Over the last four decades, computing has undergone many changes that have had a profound effect on the end-user experience. Back in the days of the mainframe computer before the Internet, only large companies or institutions (such as universities) could afford to have a mainframe and the staff for its support. The end-user accessed the mainframe via remote terminals within the premises of the company or institution. Access was restricted to specific days and hours.
This changed with the personal computer (PC) which meant that the end-user was no longer beholden to the restrictions of large companies and institutions. However, this “independence” came at a cost. The end-user had to purchase the PC, spend money on its upkeep, and buy software applications. Similarly, small companies unable to afford mainframes could buy PCs and servers and get the same benefits. However, they also paid a price for this. PCs, server hardware, and applications cost money. Their upkeep either used up employee time (IT staff) or required the hiring of third-party services.
Over the last ten years, a new trend going back to computing centralization called cloud computing has taken hold. Although the hardware is centralized in data centers, remote access via the Internet gives the end-user an experience identical to the decentralized computing of PCs and local servers.
For businesses, cloud computing confers a number of benefits:
No Hardware Expenses
There are no hardware purchases, installation, or configuration. No extra space for housing the hardware is required. The expenses of environmental control and maintenance are also eliminated.
A key feature of cloud computing is that no virtual device (such as a virtual server), operating system, or application is completely dependent on any one server. When running an application on your local server, if the server goes down, so does your application. However, if the server hosting your application goes down in the cloud, another server immediately takes over without interrupting your session on the application. If that server goes down, another takes over, and so forth. The same is true of anything running on a virtual server in the cloud.
Because access to the data center servers is through the Internet, employees can do their work from any location. This benefits field workers, business men on the road, and virtual companies with employees from different geographical locations. Business operations that don’t require “face time” can continue when severe weather prevents commuting. Cloud-based collaboration platforms allow multiple people to work on the same project singly or together at the same time.
Cheap Access to Business Applications
Cloud-based software as a service (SaaS) provides cheap access to business applications. Purchasing these expensive applications outright might also require servers, networks, and storage. Installing, configuring, and running these applications may then require an IT staff.
SaaS provides quick access without the need for extra hardware. The monthly fees of SaaS can be relatively cheap for multi tenant applications where one app is shared by multiple businesses. The multi tenant app has multiple instances for each business that uses it. Businesses cannot access each other’s instance of the app. This produces an economy of scale effect that allows for a low monthly fee.
Integration of Business Operations
An example of a business operation requiring good integration is inventory management. When selling products across multiple e-commerce sales platforms, knowing the exact inventory count at any point in time isn’t easy. This often leads to product overselling (selling out-of-stock items) and dissatisfied customers. Multiple warehousing adds still more complexity to this situation. However, a cloud-based inventory management application that each sales platform and warehouse can access solves this problem.
For more information about cloud computing and how it can help your business, contact us today.