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Business Cloud Services
There’s no doubt that cloud services have helped businesses of all shapes and sizes manage their IT in more cost effective and efficient ways. It’s made things easy for start-ups and allowed large corporations to better control their costs.
As with any third party service, however, choosing the best for your individual business needs can be challenging. Fortunately, our cloud provider comparison tool, allows you to do just that.
If you’re confused about what you should be looking out for and whether colocation matters more or have difficulty understanding the difference between SaaS and IaaS, you’re not alone. With hundreds of companies to choose from, taking your time and exploring the possibilities has never been more important.
What Are Cloud Providers?
Cloud computing has developed exponentially over the last few years. Those who can remember the early to mid-noughties, will realise that accessing high quality IT services was a challenge, particularly for smaller businesses and start-ups.
The cloud is basically another term for the internet. It is the notion that you can manage all your IT needs remotely through your Wi-Fi or broadband connection. For example, cloud computing security means that your systems are continuously updated and protected without you having to physically upload software. Cloud storage options allow you to put files online and share them with individuals, wherever they are in the world, creating a flexible solution for collaboration. They also give you the chance to access important software at a much lower cost.
There’s no doubt that one of the key considerations for choosing a cloud service for your business is the level of security. The good news is that even small businesses can nowadays access high levels of protection as well as a whole host of useful software by migrating to the cloud.
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Cloud vs Data Centres
The old fashioned way of storing and handling information, files and other digital assets was to have an inhouse data centre. This could be anything from one computer to a whole network set up on the premises. This obviously had its drawbacks with regards to sharing information and expanding networks, often involving an investment in time as well as money to introduce new hardware.
With cloud based services, the data handling is done off-premises and all you need to access everything is a log-in and password. You can share files with someone halfway around the world and engage with your business without having to be in the office or working from a particular device.
The big difference between cloud services and a traditional data centre is that you essentially rent the space you need rather than invest in all the costly infrastructure. That means you can scale up and down as and when you need it and only pay for the services that you receive.
That doesn’t mean data centres have completely disappeared. While cloud services can exclusively be used by small and medium size businesses, others retain their data servers. The difference is that these are more likely nowadays to be handled through a colocation service that provides the infrastructure outside the business.
The Benefits of Business Cloud Services
The biggest benefits in choosing cloud computing providers over a static data centre include:
- A reduction in IT operating costs: You can access all the software and capability you need and don’t have to spend money on employing staff or installing hardware.
- Scaling your business: You can tailor the provision to both your current and future needs.
- You maintain business continuity because your IT is handled off-site, with all that protection that delivers.
- Your business will benefit from greater collaboration and flexibility in work practices. Files can be put in an accessible location giving staff the opportunity to work on a range of projects together.
- You also get automatic updates to all your systems without having to do anything. These processes can be expensive and time consuming to install manually in the traditional sense.
- If there is a catastrophic event such as a flood or outage, you can perform an online recovery for your data and other services without having to create that provision on site.
Finding the Best Cloud Service
If you are looking to invest in a business cloud service, there are a number of parameters and options you will need to consider before settling on the right provider. As you might expect, there are different levels of service and cloud cost can vary depending on which you choose.
- For a start, there are several cloud storage options which include:
- Private Cloud: The services are managed for your business use only. This is a suitable model if you handle sensitive data and need to protect it.
- Community Cloud: This is a private cloud but where a number of different parties have access to the data or services. An example would be if you handled a number of franchises but want to give them access to certain data or information.
- Public Cloud: These services are accessed through a platform like Google or Microsoft and provide a good deal of flexibility as well as low cost. There is a question over greater vulnerability, however, but they are suitable for small business and start-ups.
- Hybrid Cloud: This allows you to access a mix of private and public cloud services to suit your needs. You may need higher security for some parts of your operational process but not for others.
In addition, there are three different models that are commonly used: Software as a Service (SaaS), Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS), and Platform as a Service (PaaS).
CRMs and online mailing services are examples of SaaS and are popular for small businesses that want to pick and choose what they need to operate in their sector. IaaS is a step up and allows you to rent your IT infrastructure and include services such as Amazon EC2 and Microsoft Azure. Finally, PaaS is a mix between the other two where you rent the space for your servers and also the software that you use. The reason for choosing this option is that it gives you more control over what you can do.
