Practice Made Perfect: Time to Embrace the Cloud
Cloud computing sounds complicated, but it isn’t.
The term refers to applications that are run in vast remote data centres (as opposed to directly on your own computer, or a server situated in your office), and are accessed via the Internet.
In your day-to-day life, you’ve probably used some cloud services without even realising. You may choose to store your precious family photos on Dropbox, or use Google Docs to perform basic office tasks. But for small-to-medium businesses, it’s an entirely different kettle of fish. Over the past decade, many have opted to shift their mission-critical systems to public cloud systems in order to find new efficiencies and work smarter.
When businesses embrace the cloud, one of the biggest motivations is to save money. Running applications and servers from their own facilities (commonly referred to as “on-premises” or “on-prem”) has inevitable costs, both in terms of hardware and maintenance. They need to buy the equipment, and then ensure it runs smoothly, either by paying for a service package or recruiting new IT staff.
Cloud computing services, like Amazon’s AWS and Microsoft’s Azure, use a completely different pricing model where customers are charged based on their usage. This is typically measured in computing power used, as well as the amount of data stored and transferred. There are no upfront hardware costs, and the service provider is responsible for much of the day-to-day housekeeping. In many cases, this proves cheaper than running services “on-prem.”
This also relates to scalability. If you use your own in-house server infrastructure, you’ll know how hard it is to adapt to changes. Adding new capacity is an expensive and lengthy process, and has to be planned long in advance. If demand suddenly drops, you can’t easily scale back to save costs.
Cloud services are different. Since the infrastructure is already there, adding new storage and compute power to your application is a doddle, and can be accomplished in the time it takes to brew a cup of tea.
Access is another key advantage of the cloud. The default approach to cloud development is to make a service accessible to all devices, anywhere. It doesn’t matter if you’re working from home or the office, if you have an internet connection, you can get things done.
It’s a bit trickier when talking about locally-hosted apps. If you want to use them beyond the confines of your home network, you’re stuck with two options: either you can link them to the wider internet, or allow your employees to “phone home” to your network using a VPN. Both take time, effort, and ongoing upkeep.
If you’re dependent on an application hosted locally and something goes wrong, your business will swiftly grind to a halt. You may find yourself unable to serve customers, or hastily trying to find workarounds that allow you to keep working without interruption.
The infrastructure that runs cloud systems is designed with redundancy in mind. There’s no single point of failure. If one component stops working, the system automatically compensates. You can also choose to host your application in multiple locations around the globe. If a power or network outage affects one data centre, or if there’s a natural disaster, the other locations can take over in a matter of minutes.
Ultimately, the cloud has three selling points: cost efficiency, flexibility, and reliability.
Cloud systems are inevitably cheaper because you only pay for what you use, and you don’t need to make any real upfront investments. They’re efficient because they require less direct maintenance, and allow you to make changes on the fly. They’re invariably more reliable, simply because they’re designed that way.
Those who switch from their costly and inelegant on-premises systems seldom change their mind. There’s a reason why the amount spent on public cloud services like AWS and Azure quintupled in the years between 2010 and 2019, growing from $77 billion to $411 billion. It works.
This is exactly why Chiral Systems has opted to build its powerful practice management software using the world’s leading cloud systems. We know our customers demand reliability, iron-tight security, and the ability to work using whatever devices they feel most comfortable with. It’s this flexibility that allows our product to scale to your own ambitions.
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