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For decades, companies operated through ‘local’ storage and computing, whereby data and programs were stored on the computer's hard drive.

More recently, technological developments and an overall increased trust in technology has seen the majority of businesses become ‘virtual companies’. Known as, ‘cloud computing’ this system works through the storage of computing resources over the internet, rather than a computer’s hard drive.

Initially introduced in the 1960’s, cloud computing has been hailed as the one stop service for companies to store their data. Although, cloud computing has long faced severe backlash regarding its level of security, expense and reliability. Despite this, we outline exactly what ‘cloud computing’ means, the different ways in which these systems work and the significant evidence they are on the rise.

The 3 different types of cloud systems  

Public cloud

A private cloud computing system is one owned and operated by a third-party service provider and services offered are generally ‘pay by the hour’. Importantly, a business’ hardware, software and supporting infrastructure is not fully overseen by the cloud provider. Instead, a level of self-management is required by your company. An incredibly popular public cloud system for business solutions is Microsoft Azure, an integrated collection of cloud services.

The first major cloud provider to adhere to the International Cloud Privacy Standard, Microsoft Azure offers predictive analytics and hybrid applications, which allow on premise applications to use the cloud services. Azure also decreases administration and data associated costs as you are merely paying for computer processing time, while hardware is overseen by the provider, freeing up time.

Private cloud

A private cloud provider is a ‘single-tenant environment’ in which computing resources of a single company or client are stored. A private system offers a customized and high level of security for the company, leading it to be the most popular cloud computing system.

The private cloud system has the highest popularity, mostly within mid to larger scale enterprises who must meet large-scale security and compliance requirements. For this reason, many businesses choose to employ a third-party service provider to host their private cloud. A significant downfall of private cloud systems however, is the need for infrastructure maintenance and initial set-up costs which become quite expensive.

Hybrid cloud

A hybrid cloud system combines the data within both public and private clouds, allowing information to be easily shared between the two. The main benefit of this system is the level of flexibility and customizable features available for a business. Interestingly, research shows around 80% of companies are considering transitioning to a hybrid cloud option.

Cloud spending is on the rise

According to the 2017 survey conducted by Clutch, a main benefit of cloud computing, as reported by users, was increased efficiency and profitability. Although initial costs of cloud computing can seem unnecessary, companies can in fact experience long-term cost reductions.

Once set up, vast amounts of money is no longer required to spend on non-core processes such as hardware and software, which quickly become outdated. This eliminates the fear of unexpected capital expenditure costs and allows a business to invest in more important processes.

In recent times, businesses have starkly shifted their perception of cloud computing, becoming far less sceptical and more inclined to invest money. Once considered a risky and illogical computing resource management option, businesses now see this system a necessary part of their processes. Evident in the statistics collected by Clutch, over two-thirds of businesses plan to increase their cloud computing spending in 2017, with 1 in 5 planning to increase their budget by more than 30%.

Increased trust in cloud security

Initially, many companies could not comprehend how an online system could safely store and monitor their valuable computing resources. The overall fear residing in the fact company administrators no longer had control over their data systems. Instead people were wary of the provider, who now took over such control, would be negligent and compromise their level of protection.Concerns were raised data would be left vulnerable and easily accessible to anyone in the world, mainly hackers. These concerns did have some merit, however, with early cloud providers failing to establish strict data access controls.

Nowadays, many companies identify security as a major benefit of cloud computing, showing an exponential decrease in scepticism and distrust. In 2017 the need for efficient security measures requires the utmost importance, therefore cloud providers heavily invest in ensuring customer data is safe, secure and protected by their measures. Outlined below the 3 biggest practices cloud providers have implemented to ensure the highest level of security.

Artificial intelligence

Artificial intelligence is used to scan and analyse cloud servers for potential threats. Machine learning algorithms are used to decipher between unusual activities and those which although appear unusual, actually pose no threat. Research shows approximately 1 in every 5 businesses currently operate within a cloud computing system which uses artificial intelligence.

Advanced data encryption

Advanced data encryption is the process in which data is automatically encoded before it is moved to the cloud storage system. This data requires an encryption key to decrypt the data in order to be accessed, in turn preventing unauthorized access.

Penetration testing

Cloud providers often conduct penetration testing to ensure security industry regulations and standards are upheld and a consistent visibility of data infrastructure is maintained. This testing involves cloud systems subject to tests looking for vulnerabilities that could leave a company's information vulnerable to hackers.

Implementing your cloud system

Decide which system is best for your company

When deciding which cloud system is best for you, it is essential to decipher what the actual needs of your company are. For example, the needs of a small-mid sized business differ to that of a large scale enterprise. A great idea is to make use of the free trials many cloud providers offer before committing to making the switch.

Once your business needs are clear, an option is to hire an external consulting firm to implement your cloud strategy. This is extremely beneficial for companies who are not educated in navigating cloud computing. Although smaller companies may not see the benefit to this expense, an unforeseen issue can end up costing the business much more.

Understand shared responsibility

Many cloud services only control some components of a business’s computing system. Whilst arguably offering a superior data management service, it is important to understand cloud computing systems are a shared responsibility between provider and the company.

When putting your cloud computing system into place, ensure you properly understand the user agreement. This agreement will outline the roles and responsibilities of the service provider and allow you to see what you will need to monitor and manage within the cloud.

Cloud computing systems have come a long since their initial introduction to the world. Now considered a revolutionary and innovative way to store data, companies are making the virtual switch as a way to improve security and increase overall productivity.

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