency for applications. Latency is the delay between a source (a device or “client”) request and a destination (the provider’s server response). A principal cause of network latency is the distance between client devices making requests and the servers responding to those requests.

Thus with more data centers and servers in strategic parts of the globe, network latency is less of an issue. And that means your employees can work and respond to customers at a faster pace.

Data backup, disaster recovery and business continuity

Adopting the cloud makes data backup, disaster recovery and business continuity easier and less costly. Cloud providers can protect your data more cost-efficiently — and at massive scale — by transferring datasets over the Internet to an offsite cloud storage system accessible from any location and any device.

Known as mirroring data, a provider can copy datasets from one location to a local or remote storage medium in real time. And especially with multiple redundant sites on a cloud provider’s network, your data remains available and your business stays operating in the event of a disaster or some other outage.

To protect your data, plus your apps and infrastructure, most cloud providers offer a set of controls to strengthen your security posture overall. These controls are usually a mix of technologies and policies that a service provider establishes (and updates) using industry standards and best practices for cloud security and data theft prevention. If a provided doesn’t do this, avoid using them.

Benefits recapped

As most small business owners know, the costs of hosting your own servers and having adequate infrastructure and staff can add up quickly. But move to the cloud and align with the right service provider for cloud computing, and key benefits come from three directions.

  • Lower costs
    Eliminate the capital expense of hardware, software, maintaining and powering a data center — and paying IT staff to manage it all.
  • Speed
    Get cloud services on demand and provision new computing resources in minutes. This gives your businesses flexibility and relieves the pressure of capacity planning.
  • Global scale
    Stay adaptable and scale elastically. The cloud delivers the right levels of IT resources — computing power, storage and bandwidth — at the exact time they’re needed, from the best geographic location.

Ultimately, what cloud services deliver to small and medium businesses isn’t just technology. Such services lead to better productivity, collaboration, communication, business management, and security.

Visual Edge IT can help your business determine a roadmap to sustainable growth and navigating roadblocks — including the Covid-19 crisis. A move to cloud computing technology can help. Contact us to take the first assessment step.