Although we often talk about “the cloud” or “cloud services,” we are really talking about a group of three different varieties of the cloud: public, private, and hybrid. They share many of the same characteristics, but they differ in some important ways.
Public cloud services are public in the sense that they use the public internet to transmit data. This means that SMBs gain the most benefit in terms of cost and scalability. But because the public internet is public, unless the data is encrypted, this type of cloud service is less secure than private cloud services. This is the most common choice for smaller businesses and companies without special data handling needs. The lower cost and easy scalability are an unbeatable combination.
A private cloud is one that uses a dedicated infrastructure or one in which a single enterprise has sole use of the hardware and network circuits involved. Because data never touches a publicly accessible network, private cloud data is more secure than a public cloud solution. Private clouds are more expensive, though, and don’t scale nearly as well. So, this is not a viable option for most SMBs.
More and more frequently, companies that require enhanced data security, whether for business needs or for regulatory compliance, are turning to hybrid cloud solutions. As the name implies, a hybrid cloud uses a mixture of public and private clouds for various applications. Data that is more sensitive or that is required to be handled in a specific way is kept on private cloud systems, while other traffic that is less sensitive is kept on public cloud systems. It efficiently accommodates the varied data security needs across an enterprise but The advent of cloud computing brings the story full circle and to its logical current state. The enormous capacity of current internet infrastructure to carry unprecedented bandwidth makes it possible to transmit vast quantities of data at reasonable speeds and costs. This makes it possible to pool computing power centrally and process data remotely. The fluctuating processing needs of most modern businesses is what makes doing so desirable. Rather than investing in enough hardware to accommodate peak usage and then letting it sit largely unused the rest of the time, cloud providers invest in more hardware capacity than any single
The cloud’s origins have given rise to several new options for users and one of the earliest was the cloud phone. As the internet evolved, so too did cloud-based phone service, but the initial concept remained the same: voice traffic could be transferred over a data network, and in many cases, more cheaply than that of standard telephone service. Naturally, SMBs can derive significant benefits from cloud-based phone service.
Studies show that cloud-based phone service can mean up to 68% savings over standard phone systems. Imagine getting more than two-thirds of your phone bill back every month.
Cloud-based phone services provide users with access to services that would either be expensive options or completely unavailable on a standard phone system. Tools like find-me-follow-me, hunt groups, and automated assistants are all available with cloud systems, and often for minimal — if any — extra cost.
A system that grows as needed is priceless for SMBs, whose primary objectives are survival and growth. Instead of having to buy extra hardware or negotiate with the phone company for extra lines, cloud-based systems can add extra capacity often with little more than a phone call to the provider and a slightly increased bill.
As more systems go mobile, and more employees want remote working options, cloud phone systems are the way to go. These systems are designed to work anywhere an internet connection can be had, so take advantage of that trend to enhance your own mobility options and offer employees morale-boosting new remote options.
More recently, there’s been the rise of infrastructure as a service (IaaS), software as a service (SaaS), and even platform as a service (PaaS) offerings with the growth of the cloud.
IaaS is the most basic of the aaS models. It involves providing a company with hardware and network connectivity only. Businesses using IaaS are responsible for licensing and maintaining their own software, apps, and operating systems on their cloud servers.
PaaS is similar to IaaS with the exception that the cloud provider also maintains the operating systems, leaving the business responsible for installing and maintaining their software only. Amazon Web Services (AWS) is an example of a PaaS. While the company does not have direct control over the hardware and OS, they do sometimes have certain configuration options available to them.
SaaS is a system in which the cloud services provider is responsible for maintaining almost everything. This includes the hardware, operating system(s), and applications. Businesses may have some control over application settings. A SaaS environment is generally considered the most scalable and efficient of the models because it is very simple to add or remove users as needed. It also requires the least amount of investment in maintenance and support. This flexibility and reduced maintenance requirement come at the price of reduced control over the system.
