For companies of all sizes, cloud computing models have made the various aspects of running a business easier and more streamlined. A business exists to fulfill a specific market niche and computing will often fall beyond the grasp of the company’s in-house staff. With cloud services, many of the difficulties associated with software program management and maintenance are removed from the equation because such tasks are handled off-site by third parties.
What Are Cloud-Based Services?
If a company leases a software system or telecom service that runs via Internet protocol, the service in question is a cloud-based service. Cloud-based services are run by third-party providers that lease out infrastructure, software and telecom capabilities to businesses.
A cloud-based service may offer a limited or broad range of capabilities, depending on the needs of the business. If your company lacks an IT department and your staff lacks the technical know-how to meet the demands of your computing needs, you could hire a cloud-based service to handle these functions remotely from an off-site location.
For example, if you need to have a network infrastructure for bookkeeping and communications yet lack the in-house talent to run such a program, a cloud service will host the program and handle the system maintenance and software updates. All you would need to do is log in and use the program.
How the Cloud Works
A cloud service is operated from a remote storage facility where software programs and operating systems are maintained and leased out for use by business clients or private customers, depending on the cloud service in question. At the cloud-service headquarters, customer files are backed up on massive storage systems that ensure maximum redundancy.
Since everything is handled remotely from an off-site location, the business that leases the software and data storage can free up its on-site space and focus more on its primary strengths as a company. With cloud services, the tasks that would be too difficult and require large, expensive computer arsenals can now be handled easily on smartphones and laptops.
The Types of Cloud Services
There are three basic cloud service types, each of which can be scaled to meet the needs of a company at any point in time. If you wish to have the computing infrastructure of your company handled by a third-party service, you could opt for Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS). If you need to have your own computing platform, your company has the option of Platform as a Service (PaaS). For a more encompassing range of externalized computing, there is the Software as a Service (SaaS) option.
1. Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS)
The most basic cloud service is IaaS, in which you outsource the computing infrastructure of your company to a third-party service provider. With IaaS, the service provides a hardware or software program designed for infrastructural purposes, and your ultimate use of the service can be modified to the needs of your company. IaaS offers the following advantages:
- Enjoy reduced business ownership and operating costs.
- Pay only for the services you need, when you need them.
- Harness IT-quality infrastructure with or without an in-house IT department.
- Scale the service according to the current needs of your company.
The most basic form of IaaS is web hosting. Therefore, if you run a business website, you are likely already familiar to some extent with IaaS.
2. Platform as a Service (PaaS)
The next step up in cloud service technology is PaaS, which is used by companies that need a computing platform in addition to an infrastructural backbone. With PaaS, you get a host of features not generally featured in IaaS, such as an operating system, a system library, a graphic interface and programming languages. PaaS gives you the following benefits:
- The ability to develop cloud-based solutions within a team environment.
- Automatic software upgrades and system maintenance.
- Lower startup costs, because no software or hardware purchases are required.
PaaS is used by companies that wish to develop cloud-based solutions without the hassle of software maintenance.
3. Software as a Service (SaaS)
The most encompassing forms of cloud-based service fall under the SaaS umbrella. With SaaS, your company gets IT-grade, third-party maintained infrastructure and software platforms in addition to a range of communications services, including web conferencing, email and telecom services. SaaS covers everything from enterprise resource planning to customer relationship management. SaaS solutions give you the following benefits:
- Ability to access the service from any location with an Internet connection.
- Freedom from infrastructural responsibilities, which are remotely handled by a third party.
- Service levels that you can choose and customize according to the needs of your company.
With SaaS, you can scale up or scale down based on the trends of your market niche. Most companies bundle support and maintenance into their SaaS packages.
The “as-a-Service” suffix has also been attached to solutions that cover the areas of cloud-based storage, security, testing and recovery. Recovery was one of the first uses of the cloud and remains one of the most popular. When you use a cloud service for redundant backup of your system files, you can recover everything within minutes of an on-site system failure. Recovery-as-a-Service gives you the peace of mind of knowing that you will never lose any of your valuable company data in a blackout or system crash.
Cloud Computing Models
In cloud computing, there are four basic deployment models — private, community, public and hybrid. Your choice between one model or another should depend on whether you wish to have a service restricted to in-house personnel or open to members of partnered entities or the public at large.
1. Private Cloud
A private cloud network is exclusive to the party that leases the service. If you lease a private cloud server for your business, access to the network will be restricted to authorized personnel within your company. The benefits of a private cloud are as follows:
- Maximum system and file redundancy for backup and protection.
- Reduced provisioning durations with newly implemented servers.
- Reduced overhead.
- Improved expendability.
Private cloud services can be leased by a third-party or purchased and operated in-house. The latter option guarantees the highest level of security but comes with higher startup costs and is best reserved for larger companies.
2. Community Cloud
A community cloud, as the name implies, is a cloud infrastructure that anyone can access within a given community. The parties involved determine the outlines of this community. You could have a cloud community that includes several partnered businesses, be they local or across vast distances. A cloud community can also be shared among government entities. A community cloud can be run by a third party or operated on-premises by one or more parties included in that community.