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What is Colocation (Colo)?
Colocation definition: This is a data centre where a business is able to store and operate both the servers and the hardware they need. This building handles the heavy lifting for your IT infrastructure including the physical security all of which means you don’t need to invest in the support infrastructure that makes on site installation expensive. Essentially, you provide the servers and they handle all the other maintenance that keeps your systems protected.
The Benefits of Colocation Service Providers
Colo is becoming increasingly popular for businesses that want their own servers but need a location to operate and store them. A colocation hosting service will keep your equipment maintained and provide high bandwidth levels. You also get the added security you need to protect your servers. Not all threats to data protection are online – physical hardware can also be a target.
A colocation service gives you the opportunity to store your servers in a safe, reliable location and achieve a high level of stability while keeping a strong hold on costs.
Colocation data centre pricing can vary depending on where it is situated. For example, colocation hosting in the UK has seen many businesses moving out from London, where services can be more expensive, to other cities such as Manchester where the operating costs are lower. If you are currently looking at your IT provision in respect of colo, it can be beneficial to look further afield if you want to reduce costs even further.
The cost of cloud services and other IT support can certainly vary considerably depending on what you are looking for to support your business. Colocation, for example, can be expensive if you limit your options to a large city like London where property prices and rents can often impact on overall costs. A smaller business or start-up may have limited needs when it comes to cloud services and might want to pick and choose packages and provisions from different companies rather than settle on one individual provider.
The good news is that many cloud service providers are offering flexible solutions for their clients which means you can add in or take away certain products and retain a reasonably tight control of the costs. As a start-up you may just need administrative or accounting software to support your business. As you grow, other provision such as CRM or product development aspects may need to be added.
What Business Cloud Services Do You Need?
Most new businesses and start-ups generally have little problem when it comes to cloud services. Their only challenge tends to be making a suitable cloud pricing comparison and getting the best deal for their requirements. After all, the key thing about cloud services is that they enable smaller businesses to compete on a more level playing field.
Established businesses will often encounter more problems simply because they have legacy infrastructure and approaches in place already and these will need to be replaced or incorporated into the new operational procedure.
here will be issues such as software compatibility and existing licences to take into account. There’s also the initial impact of migrating to the cloud, including how staff have to be trained and the cost that involves.
The one thing that you will need to navigate, whether you are a small business or a large corporation, is the number of cloud service providers out there. They vary from mega corporations such as Microsoft and Google to niche providers that offer more tailored or sector specific services.
There are a number of factors that you should take into account when choosing a business cloud service:
- Certifications and Standards: There are a range of certifications such as ISO which indicate whether the cloud service is appropriate for your business. Look for companies that have ISO 27001 and/or are members of the Cyber Essentials Scheme run by the government.
- Security: Probably top of the list for any business is how data in the cloud is kept secure. Doing your due diligence in this area is vital, particularly in respect of the new GDPR that came into effect this year.
- Compliance: Many industries and sectors will have standards and compliance issues that need to be addressed and your cloud service should meet these.
- The Best Cloud Fit: You will also need to look at how your current software and way of doing things fits with the cloud service that you are looking to employ. For example, if you are using a service like Office 365, it might be more beneficial to choose a system like Azure which you know is compatible.
- Support: It’s the bug bear of many consumers and companies but the help and support you receive from your cloud service is going to be vital. Most, of course, will tell you that there help line is the best in the world but until you try it out, you can’t be sure.
- Cloud Service Costs: While it shouldn’t be the only defining factor, you are obviously going to be concerned with the cost of your cloud service. This can be quite difficult to understand and comparing different companies can be more than a little confusing. There may be standard prices and costs for add-ons that make a big difference to what you eventually end up paying.
- Flexibility: Ideally you want a cloud service that can change and grow with your business. If you need to scale back or scale up, be sure that your cloud provider delivers this essential service and can be reactive to your needs.
Cloud Pricing Comparison
There is a lot to consider before you settle on the most effective business cloud service that fits your needs. There’s little doubt that choosing the right service can deliver huge benefits for businesses and organisations of all sizes. The good news is that our cloud pricing comparison tool can quickly and easily help you narrow down the choices.