The basic Idea behind cloud computing has been around since the late 1950's, when the first very expensive large mainframe computers were designed for simultaneous accessibility through multiple terminals at universities and research institutions due to the immense cost and scarcity of computer time.
This basic pattern existed until well into the 1990's before the brilliant idea of commercially developing the same basic computing structure was developed by large internet companies like Amazon and Oracle; these first large commercial cloud networks came online in early 2000 - 2001 and since then the industry has at first slowly and now very quickly expanded dramatically.
By its most basic definition (for those of you that are still a bit unsure what I mean by "cloud") a cloud computing structure is essentially a large centrally managed system of servers that make up a single large (or vast) computing system and can be filled with hardware, software, or other digital applications such as storage space and security software. This server domain, or cloud, is then accessible through dozens, hundreds, or even millions of remote terminals around the world that have been granted entry rights. Each smaller computer can then use the clouds resources through its remote connection while logged into the server system.
Today this basic structure has evolved to encompass all our personal and business machines: Laptops, PCs smart phones, tablets and even large industrial computers; all connected to an assortment of cloud networks offering dozens of different services and support systems.
There are essentially three main kinds of cloud computing networks: Public Clouds (publicly accessible), Private Clouds (closed cloud networks) and Hybrid clouds (containing both publically open sections and areas that are restricted), which are a mix of the first two. Any of these three can be used to deliver computer power, technology and software as a service, usually under one or more of the following categories:
- security as a service
- software as a service
- storage as a service
- hardware as a service
- Data as a service
- Online Test environment/API as a service
As you can see from the list and image above, all of these powerful features and numerous others are offered as services. This is in fact the essential benefit of cloud networks; powerful broadband connections have allowed for what were formerly products to be turned into remotely delivered services in which the actual service delivery structure is located away from a single personal or business computer. Also, bear in mind that the above is only a partial list of cloud services and many cloud networks offer far more customer options that are now evolving on a daily basis!
Okay, so let's take a look at the chief productivity and accessibility benefits of this new cloud landscape for your business.
1. Low Priced Access to Major Computer Power
Since most commercial cloud networks are run by major corporations --such as Microsoft, Amazon, Apple, Oracle and Google -- with heavy software and hardware resources at their disposal, buying into a cloud network gives your business access to extremely powerful computer tools at a tiny fraction of the cost of buying them yourself. For a single monthly/annual membership fee, even individuals and very small businesses can take advantage of resources that were strictly the domain of large corporations just 20 years ago or less.
From security systems to API environments to design software applications, your business can handle much larger workloads through cloud computing and do so without having to concern itself with the costs of trying to maintain the infrastructure that allows these capabilities.
2. Decentralization of the Workplace
As mentioned above, one of the chief features of cloud computing systems is their accessibility via remote devices such as smart phones, tablets, laptops and computers from anywhere in the world with access to the same network on which a given cloud database is located. Because of this, workplaces such as your business can be massively decentralized for greater efficiency and cheaper operational costs.
Previously, you as a business would have had to keep all of your hardware or software onsite and have your employees come into a physical office so they could make use of it. Now, this is becoming steadily less necessary; when the very business resources you use are themselves remotely accessible, your entire team of contractors, developers or other workers can access them from their own home computers or mobile devices just as easily as they can from an office. You and your employees can also share your information more effectively, even in large quantities, through the data and storage options that many cloud computing systems provide.
The obvious conclusion here is that you may just be able to shift from an office based workforce to a team of telecommuting employees that enter the cloud network to which you have bought access and complete their work from home, working on a more flexible and efficient schedule without wasting time on travel.
3. Dramatically Increased Work Flexibility and Productivity
As a result of the greater resource access and decentralization induced flexibility that cloud computing can give to your business, you can now also count on creating a much more flexible workplace in which you can give your clients access to more varied, more professional services at discounted prices. Since the business tools you use are maintained, updated and expanded by the cloud provider instead of you, your company can focus more purely on client-end satisfaction and operations.
Your costs and time outlays for doing business are also reduced by the fact that your employees no longer necessarily need to travel and can work from wherever they are at a much more flexible time schedule; again, the result of this is also a reduction in time wasting and more focus on work instead of external tasks like commuting and running a large office setting. On the whole, your business becomes more adaptive, faster and cheaper to run.
4. Increased Competitiveness
The ultimate net result of all of these features that come with working from different clouds is a more competitive company that can give better service at reduced costs. Business bloat can more easily be avoided and you as well as your employees can both benefit from a more streamlined work environment in which you can actually get more done with less money and time spent. This can make you more competitive, particularly against companies that aren't early adapters because they haven't yet shifted to a cloud based workplace.
About the author: When Steven Chalmers isn’t writing poignant articles in the technology realm, you can find him reviewing www.intercall.com or fishing with his two young sons.