3. Public Cloud
A public cloud is a network opened to everyone. Businesses and ordinary citizens alike can access the network, but the server is controlled and operated on-site by the service provider. Due to their open nature, public cloud services are popular and generally easy to use. Due to the accessibility and low startup costs associated with a public cloud, small businesses commonly choose this option. The open nature of public cloud also renders such services vulnerable to cyber attacks. Consequently, companies that start with a public cloud frequently trade up to a private cloud as the business grows.
4. Hybrid Cloud
A hybrid cloud is a combination of two different cloud servers. For example, your company may wish to use a private cloud for in-house operations but also use a public cloud for interactions with customers. With a hybrid cloud, you can ensure the privacy and security of vital documents and software programs yet also operate portals through which customers can interact with sales staff.
You could also have a hybrid cloud that combines private and community cloud services. If your company is closely connected to other companies, you could have a private server for in-house needs and a community server to interact with these outside entities.
Cloud-Based Telecom Solutions
Traditionally, the costs associated with telephone and fax communication have been among the major overhead expenditures for companies large and small. Today, those costs can be drastically reduced along with the hassles of manual telephony, all thanks to the ease afforded by cloud-based telecom solutions.
With cloud-based phone systems — alternately known as Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) phone services — the transfer of voices occurs over an Internet protocol, just like email. Therefore, you don’t need to use a standard land-line to make calls or send faxes to your colleagues. VoIP cloud phone system services, in effect, render standard voice communication outmoded in much the same way that email surpassed standard mail for written communication.
One of the greatest benefits of cloud-based phone systems is that they allow you to communicate with colleagues half-way around the world for just a fraction of the cost of an international phone call. Best of all, you can share lengthy voice and video conferences with people on multiple continents for as long as you’d like without fearing that the minutes will translate to dollars.
With so many functional benefits to gain, telecom cloud service providers have witnessed a vast influx of new customers as more businesses adapt to the ease and reliability of web-based telephony. Cloud computing in telecommunications-driven industries makes it possible for company personnel to message, speak and participate in conferences from remote locations across great distances.
Advantages of Using the Cloud
For companies across the private sector, the benefits of the cloud amount to huge savings on multiple fronts. Depending on the needs of your company, you could have an IaaS, PaaS or SaaS cloud for use within a private, community, public or hybrid model. As your company grows or smart-sizes, you can scale up or down according to seasonal forecasts or budgetary constraints. Overall, cloud services free up money and time that would otherwise be consumed by the costs associated with hardware, software, telephony and air travel.
1. ReducedOverhead Costs
Cloud computing and telecom services allow businesses to cut down on overhead expenses. With a cloud-based service, you don’t need an in-house IT department because a third party fulfills the role of such a team instead. When you consider the high salary demands of IT staff and the high costs of maintaining and upgrading an on-site computer network, the savings that you could gain from eliminating IT could significantly increase your company’s profit margins.
2. Savings on Voice Communication
Cloud-based telecom services can also help your company save huge amounts of money on calls. If your business involves lengthy long-distance calls throughout the day, the costs associated with these calls will be just a fraction of what you would have paid 20 or 30 years ago for calls of similar duration across the same distances.
3. Reduced Need for Air Travel
Until recently, business meetings between multi-regional and multinational parties would inevitably require frequent air travel. As a company would grow larger and spread to other territories, weekly and even daily travel to other cities would be standard for the company’s top executives. For some people, success would amount to a life of hotels, suitcases and airplane food.
Thanks to the possibilities of today’s online video conferencing, it is no longer necessary to fly from city to city for each conference or meeting involving people from various entities. If members of your company or branch need to meet face-to-face with members from another company or branch, you can conduct such meetings through a cloud server in the form of a video conference.
4. Instant Meetings on a Global Scale
Whenever your office needs to hold a meeting with an office or partnered entity across state, regional or national lines, no one needs to board a plane or leave their normal working environment, as everyone can simply log in and participate in the meeting. The same holds true for conferences, which can be telecast via cloud servers before a public or private viewership.
5. Advanced System Security
When your business computing infrastructure is hosted and operated by a third-party service, you are virtually guaranteed maximum security of all private company information and documents. No longer must your in-house staff fret over the strength and system-compatibility of the latest system updates and security patches, as all matters are handled outside by teams dedicated to this line of work.
6. Automatic System and Software Updates
With a cloud computing service, your company’s computing needs are maintained with IT expertise in virtual form. Each time developers release a new version of an operating system or software program, the updates are automatically installed into your computing system with no work on the part of your office team. There is no risk of lost info or system incompatibility, as all files are backed up on remote servers, and all upgrades are pre-tested. For you and your staff, each upgrade is simply a matter of logging in as usual.
Cloud-Based Telecom Services From Merlin Communications, Inc.
For streamlined cloud computing services, Merlin Communications handles the telecom, technology and Internet of Things needs for businesses in a vast range of industries. We take the confusion out of computing so that your company can focus on its own core strengths as a business. Contact Merlin Communications for cloud-based telecom services.