Cloud technology is booming. The sudden COVID-19 shift to working from home, video conferencing, online shopping, streaming and gaming was only possible because of the cloud. Big tech companies have already seen the benefits. Amazon and Microsoft run the two largest cloud platforms (AWS and Azure), and have both seen unprecedented growth during the pandemic. There’s also been a surge of investment in cloud start-ups — between April and June, almost $3 trillion was poured in. By 2021, it’s been estimated that 32% of IT budgets will be allocated solely to the cloud.
What exactly is the Cloud?
We are used to hearing phrases such as ‘your data is in the cloud’ and ‘you can work in the cloud’, but what are we actually referring to? Believe it or not, your data isn’t up in the sky, it has a physical home. Cloud computing providers maintain server farms where your data is stored — actually your data will be stored on multiple server farms, to protect against potential data loss — and you access your data via an internet connection. So, whenever you use services that run via the internet, rather than locally on your computer, you are working ‘in the cloud’. Some everyday cloud services you might be familiar with include Google Drive, Dropbox and Email. The game-changing advantage of cloud computing for the individual consumer is that you’re able to access your data remotely and across multiple devices (with an internet connection).
What does the Cloud offer?
Cloud computing offers tangible business advantages. In a recent report, AWS estimated that their services were generating £8.7 billion in economic value for UK businesses — a larger economic impact than the entire music industry. In addition, companies using cloud computing to support their businesses were almost three times more likely to be growing over five percent a year than those who don’t. The AWS report found that cloud computing helps businesses to reduce costs, boost revenue and reduce carbon emissions — moving IT workload to AWS reduces carbon footprint by 88% and, on average, AWS customers receive a return of £2 for every £1 invested.
One way that cloud computing achieves these impressive results is by enhancing flexibility within an organisation. Due to the pandemic, it’s now essential that employees can work from any location. In addition, collaborative approaches such as Agile and DevOps, which break down traditional silo-based approaches, are now becoming more common in modern, digitally savvy businesses. Cloud computing supports such approaches by making information accessible across teams, therefore reducing critical production delays.
The cloud also levels the playing field for small and large organisations. By moving to cloud computing, smaller businesses can benefit from the cloud provider’s large economies of scale and can therefore access a higher quality of technology, closing the gap between small and large businesses. Through G-Cloud (The UK government initiative to provide a centralised framework of cloud services and products), over half of the 150 companies delivering services to the government were classified as small or medium enterprises.
Is it all roses?
In a 2020 survey, over half of IT directors stated that security concerns were the reason preventing cloud adoption. Like any technology, there are a number of potential threats, particularly as cloud computing can encourage the use of personal devices due to remote access options. However, according to Gartner, there have actually been very few security breaches in the public cloud apart from those due to misconfiguration of cloud services. Due to security concerns and reluctance to accept centralised cloud provider control of maintenance and updates, some businesses are adopting a hybrid cloud approach. However, this can make misconfiguration more likely (resulting in cyber security breaches) and means that businesses do not benefit from streamlined operations.
Overall, while there are some concerns over cloud security, these are not thought to be far greater than existing systems. Given the host of exciting benefits offered by cloud computing, particularly to small businesses and at a time where remote work is crucial, it’s vital we embrace its full potential.