Cloud Computing has recently created a great deal of buzz in the IT industry. Open-up a trade magazine or browse through your favorite IT web site and you'll find articles extolling its virtues. But what exactly is Cloud Computing, and does it make sense for your IT infrastructure and more importantly, for your business as a whole?
What makes things even more confusing is the incredible growth in Cloud Computing resulting in many changing and growing versions or definitions. Cloud Computing is also known as Software as a Service (SaaS), Platform as a Service (PaaS), Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS), or server virtualization.
What all of these variations of Cloud Computing have in common is that they provide the end-user with a subscription (or pay per use) IT service delivered over the internet, enabling flexible and real-time changes to IT capacity or capabilities.
Software as a Service (SaaS) is probably the most popular form of Cloud Computing. It enables businesses to effectively "rent" software without the need to install it on their own servers. The software is typically provided in a hosted environment on a per-user block licensing agreement. Popular SaaS applications include CRM (Customer Relationship Management), HR (Human Resources) and ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) tools.
Platform as a Service (PaaS) takes the SaaS concept one step further, providing a development environment as a service. The service provider makes the development platform and the infrastructure available to the end-user.
Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) provides computing resources, networking facilities and Internet access as a monthly service to the customer. While this type of business model is not new, the way that it is being delivered is. In the past, if you wanted to take advantage of this type of service you were locked into lengthy term contracts and tied to specific computing platforms. With the advent of virtualization, you now have the ability to create a virtual server environment that is not tied to one physical computing platform.
Affordability: Since the infrastructure that supports "X"-as-a-Service is a shared one, the costs can be spread across many users, meaning the cost of the service is typically less than a traditional dedicated server hosted offering, or in-house server. Additionally, there is no capital investment in expensive server and infrastructure equipment.
Scalability & Responsiveness: Set-up time for server environments goes from weeks or months down to days or even hours. In traditional environments, you typically buy more computing power and storage than you need and then slowly grow into it. In an IaaS model you only need to buy what is currently necessary, and then adjust as needed. You have the flexibility to increase or decrease drive size, add or delete a server, and modify computing power all through a self-serve customer portal, and all within minutes!
Redundancy: In a properly designed service, you get redundant "everything": redundant networking equipment, virtual servers, power (with UPS and generator back-up) and peered multi-homed Internet access. In addition, your virtual server is running in a secure, air-conditioned, raised floor data centre. Thus, your applications are treated to the highest possible availability, and your business will not be affected by outages.
Security: Understandably, you don't want your computing power or security jeopardized. While this was certainly a concern in the older shared hosting environments of yester-year, today's newer virtualized environments offer security equivalent to traditional dedicated server environments. Additionally, your computing resources, while pooled for your use, are strictly dedicated to you. This means that no other users in the virtual environment can affect your computing resources.
Company size: You may be thinking that this all sounds great for a larger company, however your business is relatively small and your IT department ever smaller. The good news is that this service doesn't tie you down to capital expenditures, is typically cheaper than a traditional IT implementation, and has simplified set-up and change management systems; thereby making better use of your limited IT resources. Indeed, this type of approach makes great sense for both large and small businesses.
The benefits for your business may seem quite compelling, but perhaps you aren't quite ready to make the full jump to Cloud Computing and virtualization. This is where Primus Business Services can help. We have managed numerous implementations, from simple to complex, and can help you determine if Cloud Computing is right for your business. For example, if you'd like to see it in action first, then why not begin by moving your test and development environment to a virtualized platform? Another relatively easy move could be to bring your existing web server into a virtualized space. Get comfortable, see the benefits for yourself, and soon you'll be looking for other applications to virtualize.
To learn more about how virtualization can help your business, contact your Primus Business Services sales representative or visit our PrimusCloud™ Server page for more information.