Technology continually evolves, and with each year that passes, technology evolves faster and further. In 2023, topics like artificial intelligence, cybersecurity and augmented reality seem to dominate the technology conversation, but all of these areas are underpinned by the location and availability of the data which feeds them. That’s probably a reasonable definition of ‘Cloud’: the topic of this article.
Cloud, or Cloud Computing, is defined similarly by Amazon and Microsoft. Amazon talks about cloud being “the on-demand delivery of IT resources over the Internet with pay-as-you-go pricing”, meaning that “instead of buying, owning, and maintaining physical datacentres and servers, you can access technology services on an as-needed basis.”
Microsoft refers to “the delivery of computing services — including servers, storage, databases, networking, software, analytics, and intelligence — over the internet to offer faster innovation, flexible resources, and economies of scale.”
So, from the start, there were some clear, tangible benefits to being ‘in the cloud’.
Cost savings, reduced downtime, and the access to enterprise level technologies at SMB level pricing. In 2013 Microsoft’s cloud services (Office 365 and Azure) and Amazon’s Web Services (AWS) were leading the way.
Microsoft introduced what it called a ‘paradigm shift’ by allowing its users to access their emails, documents, and applications from any device with an internet connection.
AWS marked the start of the scalable, consumption model, offering businesses the (at the time) unique opportunity to rent computing power rather than investing in expensive infrastructure.
Where organisations were always needing to budget for a 3-5 year CAPEX spend on a new server, and then have to cool that server, maintain it, deal with downtime and interruptions and manage its security themselves, there was now an option to outsource all of that.
As time went on, offerings developed – more of the applications which are commonplace in New Zealand and global businesses alike – Salesforce, SAP, MYOB and Google’s Cloud (not the search engine, but emails and storage for business) – along with cloud-born programs like HubSpot for marketers and Xero for invoicing, became widely available.
Organisations started to become familiar with ‘cloud-ready’ software, which just needed a place to live (not the server in a corner of the office anymore), rather than complicated, time-consuming, costly customisation and development before they were ready.
Cloud pricing models remain attractive to organisations, but they too have evolved, with best practice now incorporating cloud with value-add services in a per user, or per organisation, monthly price, allowing businesses to access everything they need to operate effectively while retaining the flat cost line month on month.
These models – often referred to being ‘as a Service’ – will include the platform, or the software, or the infrastructure, or a combination, that your organisation needs, along with support, maintenance and additional innovation.
On the theme of innovation, it is worth recognising how cloud has helped silo skillsets to allow people to focus on what they do best.
Where previously developers would have to be concerned about the thresholds or limitations of the environment they were developing in, they can now focus solely on code, leaving infrastructure management to those who specialise.
In ten years, cloud has evolved from basic email services being taken off the server in the office to advanced AI-driven analytics, machine learning and decision assistance focused on summarising the information that people need to see.
As technology evolves and demands shift, the cloud will undoubtedly adapt further, continuing to revolutionise the way in which we do business and enabling new possibilities that hadn’t even been considered just a decade ago.