What is the Cloud?
Cloud terminology can be very confusing to anyone who is not involved with the IT industry. In this article I'll look at the three most common acronyms that you're likely to come across. I'll attempt to explain them in non-technical terms, and in particular their relevance to Australian small businesses. First, a definition.
Cloud computing is “the practice of using a network of remote servers hosted on the Internet to store, manage, and process data, rather than a local server or personal computer.”
In other words Cloud computing is a general term for anything that involves delivering hosted services via the Internet. Cloud computing is generally divided into three service categories, Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS), Platform as a Service (PaaS) and Software as a Service (SaaS).
Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS)
The most common service provided via IaaS is a Remote Desktop Services (RDS) server, or terminal server as it is more commonly known . This enables employees to log in from anywhere they have Internet service and work on the server. There is no difference in functionality between this cloud based version of a terminal server and one running on hardware located in an office. Business data and applications can be made available on the server so that staff can work remotely (home, sales office, remote project location etc) and still have access to the tools and data they require.
Behind the scenes this type of hosted server uses virtualisation technology so that multiple servers can run on the same underlying physical hardware. Virtualised servers have the flexibility to be scaled up or down as the business need changes, with the costs adjusting accordingly. If you need more capacity for a project then we can add storage, memory and processing capacity for that period and then reduce back to normal when the project is completed. By comparison a physical server would need to be upgraded to maximum required capacity without the possibility of scaling back down. Costs are monthly based on usage and are an operating cost compared to one big up-front capital cost.
Bizcare offers Infrastructure as a Service options powered by Microsoft Azure in Australia. There are currently two Microsoft Azure datacentres in Australia, one each in Sydney and Melbourne. By using Australian-based datacentres we ensure that your data is being held in facilities which meet Australian legislative requirements for data retention, and protection.
Software as a Service (SaaS)
The other category of Cloud Computing relevant to most businesses in Australia is the provision of software services via the Internet. Microsoft Office 365 is a suite of SaaS services. The most familiar of these would be Exchange Online which provides email services to billions of customers all over the world. E-mail is just one example of the services included in Office 365. There are many other services included in Office 365 that assist group collaboration. There are SaaS versions of accounting packages such as QuickBooks, MYOB and Xero. Another major category of SaaS software is Customer Relationship (CRM) packages. Bizcare can advise on the suitability of SaaS packages to meet your business requirements.
Platform as a Service (PaaS)
Platform as a Service is generally used for software development and hosting the product once completed.
Private vs. Public vs. Hybrid Cloud
Private cloud services are provided by an organisation's privately owned datacentre. They use the same virtualisation technologies as the Public cloud but hosted on their own IT infrastructure and maintained by internal IT staff. Providing a totally private cloud environments requires resources beyond most small and mid-sized Australian businesses.
Public cloud services are provided by vendors such as Microsoft and Amazon, to name only two. Most businesses will need to work with a skilled vendor partner to design, implement and support a public cloud solution. A totally cloud based solution can work well for very small businesses and geographically dispersed organisations.
Hybrid cloud solutions use the best features of private and public cloud to provide a solution that is cost effective and practical. Many small businesses will find that a hybrid solution offers the best fit for their requirements.
Designing a practical and cost effective solutions requires a large amount of knowledge of cloud technologies and their pitfalls. One of the biggest limiting factors in Australia today, particularly in Western Australia, is poor internet connection speeds. Bizcare will work with you to advise the best solution for your business. Our proposed solution will take into account any current site limitations, such as internet speed, without providing barriers to adjusting the solution and conditions change.