Cloud Computing

Break Free of Location Restrictions With Cloud Computing

The future of computing is in the cloud. For companies that don't want to be left behind, here are three tips for transitioning.
Break Free of Location Restrictions With Cloud Computing
Image credit: filadendron | Getty Images
Guest Writer
Technical Evangelist at LeaseWeb
6 min read
Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Amazon has come a long way from its roots as an online bookseller. Now, the company has a hand in so many different areas besides e-commerce -- including Whole Foods Market -- that it’s tough to keep track of what it’s up to.

For Amazon to go from $15.7 million in sales in 1996 to $136 billion in sales in 2016, it required innovative solutions to problems. From Prime Day to Dash Buttons to its TV-streaming service, Amazon has never been short of innovative ideas. But arguably the idea most critical to its success was the creation of Amazon Web Services.

As the company started to grow quickly, Amazon engineers realized that virtual infrastructure was necessary to handle all that explosive growth. What began as an effort to facilitate growth internally would eventually become Amazon Web Services, offering clients the ability to achieve scale via off-site computing and storage services.

By using Amazon’s computing infrastructure, online businesses would be able to process more payments while brick-and-mortar businesses could break ground on new locations without having to build their own data centers. And when businesses can operate independently of their location, so can their employees.

Since 2005, the number of remote job opportunities has grown by over 100 percent, according to GlobalWorkplaceAnalytics.com, and businesses stand to save more than $11,000 per person per year by allowing employees to work from home. So location independence means not only expanding your business to areas outside your region, but also growing your talent base and creating a stronger company.

Related: Who Needs an Office? How to Go 100 Percent Remote.

Cutting the cords

For businesses interested in becoming location-independent, there are a number of cloud infrastructures that can help. Software-as-a-service combines software and infrastructure into a paid service that typically includes a standardized software solution and licensing and maintenance. Gmail, Dropbox and Evernote are all examples of SaaS. In return for the limited number of features, SaaS minimizes the hassle.

Infrastructure-as-a-service and platform-as-a-service are lower-level SaaS alternatives, comprising the bulk of AWS sales. IaaS is the most basic building block -- like a computer in a data center, it can be virtual or physical. It’s possible to purchase managed IaaS services that include additional features such as updates and security measures, but this will come at an increased cost. PaaS is aimed at developers, and it allows entrepreneurs to save on maintenance and focus on building apps themselves. The downsides are a limited ability to make changes and a higher cost than more bare-bones IaaS services.

While cloud computing can offer a lot of benefits for businesses looking to become location-independent, it isn’t necessarily a great fit for all industries. High-performance infrastructures typically use less cloud computing, and other enterprises will likely have legacy applications with specific infrastructure demands. A hybrid environment is an excellent solution here because it has the capability to combine legacy apps with state-of-the-art cloud systems.

The cloud has also been slow to take over areas such as government or finance because of especially stringent security and compliance controls, but over the next several years, the cloud will continue to become more prevalent in these industries. Barracuda Networks conducted a survey of IT managers from around the country and reported that respondents utilize public cloud IaaS for 44 percent of their infrastructure. This number is expected to almost double in the next five years. For companies planning to be part of the movement to cloud computing, here are three tips for transitioning:

1. Have a backup plan.

Using different data centers in different locations, called availability zones, will make company infrastructure that much more resilient. Availability zones have redundant power, connectivity, and networking, and they allow businesses to host information in one area and then back it up in another.

Having a backup plan is always a good idea because if a data center goes down, it can lead to disastrous results. Remember, for example, back in 2013 when Google’s servers went down? The unprecedented outage lasted only two minutes, but it took 40 percent of the world’s internet traffic with it, according to analytics firm GoSquared.

While the average data center outage won’t break the internet, when an organization relies on its infrastructure to keep things running smoothly, downtime can hurt both the customers and the company’s bottom line.

Related: 4 Ways to Prepare for the Next Apocalyptic Amazon Web Services Outage

2. Maximize efficiency.

Speed is key, and it can be the difference between a happy customer and a frustrated one. Content delivery networks distribute content to your end users, cutting latency and increasing performance while often decreasing cost.

Choose a CDN that takes into account visit location (where the majority of web traffic is coming from) in addition to the technical support that comes with the network. Depending on needs, streaming capabilities could also be an important consideration.

Speed is the main focus, though, because a website taking longer than three seconds to load loses 40 percent of its would-be visitors, according to Kissmetrics. Also, almost half of consumers expect a loading time of two seconds or less for a webpage, and a page response delay of just one second can result in a 7 percent conversion loss.

Related: Vrooom! Why Website Speed Matters.

3. Adapt to changes.

By building and using software that can easily be deployed to different clouds, an organization becomes more flexible and adaptable.

Because cloud computing gives businesses the freedom to allow employees to work remotely, teams can work together in real time from around the world. WordPress developer Automattic, for example, allows employees to do all of their work remotely, making it possible for the company to tap into international labor pools and hire the best talent in the world.

With cloud infrastructure, small businesses and startups are now able to do the same. While buying and installing local servers is a huge investment, cloud computing allows businesses with limited budgets to become location-independent without breaking the bank.

The cloud has allowed every company the ability to scale like never before, from giants such as Amazon to a sole-proprietor startup in its infancy. Different infrastructures are available to cater to various needs, and the Cloud allows increased reliability with revolutionary flexibility. In other words, the future of computing is in the cloud.

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