Enter the cloud

NWME: Is cloud computing just a renaming of SaaS (software as a service)? What defines a cloud service?

No, cloud computing is not a renaming of SaaS. Cloud computing encompasses more than just software-as-a-service. It also includes infrastructure as a service – storage, networks and other computing resources offered as a service and Platform as a service which includes consumer-created or acquired applications deployed on the cloud infrastructure. Therefore, Cloud Computing includes software, infrastructure and platform as a service.

Cloud Services are defined as consumer and business services delivered and consumed in real-time over the internet. Key to the success of cloud services is the centralized data centre (or cloud) which enables the IT service provider to operate, and maintain the technology tools that clients need to use every day. A simplified end-user experience is gained with anywhere, anytime access to information and applications.

What is driving enterprises to adopt cloud?

IT applications and services run ‘in the cloud’ are becoming increasingly popular with businesses as it gives them access to robust IT infrastructure and the latest applications without having to bear the high costs of ownership and maintenance.

The shift to cloud services also means that more and more data is stored online, and more processes are performed through a web browser, it matters much less what sort of computers are utilised and what software is running. This cuts back on costs of upgrading operating systems, computers and data storage devices.

We believe that cloud services hold an array of opportunities across the region. By using cloud-based email, business solutions and applications, firms can reduce the complexity of their IT operations. The benefits include less up front IT capital expenditure so that companies can flatten out their IT spend curve and pay for IT infrastructure, services and solutions as they need them. Businesses gain access to greater computing power and don’t have the ongoing maintenance and upgrade issues associated with managing these IT systems themselves. Most importantly, they can focus on their core business instead of investing in and managing complex IT infrastructure.

What should users consider when evaluating a cloud computing supplier?

Cloud Computing is certainly not without risks and all businesses must carefully evaluate the technology and suppliers. There are some key factors which need to be considered including:

• Service Level Agreements – these need to be reviewed carefully with a specific focus on security, performance and availability commitments

• Data Rights – know your data rights and process to remove data from your provider’s systems.

• Regulatory – is the service aligned to your regulatory requirements?

• Compliance – Ensure the provider is compliant with industry standards such as SAS70, PCI/DSS, HIPAA, etc.

• Strategic Alignment – your provider must align to your identity and data management strategies.

• Audit – ensure you carry out third-party audits for security, performance and availability.

• Commercial – know the commercial terms in detail, notably on escalating costs through the contract term

• Transparency – ensure you have access to easy to use management tools with full transparency to service levels.

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