The past 18 months have made everyone more comfortable with technology.
We are now far more adept at using laptops, smartphones and tablets to access services directly from the web. From internet shopping to sharing news and downloading films, operating digitally has become second nature to many of us.
The same changes are visible in the business world, with many organisations moving to the cloud. According to the Flexera 2021 State of the Cloud report, 99 per cent of enterprises globally now use the cloud in at least some capacity.
But what does that mean in practice and why should advice businesses be embracing the trend?
What is the cloud?
The cloud is a way of storing and accessing data and services over the internet instead of using physical hardware.
In the past we may have used memory sticks and hard drives to store personal documents, photos and music. Many people have switched to using iCloud or Microsoft OneDrive, which allow you to access your information from any location and web-enabled device.
Similarly, businesses might have previously held data and software on servers housed in their office, but now use external web-based services. Amazon saw the potential of cloud services over a decade ago, launching Amazon Web Services in 2006. It is seen as one of the market leaders along with other big tech brands Microsoft and Google.
What is cloud architecture?
Cloud architecture refers to the way you access the cloud and covers everything from the front-end user experience to the software, databases, application programme interfaces (APIs) and infrastructure at the back end.
The three main types are: software as a service (SAAS); infrastructure as a service (IAAS); and platform as a service (PAAS). Businesses may use one or a combination of these services.
SAAS delivers software and applications on demand via the internet without the need to physically install and store them on your computer. It is the most widely recognised and well-developed cloud-architecture model and also the one financial advisers use most frequently – Intelliflo Office is a SAAS.
Less well known but growing in popularity within the advice sector is PAAS, which can be used to build and host applications through cloud infrastructure managed by a third party. Website-hosting services are a prime example of a PAAS.
Similarly, IAAS is becoming more widely used in financial services. It provides virtual hardware, like server space, processing bandwidth and network connections, allowing companies to reduce their reliance on on-premise equipment.
What are the benefits of using cloud architecture?
For advice businesses, there are lots of advantages to using cloud-based solutions over physical hardware. Here is a rundown of my top 10:
1. Reduced cost
One of the most important business benefits of cloud-based services is the significant savings they offer compared with the cost of buying and maintaining your own physical equipment. And services are typically pay-as-you-go, so you only need to budget for what you use.