Tamara Wilhite is a technical writer, industrial engineer, mother of two, and published sci-fi and horror author.
What Is Cloud Computing, and How Does It Impact Your Business?
Infrastructure as a Service or IaaS is the basis of cloud computing. Cloud providers provide public interfaces for remote users to the cloud as well as data and software hosted on the cloud server.
Cloud services are based on a pay as you go model, where customers pay for the space and bandwidth they use. Cloud service providers run IaaS in data centers that provide scalability to current customers.
Virtualization allows companies to convert their existing servers into virtual servers and desktop computers into virtual machines. The virtual servers and virtual machines can be migrated to the cloud. The experience for users on desktop computers hardly changes.
Once they log into a computer, they see the same software applications and files they had on the hard drive of their PC. However, the data and desktop configuration are served through the cloud, and the user can access the same virtual desktop from any other location that can access the cloud.
Virtual infrastructure means that the virtual machines can be spread across multiple servers in the data center. Customers gain greater reliability, since their IT operations are not reliant upon a single server in the data farm staying up. The cloud service provider benefits from the greater flexibility gained by virtual infrastructure, moving virtual machines as necessary to optimize memory usage and off of machines that need to be serviced or upgraded.
With so many software applications and web servers moving to the cloud, is your IT department ready to support this new environment? And how does the cloud enable the outsourcing of IT functions?
How Does Cloud Computing Enable IT Outsourcing?
When the server is migrated from a server in your computer room to a virtual machine, service is no longer limited to those employees with access to the computer room. Support can be done remotely. While your internal IT staff can still perform application management and modify user access levels, you can now outsource your IT support because the systems are now virtual.
Virtual support can include the entire server, application management, first level user support or database upgrades. You can outsource as much or as little as you need to do as well as utilize IT outsourcing firms to fill in any gaps in your team's skill set.
One common practice is to use IT outsourcing firms to handle support overnight, through the weekend and over holidays. Or use the IT outsourcing firm take over server support to fill in when your main system administrator is on vacation. Small business IT outsourcing is a cost-effective solution to avoiding costly overtime or expensive contractors.
Cloud computing makes it easy to clone an existing server and its applications to create a "sandbox" or development system. You can then outsource IT work like security patching, database de-duplication or application development to a third party. Your in-house staff can test the new code on the sandbox without affecting their production environment.
If you outsource IT support along with the migration of your servers to the cloud, IT staff can focus on domestic support issues such as network maintenance, PC support and physical security of IT assets. Or let your IT team work on converting your legacy software applications to web based apps so that they can be utilized by your company's customers as they move to the cloud.
You can outsource support for your externally facing web servers and ordering systems while using your existing personnel to set up a private cloud and IaaS for your internal software applications and sensitive data.
One benefit of cloud computing is the greater reliability of distributed computing. IT outsourcing firms similarly pull from a large pool of IT talent, and they can add people to your team and adjust contractor work loads to provide 24x7 support for your IT needs at an affordable rate. This ensures that they can meet their service level agreement without costly overtime or delays. Furthermore, they can implement cloud bursting as necessary, cloning an existing application to another portion of the cloud and directing overflow traffic to the new location when traffic is unusually high, preventing denial of service errors or server shut downs due to peak demand.
If you need to move to service oriented architecture, IT outsourcing firms can perform the migration as well as future IT support as part of a single, long term contract.
Employees using virtual desktops can call IT outsourcing firms that support the cloud based applications, removing first level support calls like forgotten passwords and new user account set-ups from your IT staff's queue.
If your IT department on the cloud can access administrative functions remotely, your system admin can work from anywhere in the office or work at home without impacting production. Given this degree of flexibility, using an IT professional working in a lower cost area of the country is as practical as asking someone on your team to work from home.
Your IT personnel can outsource work like server maintenance, which becomes much simpler with a cloud based infrastructure. Instead of installing a new software version on several hundred personal computers, the executable file on the cloud server is updated and then made available to all users with access to the cloud. Your personnel can then focus on IT security audits, ISO or CMMI certification and ensuring network security.
IT support outsourcing to cloud service providers makes disaster recovery as simple as creating hot backups of your cloud based servers and databases.