These service models are the logical result of the ability to compute at a distance over a distributed network in real time. The reduced costs come because the network isn’t just distributed in the sense that the hardware components are not all in the same place; it is also distributed in the sense that the capital investment in that hardware is also distributed.
Because the hardware is shared across multiple companies, the costs of buying and maintaining that hardware are also shared across multiple companies. This puts data processing capabilities that used to be out of the reach of all but the largest companies into the hands of all businesses, no matter what size. This is the true power of cloud services
The concerns that SMBs had in the earlier days of cloud computing have largely been dealt with. The capabilities and functionality that modern cloud computing solutions can offer a business far outstrip what is possible with modern premisesbased systems.
There is no simpler way to put it: the cloud is cheaper. It eliminates the need for dataprocessing-related capital expenditures and maintenance costs on hardware. Cloud services also eliminate much of the IT overhead that comes with operating an on-premises network. That frees up IT staff to work on developing and improving apps and services for both employees and customers.
The computing needs of an SMB change over time. Sometimes those needs become greater, sometimes smaller. Sometimes the change happens over the course of years or months; sometimes it varies from day to day. It is an inescapable truth, however, that computing needs change. Cloud services allow computing infrastructure to change in real time to reflect those needs. They obviate the need to overprovision resources to account for high-demand spikes, thereby avoiding the time-honored tradition of having a significant portion of a business’s computing capacity lying fallow much of the time
Platform interconnection and interoperability have always been very real and very significant issues for premises-based systems. Once a company commits to a specific hardware and software platform, anything that gets added to the system has to connect to and interoperate with, everything else. This isn’t always possible, and it prevents companies from keeping up with the capabilities of their competitors who, because their cloud provider can invest in the best new platforms without negatively affecting end-user experience, do have the best and newest systems available.
In a modern business context, nothing happens when the servers are down. Downtime is a natural consequence of running a network at the hardware level. Because cloud services run on virtualized hardware, they can swap out, repair, upgrade, or do any other maintenance necessary to the hardware without affecting the operation of the platform.
For most SMBs, the level of security provided by almost any cloud services provider is much better than they would ever be able to provision for themselves. Because cloud services providers specialize in provisioning secure network infrastructure, and because they encounter significantly more attacks and security threats than any single business would ever encounter, they are much better equipped to deal with those issues than any SMB could ever realistically hope to be.
As mentioned above, the mobility benefit is huge with cloud services, and it extends beyond just connecting employees via phone. By abstracting the network infrastructure and data into the cloud, it becomes possible for an employee to access everything from anywhere they have a network connection. And while it’s true that this has the obvious and immediate effect of boosting productivity, it is not a simple linear relationship. Full, integrated, mobile access doesn’t just enable staff to more effectively do the things they’ve always done; it allows them to do things they could never do before. Mobile access allows for the development of entirely new workflows, processes, and corporate functionality, which has a roll-on effect for productivity across the board. This simple change can be transformative for any business ready to embrace it
The benefits are clear, and the risks and potential problems are well understood and largely mitigated. Legacy computing and telecommunications systems simply can’t compete with the affordability, stability, and functionality of cloud computing and phone systems, and that gap will only get wider with each passing day.
There is no longer any food in the cave, and the fire is dying out, but the good news is that the sun is rising. Cloud services are no longer the new technology on the block and can no longer be viewed as just a fad. This is a tried, tested, and trusted technology in the arsenal of many competitors. It is here to stay, and if SMBs want to become and remain competitive, they need to take advantage of it. It is time to venture forth from the cave. The only thing to fear is being left behind.
If your are currently tied to a legacy system or are not satisfied with your current voice provider, contact Peak IT to find out how you can save on your phone expenses. Peak IT provides cloud-based phone systems exclusively for Small to Medium Businesses. Give your Business the look of the enterprise while keeping your costs down. Learn more by contacting Peak IT Security & Solutions today.