What’s all this cloud computing stuff about?

I was recently at a family BBQ enjoying a beer and a sausage in bread when I was asked the following: ‘Hey mate, you work in computers(sic), what’s all this cloud computing stuff about?’

Now, being the family’s resident ‘computer nerd’, I’m often asked computer related questions (either that or cartoon related questions). Usually the questions are along the lines of ‘should I buy a Mac’ or ‘why isn’t my email working’. Most can be fairly easily answered with a paint-by-numbers answer, but this one required a bit more effort. Effort that by the end of the conversation – which only ended because if we didn’t stop talking, all of my auntie’s awesome trifle would’ve been eaten without me getting any – still could’ve been delved into a lot more.

This ‘cloud computing stuff’ question became a 45-minute discussion about a bunch of seemingly unrelated topics – business, computers, iPhones and iPads, MYOB, the Patriot Act, Russians; the list went on and on.

Ultimately though, the entire conversation could be narrowed down into three core questions.

  • What is the cloud?
  • Why is everyone ‘going cloud’?
  • Why should I ‘go cloud’?

What is the cloud?

A cool analogy I heard for the cloud is to think of it as a utility. Just like water or electricity. Turn on a tap; water flows. Turn on a light switch; electricity flows. You don’t think about where the water or electricity is coming from, just that you operate the tap or switch and it works.

The cloud is the platform that enables a bunch of services to work on your computer/phone/tablet – pretty much any device able to be connected to the internet. Connect it, and it just works.

Cloud services can be divided into three main categories. Software as a service (SaaS); infrastructure as a service (IaaS); and platform as a service (PaaS).

  • SaaS – Software as a service

Do you have a Gmail or a Hotmail account? Both of these are services that are completely maintained and stored online. You never actually hold this product in your hands. You have various devices which interact with it, but it live in… yep, you guessed it. The cloud.

*MYOB Essentials is a SaaS solution. It takes the hassle of installing, storing, upgrading software and does it all for you online. All you need is the device to view and interact with it. Everything remains in the cloud to access whenever and wherever.

  • IaaS – Infrastructure as a Service

IaaS is essentially offsite hosting. Businesses and services that require lots of computer power can now utilise large external computer farms and hosting services rather than fork out the big bucks required to obtain and maintain onsite infrastructure. IaaS allows businesses and services to keep their costs down.
MYOB Web-hosting is IaaS. MYOB have the infrastructure to allow businesses to house the online aspects of their business.

  • PaaS – Platform as a Service

A PaaS solution often provides the foundations of Cloud solutions. A PaaS is often used for application hosting, development, deployment and testing. Essentially A PaaS solution allows developers to rent services and servers to make their SaaS a reality. Microsoft Azure is a PaaS.

Why is everyone ‘going cloud’?

There are a stack of benefits and reasons of into the cloud, but it all comes down to making things more accessible.

So long as the internet can be accessed, then information and services can be accessed.

Platform issues become less of an issue. Web based solutions are likely more accessible via web browser rather than hard-coded applications, this means that they are more likely to be compatible across a number of platforms including PC, Mac, phone, tablet and more.

The cost saving on infrastructure has a huge appeal to businesses. Large investment in hardware and software are no longer as necessary when everything can be housed and run offsite.

The cloud also allows updates and upgrades of software to be seamless and require little to no effort from the end user.

Individual benefits vary depending on the industry and/or service being provided of course, but there is no doubt that for businesses with a computer/IT focus in particular, taking business into the cloud can have massive benefits.

Why should I go cloud?

Likewise to the benefits of businesses going cloud, it has similar benefits for users.

Anywhere access on any number of devices means that you can be as connected as you want to be. No longer will you need to be a slave to your desk – because that’s where your computer with your software is. Having your information in the cloud lets you access and use it wherever you can connect to the Internet.

Disaster recovery and data back-up. Using the recent floods in NSW and QLD, businesses that used cloud-based solutions would have all of their data and information automatically back-up, sitting safe and secure on a server offsite. Those who had it stored on a hard-drive or in paper form run the risk of losing it all should disaster strike.

Maintenance, updates and upgrades become a thing of the past. With a service online, updates and upgrades are automatically added with little to no effort required on your behalf.

Now what?

The in’s and outs, pro’s and con’s, good and bad points of moving into the cloud could be discussed in a lot more detail than this post, but ultimately it’s up to you to decide if moving into the cloud is right for you.

Large businesses are taking this very seriously though.

Microsoft declared that ‘the cloud would be a major platform for their business model from now on’.
Apple CEO Tim Cook stated during their annual earnings conference that ‘iCloud was not just a product or service of Apple, but an integral part of the company’s future’.

And Google, arguably one of the biggest businesses in the world, wouldn’t even exist without the cloud.

The word ‘cloud’ may just be a great marketing buzzword that you hear thrown a lot, but what the word represents is more than hype. The cloud is the future and is very quickly becoming an integral foundation of how the developed world will interact.

Find out more about MYOB’s Cloud Strategy and how MYOB can help your business utilise cloud technology here.

 *MYOB Essentials was previously known as LiveAccounts