What You Need to Know About Cloud Computing

New technology can be scary. It’s unfamiliar, and the rate at which it’s changing and evolving can be overwhelming.

New technology won't stop anytime soon. New technology like cloud computing has become a vital part of business today. The same is true for dependent tools like the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT).

Now is the best time for you and your business to embrace cloud computing technology.

In a Nutshell: What Is Cloud?

So, what is cloud computing exactly?

“Cloud” is the delivery of on-demand computing resources over the Internet. From storage to software, if you’re getting or using it over the Internet, it’s cloud computing.

You may already use cloud computing, and not even know it. A recent IBM survey (source) says that 94% of businesses already use cloud computing in some form.

Personal users rely on cloud computing in a variety of ways. Smartphones back up pictures and store them in the cloud. When you stream a movie or a song, you’re accessing it from the cloud. Banking apps, social media, and even multi-player video games all rely on cloud servers.

In professional settings, organizations often deploy their business systems in the cloud. Before, businesses physically hosted these systems on servers "on-premises." But now, cloud computing manages those systems, as well as the needed data storage and backup. These systems can include ERP solutions, inventory management applications, and point-of-sale software.

What It Can Do: Benefits of Cloud

Greater Innovation Cloud computing allows you to compete at the forefront of your industry. Cloud deployments let you pay over time and as needed. Smaller businesses have access to the same latest innovations as larger enterprises.

Lower Total Cost Cloud transforms your IT resources from a cost center to a profit center. Hosting software on-premises racks up a huge amount of cost and risk. An expense can include buying servers, powering them, and maintaining them.

When you outsource hosting to the cloud, someone else manages those costs and risks. You get to focus on growing your business through strategic initiatives.

Increased Flexibility The cloud lets you customize IT resources to your specific business needs. Add users, increase bandwidth, boost storage capacity, and more. This gives you increased flexibility, or “scalability.” Now users always have what they need to be productive.

Improved Performance Cloud providers regularly update server hardware with improvements. Customers get the most up-to-date software delivered automatically.

Rest easy knowing that you always have the most powerful, current software available. You don’t have to burden IT, staff, with time-consuming updates and upgrades.

More Security Data hosted on-premises is vulnerable to break-ins or even natural disasters. Without a proper backup, you could lose that data forever.

While no data is 100% safe, data stored in the cloud is much more secure. Cloud providers continuously update their servers to combat the newest threats. Your data is regularly backed up in separate servers, often thousands of miles apart.

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Industrial Internet of Things

Companies across industries increasingly rely on cloud computing to manage their IIoT technology. The Industrial Internet of Things is the connection of machines over a network. It's also referred to as the Industrial Internet and is a huge part of Industry 4.0.

Don’t confuse IIoT with the more common term IoT—the Internet of Things. IoT generally refers to consumer items like home thermostats and smart speakers. These devices have tiny sensors in them that collect data. They then relay that data to another device (like a phone) over a network (Bluetooth, WiFi, or cellular).

IIoT takes those same principles and applies them to a business setting. It connects machines that are mission-critical to the way you run your business.

Business Benefits of IIoT

IIoT’s biggest benefit is data collection. This technology provides a huge amount of accurate, real-time data. Business owners can use it to make smarter, faster decisions.

IIoT can improve:

  • Process automation
  • Quality control
  • Asset performance
  • Supply-chain traceability
  • Energy management
  • Predictive maintenance
  • Field service
  • Overall efficiency 

Plenty of businesses enjoy the benefits of IIoT technology. One type is original equipment manufacturers (OEM), who make parts for other businesses. OEMs might use IIoT devices to record machine repeatability. This ensures they always have data readings for how parts should turn out.

For example, say an OEM notices something is off with their readings. They can pinpoint the problem and correct it before ever sending out the part. Or, they can mark the part as defective and pass it along to an inspection station. This improves product quality and customer service. And that helps the bottom line.

IIoT generates a lot of data. Many businesses that use IIoT turn to cloud computing to store and back up all this data. Cloud computing offers different types of cloud from which businesses can choose.

How It Works: Different Types of Cloud

Software as a Service (SaaS)

Examples: Salesforce, Microsoft Office 365 apps, MailChimp, Epicor ERP Cloud.Most commonly used for Out-of-the-box solutions

The most common type of cloud service, SaaS is software that users can access over the Internet.SaaS may require a subscription. Access the app from any compatible device over the Internet. Sometimes, you can download the software directly to your computer.

Platform as a Service (PaaS)

Examples: Microsoft Azure, Amazon Web Services (AWS).Most commonly used for: Database management, development tools, and operating systems

PaaS is important for developers. A PaaS business rents out its technology library.

You can use it to develop, test, deliver, and manage software applications. You don’t need to buy underlying hardware or software. Instead, you can focus on developing and managing apps.

Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS)

Examples: Microsoft Azure, Amazon Web Services (AWS), Google Cloud.Most commonly used for: servers, networking, storage, and more

IaaS companies rent out an entire IT infrastructure. You can pay to use theirs rather than hosting everything yourself. Rent servers, storage, networks, and operating systems. All available on a pay-as-you-go basis.

Because this model is so broad, it also allows for the most flexibility and customization.

The Verdict: Powerful New Tech

Many companies are incorporating cloud computing and IIoT into their business models. There are clear benefits to both of these tools. Adding this tech to your business or factory can be complicated. But the benefits can definitely outweigh those difficulties.