Cloud Computing: Benefits and Risks for Businesses

In simple terms, cloud computing is a technology that allows companies of all sizes and individuals to use various computing resources over the Internet.

What kind of resources are we referring to? Some people rent virtual servers, for example, tailoring them to their needs in terms of CPU power, available memory, storage space, and so on. Others use cloud computing just as off-premises storage facilities, offloading their data onto fast, redundant, reliable SSD storage. Many companies use cloud computing to manage their databases, while larger corporations use cloud-based hardware to deploy their custom software solutions.

Unlike companies that offer regular hosting accounts, where you pay a fixed monthly fee to have your website online at all times, most cloud computing services providers use a pay-as-you-go payment model, allowing businesses to pay for the resources they are actually using, and thus reducing the need for upfront capital expenditures.

In addition to this, companies that have embraced the use of cloud services don’t have to worry about server maintenance, upgrades, and so on; everything is done for them by the provider.

Cloud Environments

In a nutshell, there are three types of cloud environments: public, private, and hybrid.

Public cloud computing services are managed by their providers. The end users benefit from computing resources (cloud-based storage space, for example) that are made available to them over the Internet.

A private cloud is used by a single business. This type of cloud will often provide specific services and the infrastructure that is needed for private company networks.

Finally, hybrid clouds combine the pros and cons of public and private clouds, allowing shared data and applications.

Cloud Computing Benefits

Cost efficiency. Businesses only pay for the resources that they use.

Scalability and flexibility. If your company scales up, it is easy to increase CPU/RAM/storage until it fits your requirements. On the other hand, if sales are slower due to a reduced number of website visitors, the costs of cloud computing services will be reduced as well.

Accessibility. Since the servers and platforms aren’t hosted locally, employees can have access to company data from anywhere in the world.

Disaster recovery. Most cloud providers offer data backup and recovery services, though you may need to pay additionally to benefit from these services.

Cloud Computing Risks

Data security issues. If company data is stored in the cloud, it may fall into the hands of cybercriminals. To solve this problem, use strict security protocols and encrypt the data before uploading it to the cloud.

Outages and downtime. If the cloud provider experiences an outage, it will impact the company’s operations. So, it is always a good idea to store backup copies of your data on physical servers as well.

Vendor lock-in. If you have built the online component of your business using the cloud infrastructure provided by Amazon Web Services, for example, it will be hard (and costly) to move the same web applications to a different platform, such as Azure. So, do thorough research before choosing your cloud services provider.

While cloud computing presents some risks, it also offers valuable benefits: reduced costs, scalability and accessibility. Companies should understand these benefits and risks, and then decide whether to use cloud computing services or not.

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