Harnessing a cloud sounds about as easy – and as productive – as knitting fog. But if it’s ‘the’ Cloud you’re talking about, and you’re running a business, hooking up to Cloud power is not only possible, it’s practically essential.
Traditionally, physical ownership of computing hardware wasn’t just the best way for business: it was the only way. The problem with buying all that plastic and metal – and the software that went with it – was that it was virtually obsolete as soon as you took it out of the box. The Cloud solves that by offering full IT hosting without the need for any on-premise equipment. Put simply, it’s a way of renting space from some of the biggest and most secure data centres in the world, operated by the likes of Microsoft, Google and Amazon. The worldwide presence of servers in many data centres means that the Cloud is ‘always on’ even in the event of a localised failure.
In business, subscribing to the Cloud means that you’ll always be enjoying the best and most up to date hosting equipment, along with high-quality processing all the time from just about anywhere, with no space, cap-ex, setup, depreciation or maintenance cost issues. Hardware supply lead times and shipping delays become a thing of the past. Once you’re connected, within minutes of going onto a Cloud platform and putting in a request for a server with Windows and a database solution, you’ll be ready to get started. In the old days you’d be talking weeks and possibly months for that.
Instant scalability means that the Cloud wins on capacity planning too. If you need more or less capacity at any given moment to handle your business’s peak-time activities, Cloud IT solutions give you that flexibility through a ‘pay as you go’ pricing model that exactly reflects your IT requirements. You need never pay for an ounce more computing power than you need. This is the kind of surgically precise cost control that will bring a smile to the face of the sternest company accountant. Like leasing a car, you never own the Cloud, but you get all the ownership benefits that come with the most recent model, plus an additional bonus that car users rarely enjoy: retrofit upgrades when needed.
If this all sounds highly desirable but also slightly daunting, it needn’t. All you need to do is speak to the right specialist. Optima is a Microsoft Gold Partner in cloud competency. Cloud connection and management is one of the key pillars in Optima’s core package of data analytics, data engineering, data de-duplication, profiling and digital marketing. The Optima Cloud process begins with a two-week discovery phase during which Optima will look at a client’s data and make recommendations for the creation of a secure hosting environment. Setting up a more complete Cloud infrastructure – including servers, databases, VPNs and storage – typically takes a week. And that’s it. After that it’s simply close monitoring and maintenance to make sure everything’s working correctly.
But when should you make that jump onto the Cloud? Generally, opening your company up to huge opportunities is something best done sooner rather than later. If you’re starting something new, it will certainly be easier to start it on the Cloud. If you’re in the middle of an on-premise project, migrating to the Cloud makes sense if (for example) your server is reaching the end of its service life. Part of Optima’s service is to analyse where a client is at the moment and give them an impartial and informed view on the best next steps.
What about the big concern on everyone’s minds these days – data security? Let’s look at Microsoft. They have a rigorous process of self-examination based on an adversarial struggle between two teams, Red and Blue. Each team’s only job, 365 days a year, is to try and hack into the other team’s systems – and you can be sure that the troops in that battle are not short on determination or talent. As a result, the solutions that Microsoft sets up on the Cloud are truly case-hardened.
Although Cloud computing somehow still feels like quite a new thing, it’s actually very well established - an ‘intergalactic computer network’ was first suggested as long ago as the 1960s. Today, a big chunk of everyday life is already conducted on the Cloud. Most of us use Google, email systems like Microsoft Outlook, an iPhone, or a modern car – many of which are now talking to the Cloud through their engine management systems. It’s a small step from there to a place where the business benefits can be harnessed – and you won’t need your Gran’s knitting needles for that.
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