Cloud technology has become extremely popular in the last couple years, especially for corporations and enterprises. One of the main reasons the cloud has been so successful is because it allows companies to reduce IT costs and free up valuable resources.
Most enterprises utilize cloud technology to some extent, but many aren’t tapping into the full potential of the cloud. Whether you already work with a cloud platform or are looking to make a change, it’s important to know what options are out there. These terms will help you evaluate your current technology and identify any emerging cloud solutions that can help you improve operations.
For many people, the cloud is an abstract concept. They have vague ideas about the purpose of the cloud but don’t fully understand how it works. Let’s clarify: the cloud is a remote network of servers. Users connect to the cloud through the Internet to store, manage and process data. There are many different companies that offer cloud services, and it’s those companies that own, manage and maintain the servers where the data of their customers is stored. Quite often, the remote servers owned by cloud companies are located on server farms: buildings that can house and power thousands of servers.
A cloud provider is a company that offers cloud services. They own a series of remote servers for storing the data of their customers. Many cloud providers are tech companies that provide other products and services in addition to data storage. For example, CMiC offers cloud services, but this is an offshoot of our main product: unified construction software. By pairing cloud technology with our ERP construction software, CMiC users can access data remotely, in real-time and within one, central database.
A vertical cloud is built to accommodate data storage needs specific to a particular industry. In general, vertical and horizontal are used to describe the ways that customers are targeted in a specific market. Horizontal markets target customers with a broad range of wants and needs, while vertical markets are much more niche and focused. For example, healthcare organizations, financial services providers and government agencies must adhere to regulations around storing, managing and protecting client data. Vertical cloud solutions built specifically for these industries will have high-level security protections embedded in order to protect patient information.
The opposite of a cloud solution is an on-premise solution where physical servers are housed within a company’s offices. Some construction firms prefer on-premise deployment because it gives them control over their own hardware, without having to rely on external IT support.
While they may provide greater control, on-premise solutions come with a higher cost. They require a significant upfront investment and have ongoing maintenance costs, such as:
- Cost of the physical building space where servers are housed
- Electricity costs for running servers 24/7
- Software licensing fees
- Salaries for IT employees to maintain servers
Cloudsourcing is the outsourcing of data storage to a third-party provider, rather than using the traditional IT approach for data management (on-premise solutions). The traditional approach requires companies to purchase, house and maintain their own servers, which can be costly and labour intensive. Cloudsourcing, on the other hand, allows companies to use remote servers on a subscription basis. They pay for only the storage they need and can adjust their subscription plan if these needs change. This flexibility allows businesses to scale more easily and with less financial risk.
Middleware is a piece of software that acts as a bridge between applications and/or operating systems. For example, a construction company that uses one application for project management and a different application for financials will need middleware to connect these two applications so that they can share data.
The use of middleware is still widespread, but it comes at a significant cost: using more than one application for operational tasks creates a more complex IT network. In addition, the middleware connecting applications may have limited functionality or may not function properly. When middleware isn’t working, it stops the flow of data between departments and slows down operations significantly.
The alternative to using middleware is to implement unified construction software. Unified ERP platforms have multiple applications that are all connected to one database. No middleware is required, and data flows freely between all applications.
A public cloud is accessed via the Internet. Users of the public cloud can upload or download data using an Internet connection. There are many security protections in place so that data stored in a public cloud is only accessible by the organization. For example, all your emails are stored in a public cloud, but only you are able to access this data.
A private cloud is accessed by using an intranet, instead of the Internet. An intranet is a private network that is only accessible to an organization. Data is still stored in an off-site data centre, but it is accessed through a private network. Private clouds are a more expensive option than public clouds, but they offer greater security for organizations that need a higher level of protection.
Looking for more information on cloud technology? Learn 4 ways that cloud-based construction software helps construction companies scale.