In just a few short years, cloud computing has transformed from an interesting buzzword into the future of the Internet. Rackspace has been on the leading edge of the cloud computing revolution, helping businesses and professionals get real value from the promise of the cloud. We’ve put together this Top 10 list of the most common cloud computing use cases illustrating our point of view on where we’ll see the cloud having the biggest impact in 2012.
1. File Storage and Sharing
Chances are, you have suffered the frustration of trying to send or receive a very large file via email. Services like SendFile, Dropbox and Rackspace’s own JungleDisk have been around for years. Apple is helping the industry by explaining the concept of the cloud to the general population.
The year of 2012 brings you mature and powerful options for secure file sharing for workgroups, team collaboration and file storage and backups. From Cloud Drive to hosted SharePoint, there is no reason to send large attachments anymore. Your virtual team, including partners and customers, can have a place in the cloud where they share information and documents.
2. Cloud Database
Almost every web application needs a database. In the past, web developers had to set up and maintain their own databases: MySQL, SQL Server, etc. Managing and tuning a database requires a very specific skill set to perform complex tasks. This work is best done by a database administrator.
Cloud databases give developers and IT a powerful and scalable database that just works. From the infrastructure to the database software to the tuning and monitoring – everything is done as a service. Rackspace offers multiple options: from a web application platform that includes database functions to a fully managed database server to cloud based solutions from partners such as Xeround.
Companies are adopting the cloud for mission critical applications. Customer Relationship Management (CRM) systems are mission critical and deal with two of the most sensitive pieces of data: customer information and revenue. Yet, most companies don’t even consider hosting their CRM applications on premise. We have seen Salesforce.com and others grow exponentially over the last few years. The advantages of cloud-based CRM systems are clear for Sales teams and IT and the risks have been addressed. CRM can become a blueprint for moving more line of business applications to the cloud.
Email is another mission critical application that is fairly mature and standardized, prime to move to the cloud. For years, CIOs have expressed a desire to outsource email. In 2012 it makes no sense to host an Exchange server under a desk at a company of any size. Independent professionals to large multinational companies should move their email to the cloud as soon as possible.
At a personal level, we all use cloud-based consumer email services like Hotmail and Gmail, and we enjoy the benefits of access anywhere and not having to think about capacity or server uptime. There is a right cloud email solution for every business, be it hosted low-cost email, Hosted Exchange for small businesses, or even managed dedicated Exchange environments for large customers. Hosting your own email is so 2000s.
5. PaaS for Web Applications
Platform as a Service (PaaS) became a buzzword in 2011. Like many buzzwords, it is probably overhyped, yet there is real value in the concept of a PaaS. A PaaS solution allows developers to host their applications without having to think about servers at all: they just upload their application and it runs.
The caveat is that the application ‘stack’ is a black box that has predefined components and settings. This makes a PaaS, like Cloud Sites, ideal for web developers, microsites and stand alone applications that don’t need stack customizations and don’t interact with other line of business applications.
6. File Backup
Everyone should be backing up all important documents and files, but few of us actually do it consistently and efficiently. A good backup stores a copy of your files at a remote location. Until recently, that meant making a backup to a disk or tape and shipping those to a storage facility which was logistically complex, time consuming and not very cost effective.
Cloud-based backup is a powerful solution: backups can be scheduled to run automatically, information is stored in a secure remote location where it will always be available when needed and capacity is never a problem.
7. Web Site Hosting
Websites can be a huge drain on IT resources, especially if the websites are visited frequently. Hosting the website in the cloud combined with managed services allow web teams to focus their efforts on creating the best web content possible (instead of sweating the ins and outs of web hosting). From a simple blog site to a high trafficked corporate website, cloud-based web hosting can provide scalability and high availability when designed properly, which leads right into…
Scalability and availability are critical concerns for online stores. Every minute of downtime can result in lost sales. A slow website can result losing a customer for life. eCommerce is also known for seasonal high peaks, such as the holiday season. Online stores no longer have to pay for and deploy infrastructure to support peak times, the cloud allows them to dynamically scale as their traffic scales.
When a spike in interest at an eCommerce website occurs, the demand could bring down or significantly slow down traditional servers, preventing customers from being able to make a purchase. However, the cloud allows that same website to quickly spin up additional resources and handle the load. When the rush subsides, those resources are turned off.
The cloud also makes it easy to deploy web servers in different locations with load balancing to accelerate local page load times and increase availability. Adding the services of a Content Delivery Network (CDN) makes it easy to distribute high-bandwidth content like images and video across the world in a very efficient and cost effective way.
9. Test & Development
A software company that is deploying a new line of business software, or building a software application to sell in the market, usually requires two or more ‘QA environments’ – each one being a setup of servers, storage and networking. Instead of buying and maintaining these QA environments, software development teams can create them in the cloud.
Development teams will benefit from the agility of creating instances in minutes, the efficiency of paying only for the infrastructure needed at any given point in time and from the efficiency of not having to manage and maintain the infrastructure. Additional instances can be set for testing and training purposes with the same efficiency. Load testing and simulation under different hardware configurations is also a no-brainer for the cloud.
10. Private and Hybrid Clouds
Private clouds give IT departments many of the benefits of the public cloud with the added benefit of having an isolated network and computing resources that bring additional security. Rackspace offers private clouds that give IT departments a lot more control over the resources deployed and the architecture.
Hybrid clouds, enabled by technologies such as RackConnect™, allow IT departments to connect public cloud, private cloud, dedicated hosted and on-premise infrastructure to gain the optimum combination of control and agility. For example, a web server can be set up in the public cloud, transaction processing can be in a dedicated server where PCI compliance is easier to attain, order processing can be on-premise and the ERP system can be on a private cloud with automatic backups going to storage on the public cloud.
The cloud is not a go/no-go decision for IT departments and small businesses; however, the thinking should be about how to maximize the value of the cloud. It is hard to find a consumer, small business or IT department that does not use the cloud in some shape or form.