For businesses to stay competitive in today’s market, it’s important to invest in quality IT infrastructure that will serve as the backbone of your operation. For small and medium-sized enterprises, the time and expense required to set up and maintain physical IT infrastructure, or even a data center, can sometimes be out of reach, preventing them from keeping up with larger competitors. Fortunately, the increasing availability of cloud infrastructure options allows these smaller businesses the opportunity to affordably meet their IT demands in a way that seamlessly expands with company growth.
But what is cloud-based infrastructure, and what benefits does it offer for your business?
Cloud Infrastructure Defined
By definition, cloud infrastructure refers to the hardware and resources, especially data storage and computer power, which is available on-demand without the need of direct active management by the user.
Traditionally, building the IT infrastructure for your business, firstly required a physical location to set up your equipment, either a dedicated equipment room in your office building or possibly an external data center for a larger more resilient installation; and secondly the resources to build and maintain these IT systems. This process, depending on the size of your operation, can often take up significant time and expense to set up and maintain. This can be a significant burden for smaller companies or companies experiencing rapid growth requiring frequent changes to their IT, which may not have the budget for their own IT infrastructure team. Cloud-based solutions, on the other hand, solve these issues by offering a customizable infrastructure that takes minimal time to launch and can be easily altered to fit changing IT demands.
Cloud Infrastructure Explained
When speaking in IT terms, the cloud refers to either the internet or an intranet, where everything gets stored in cyberspace with easy access from multiple locations. Rather than maintaining a full data center on-site, cloud-based solutions are available at any time from any device that has an internet connection. Companies that provide these solutions manage data centers that are designed specifically for remote access, giving clients all the benefits of a customized IT infrastructure without the responsibility of purchasing and maintaining the networking, storage and processing hardware that makes it all work. Instead, companies pay for the use of virtual components and machines, giving them all the advantages of a fully developed IT infrastructure and allowing them to draw their data from the computers, servers and databases in a secure off-site location. Virtual components and machines include:
- Virtual PCs
- Virtual memory
- Virtual servers
- Virtual hubs
- Virtual network switches
- Virtual routers
- Virtual storage clusters
To make this system work, companies must use their front-end equipment, such as PCs and mobile devices, to virtually access the central servers, databases and computers on the back end, using the internet or cloud computing software. An easy way to visualize this is to consider the process of online banking.
Making this analogy, traditional IT infrastructure is similar to cashing a check and storing your cash in an old shoebox under your bed. Cloud infrastructure is more akin to taking a photo of the check to make a mobile deposit and trusting that the bank will keep your money safe and available for use. The front end is your mobile device, the back end is the bank and the software is the mobile app you use to access your accounts.
How Can Cloud Infrastructure Benefit SMBs?
For many small and medium-sized businesses, cloud infrastructure can be the answer to all their needs. With the back-end hardware already in place, structures are made to meet the budget and rapid-response demands of SMBs.
Save Your Company Time and Money
When a business is just starting to identify its IT needs, the time and expense it takes to set up infrastructure in-house can seem daunting. Doing so correctly requires skilled professional IT services — something many small businesses do not have on staff — and making a mistake can manifest costly problems in the future. When you choose this option, all the work has already been done for you, and your infrastructure can be customized from a variety of offerings to meet your exact needs and budget.
Keep Your Data Secure
Companies that offer virtual IT infrastructure dedicate a significant amount of time and expense to the safeguards used to keep their clients’ data safe. Servers are located in secure locations, physically protected from natural disasters and up to date on the latest security protocols and software patches for preventing data breaches. Businesses that use these services will also have the peace of mind of knowing the data they store is backed up along with the servers used to run their businesses. Since service providers understand the potential for network failure, they work to ensure there is a backup plan in place to keep you operational, even when something goes wrong on their end.
Greater Infrastructure Flexibility
As your company grows, its IT needs are likely to evolve as well. If you were to build and maintain in-house IT hardware or a dedicated data center and network, making changes to your existing infrastructure would require manual reconfiguration and, possibly, a heavy investment in new equipment. When turning to the cloud, these changes can be completed by simply contacting your IT provider to discuss any additions or subtractions to your existing plan. New servers, greater storage space and altered virtual networks can be provided with minimal effort and expense on the client’s part. This also allows you to only pay for what you require, reducing the chance of wasted resources on equipment that exceeds your needs.
Access to IT Professionals
This option is also great for companies that do not have an IT professional on staff, and where the use of an external IT support company, with knowledge on cloud services, can quickly help you to set up your IT infrastructure. These professionals can help you identify exactly what you need from an IT perspective to effectively run your business.
Is Cloud Infrastructure Right for You?
If you operate a small or medium-sized business in need of IT infrastructure but don’t have the time and budget for an on-site setup, leveraging this could be just what you need. By giving you virtual access to high-quality, secured hardware with professional IT assistance to get you started, cloud infrastructure will save your company money, protect your data and allow you to respond to changes in IT demands. If you’re ready to see what this can do for your business, contact Eire Systems to learn more about how we can provide cloud solutions to best suit your business needs.