Technology solutions for business are riddled with acronyms and technical terms. Even those in information technology (or IT, our first acronym) would admit as much. But if you are an entrepreneur looking for tech support for small businesses you might get lost in the alphabet soup. Take cloud services, for example. There are many different types of cloud computing, including cloud storage, infrastructure as a service (or IaaS), platform as a service (or PaaS), and software as a service (or Saas).
Many non-technology companies still make heavy use of technology. In fact, the worldwide managed services industry will grow to about $170 billion this year. However, you should not need to become an IT expert to understand the benefits of cloud services. Here is an explanation that was originally created in 2014 by an IT expert named Albert Barron to explain cloud services:
The purpose of cloud services is to allow you to outsource IT. When your business has a traditional server room you:
- Own the hardware and software
- Provide the labor to maintain and configure the hardware and software
- Are responsible for securing the server room
- Pay to keep the server room cool enough that the hardware does not overheat
When you use cloud services, you outsource some or all of those responsibilities to the cloud services provider. Barron analogized this to pizza. Having an on-site server room is like making pizza from scratch. You bought the ingredients, you own the oven, and all the labor that goes into turning the ingredients into a finished pizza is your labor.
Cloud storage, which was not addressed in Barron’s article, is the easiest concept to understand. Cloud storage is like an offsite storage unit. In offsite storage, you do not own the storage unit, building, or property it stands on. You do not control the gate, although you may have gate access to reach your unit. You do not hire and pay the security patrols or contract with the security monitoring and alarm company. However, you have sole control over the lock on your door and you have sole access to the contents of your storage locker. The benefits of cloud storage allow you to:
- Access data everywhere
- Share data and collaborate with other users anywhere
- Offsite backup in the event of a man-made or natural disaster.
In the pizza analogy, cloud storage is like having a storage unit for your pizza ingredients. You still need your oven and your labor to make the pizza. However, you no longer need a refrigerator because storage is outsourced to a storage provider.
IaaS is the next level up. When you use IaaS, you outsource infrastructure to a service provider. This may be a difficult concept to grasp, but remember that data packets do not care whether your servers are on the ground floor of your building or 200 miles away. Similarly, those data packets do not care who owns the servers. Thus, IaaS provides the exact same servers and storage that sit in an on-site server room. However, you control the operating system and software.
In the pizza analogy, IaaS is like those services available to apartment owners in which a service provides an oven and prep space to cook dishes for a fee. For example, when an apartment owner wants to bake a pizza, she uses the service provider’s kitchen and oven to prepare the pizza. The ingredients were purchased by her, all the labor to make the pizza was provided by her, and the finished pizza is owned by her. But the oven belongs to the service provider, and the responsibility for maintaining and cleaning the oven and paying for gas or electricity falls on the service provider.
As a business owner, you should focus on your area of expertise: running your business. Cloud services let the IT experts worry about the nuts and bolts of supporting your IT needs so your business can thrive.