Focussing exclusively on cost-savings is no longer sufficient when evaluating the benefits of cloud computing. Although there can be substantial cost savings, it is increasingly important that cloud services support businesses as a whole. This will allow companies to streamline business processes and react swiftly to market changes.
The concept of cloud computing is actually relatively old, even if technology has only made what we now recognise as the cloud possible within the last few years. Back even as far as the 1950s at the dawn of computing it was necessary to allow access to the same large main-frame from multiple basic terminals in order to share infrastructure and make the most efficient use of the CPU of the mainframe. This basic form of cloud computing really took off in the 1990s with the rise of Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) so that many businesses could now afford to have their own dedicated network. But it was not until the mid-2000s that the internet was technologically at a point where it was feasible to run applications in a cloud environment.
It is only in the last few years that this type of shared infrastructure was referred to as the “cloud”, before that the internet itself was sometimes described using that term. Today, with the low-cost of computing hardware and storage space, the Internet is entering a new era where cloud storage of data is affordable for all and more powerful software applications are available.
So far, organizations have used the cloud for web hosting, data storage, business applications, desktop applications and e-mail. Small and medium-sized organisations have taken advantage of up-to-date and secure IT infrastructure without having to invest in their own equipment and experts, while bigger companies have used the cloud to add capacity to existing IT systems.
Cloud computing has transformed the business landscape and is here to stay. Recent reports have indicated that cost-savings were the dominant drive for introducing cloud services initially, but companies are now looking for additional benefits, such as higher productivity, speed to market, and compliance with regulatory requirements, especially in retail and the healthcare and financial industries.
These benefits are best achieved with integrated, modular systems, which will provide the flexibility to add on functionality. Customisable systems will help gain and safeguard a competitive advantage in a globalised economy where competitors can emerge anywhere in the world.
The future of cloud computing lies in comprehensive yet flexible solutions, which are able to support complex business processes from start to finish.