The world today has rapidly become a market of social sharing and combined resources. We have seen Uber’s concept of shared transportation beat out traditional taxi companies and Airbnb’s home-sharing system compete with traditional hotels. It’s no surprise that in the realm of technology and computers, the broad idea of shared resources, culminated in the cloud, is rapidly taking over the way people do business. The general concept of the cloud is that computer resources, such as data and programs, can be shared across an entire company or organization.
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Similar to how alternative transportation or overnight accommodations can save money, the cloud can also provide a cheaper alternative by pooling the resources of a company. Having a third-party administrator maintain the infrastructure needed to support a company enables you to cut costs for on-site maintenance and IT support. Plus, having data and programs stored in the cloud allows employees to be connected to the greater application or program without being limited to one computer. Looking deeper into the options the cloud can provide to a company, there are three main delivery models: SaaS, PaaS, and IaaS.
The most common delivery model is Software as a Service, known as SaaS. This is the first cloud option that most people are familiar with and use most often. Ultimately, SaaS is an online version of a program that may traditionally be installed on the computer. The SaaS application can run online without having to download or install any software, although a plug-in may be necessary. By having access to these programs online, a company can easily save money with licensing and IT support. The concept of these programs allows a delivery method in which companies are able to pay as they go on a needs-only basis. Also, many problems that occur with the SaaS delivery method can be fixed remotely by a third-party administrator, so there is no need for in-house IT staff. Common SaaS programs that businesses commonly use include many of the Adobe programs and Microsoft Office. SaaS is also very popular for data maintenance programs, CRM and health care applications.
There are several benefits to using SaaS in the cloud. First, because SaaS utilizes an online version of the program, it allows a company to have complete flexibility. Employees are no longer chained to a company computer. This means that not only can employees access their work remotely, they can do it from any computer regardless of whether the software is installed. SaaS also allows a company to try out new software or programs first before fully committing to the program. If a company opts to use the online version of a program provided with SaaS, it has the option to change to a different application after a few short months if the needs of the company are not met. Further, SaaS allows a company to continuously upgrade software. When installing programs on a computer, any time a new update is released, a company would either have to purchase a new edition or wait for the yearly large update to occur. With SaaS, updates are constantly in motion, ensuring the most up-to-date versions are available for use. One last benefit with SaaS is that companies are not restricted by the capabilities of an in-house server. If there is a spike in traffic on a traditional server, the server can overload and crash, leading to a waste of valuable resources and time. The beauty of the cloud is that the servers are built to handle a large spike in traffic and can be scaled to accommodate more activity accordingly. This means that there is a very small likelihood of having a server in the cloud ever crash.
Another delivery method that is used in the cloud is called Platform as a Service, or PaaS. By integrating a PaaS system, companies can simplify the difficult task of developing software. Traditionally, when creating a software program, a company would be forced to have the infrastructure in place first before attempting to take on such an endeavor. This means that the company would need to first have the storage, servers and network in place and then have the power to manage the virtualization and operating system runtime. And that is only the beginning. For a small company or a company just starting out, this isn't always a realistic task. Through various cloud-based delivery PaaS systems, there is the ability to take all of the needed infrastructure and make it available online. Because the PaaS system has the groundwork in place already, developers are able to jump right into programming. The Integrated Development Environment, or IDE, allows the programmer to easily develop the needed application.
There are a few common PaaS systems readily available for companies to use, including Amazon Web Services, Google App Engine and Microsoft Azure. Just like with SaaS, Platform as a Service delivery allows users to take their work anywhere. The ability to program while working in the cloud also has the added benefit of allowing team collaboration on a program. Further, PaaS has the same ability to continuously update so users are constantly working with the newest version of the software available. Many PaaS deliveries allow for the same payment structure as SaaS, which allows companies to only pay as they work and to only pay for what they need from the program. One of the most interesting benefits of PaaS is that valuable bandwidth is not utilized when programs are in the testing phase. Traditionally, when testing programs, users would have to allocate a large portion of the company's bandwidth to test the program in the most difficult of situations, quickly bogging down the remaining bandwidth for the company. With PaaS, all the testing can be performed in the cloud, freeing up valuable bandwidth for the use of the company. Of the three delivery methods for cloud computing, PaaS represents the fastest growing method. By the end of 2016, PaaS experienced an estimated 41 percent annual growth.
The last delivery method for the cloud is known as Infrastructure as a Service, or IaaS. Just as the name suggests, IaaS supplies the infrastructure needed to support the platforms or software needed in the cloud. The infrastructure provided can take on the form of physical hardware, storage, servers or network equipment. Often, for a new company or a smaller company, these hardware items are expensive. With IaaS, the company can utilize a shared infrastructure for a fee. With an IaaS application, the user is fully responsible for managing the middleware, applications, runtime and data. The provider service in turn offers the physical hardware and the backend software.
With IaaS, there is also the option to create a hybrid cloud. This utilizes the same concepts as the public cloud, such as remote accessibility and collaborative compilation, with the safety and security of a private network. The infrastructure allows a company to have a completely customized cloud available to employees. Companies often prefer to have the added security, and it allows a company complete control of its own private cloud that it can custom build.
As is the common theme with cloud-based delivery models, IaaS offers the benefits of being available online. This means that users have the same options to work collaboratively on projects and access the infrastructure remotely. Further, the IaaS is available on the same pricing model that allows companies to only pay for exactly what they need and will use. Unlike the SaaS and PaaS though, IaaS updates must be performed by the users and will not automatically update with the newest versions available. Some of the top IaaS providers include Google and Amazon.
When comparing the various benefits of cloud computing to a traditional IT solution, the cloud has some very obvious reasons why it is quickly becoming the front-runner for companies worldwide. The easy accessibility allows employees to connect anywhere at any time. Gone are the days of being connected only on the company computer with costly software installed. With the cloud, online access opens the door for increased productivity and better team collaboration on projects. Further, because the application is administered through the cloud, there is little need to have an IT manager onsite to troubleshoot problems or to manage security. IT concerns can be handled remotely with the help of a third party. Plus, cloud computing allows for flexible and attractive scaled pricing that only charges the company for what is actually being used. With the increase in popularity of the shared economy, it is no wonder that computers are also quickly trending toward a better solution with pooled resources.