Moving business systems to the Cloud is now generally agreed to be ‘a good thing’ and a strategy that a majority of leading businesses are now pursuing for long-term cost reduction and improved business efficiency.
And today much of the lack of clarity that has existed around what this really means has been pretty well resolved at a high level into two concepts: Public Cloud, and Private Cloud.
Very briefly, Public Cloud for business as an overall technical environment encompasses the Microsoft Azure Cloud Platform, and the Google and Amazon offerings, and platforms such as SalesForce.com.
In this environment, for example on the Microsoft platform, custom software applications are developed in Microsoft Azure technology and hosting provided by Microsoft themselves is costed on a usage basis; or Azure-enabled software such as Microsoft Office 365 is purchased for the business on a per-user per-month basis to replace internal systems.
The term ‘Private Cloud’ has been coined to cover business systems which have been opened out securely to the wider world for agile working and mobile devices as well as for internal use to enable ‘always-on’ and on-premise and remote work collaboration.
Traditionally business systems have been locked down within internal networks, and with multiple sites these were connected via secure private wide area networks, but you needed to connect via VPN or other often clumsy methods which ensured this remained difficult for the user and slowed them down in their work activities.
Today business systems are opening up to the mobile worker and to clients and partners on the Secure Private Cloud platform. This can include for example Microsoft SharePoint, or custom business systems, and custom portals to provide the secure online connectivity and integration to back office systems. Technology is such today that security concerns have faded while the demand for constant availability for remote and agile workers goes up and up.
Secure Private Cloud systems can be deployed either on-premise or at an external data centre – deploying a private cloud application means you do not necessarily even have to move systems to external hosting providers, you can keep them under your own direct control.
An illustration we have recently completed is one where we have provided consulting services on is the design for a globally available deployment of SharePoint for NATO Science and Technology, enabling scientists around the world to collaborate and communicate securely in real-time utilizing very securely on-premise deployed Windows, SharePoint and SQL Servers.
Another variation is the Cloud-system/on-premise systems integration. In this scenario online software is securely integrated with offline back-office systems. An example of this is where extensions are developed to back-office business systems to enable both call-centre staff and end-public users to access the system for customer-service and self-service functionality.
By Andrew Chalmers, Managing Director
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