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Cloud application refers to any software that’s deployed in the cloud, rather than hosted in a local machine or server. Cloud application usage is widespread across companies big and small. It’s estimated that the UK cloud adoption rate is 88%.
The cloud app market has been growing at an extremely rapid pace. The increasing availability of broadband internet and smart mobile technology is helping companies easily transition their on-premises applications to the cloud.
What is Cloud Application?
Cloud applications are software programs that utilise both cloud-based and local components. Cloud applications (apps) use remote servers to process logic that’s accessed via the internet.
The physical servers for cloud applications are generally located in remote data centres and are overseen by a cloud services IT infrastructure provider. There’s an endless selection of cloud apps in use today – with the capacity to take over tasks like:
- File storage
- File sharing
- Data entry
- Word processing
- Inventory management
- Customer relationship management (CRM)
- Financial accounting
- Data collection
The benefits of cloud application
Cloud apps offer a host of benefits to organisations including:
- Quick Response Times
Cloud applications can be tested, updated and deployed rapidly, thereby providing companies with extra agility and faster times to market. This ability can lead to transformation in a company’s culture.
- Simplified, Flexible Operations
Third-party vendors can do the management of infrastructure. Businesses can devote more time to core business operations, and less to IT issues, i.e. more time developing customer relationships and achieving company-wide goals.
- Mobility and Accessibility
Employees can access cloud applications via a mobile app, virtual machine, or computer. This means teams can collaborate via any device that has an internet connection, no matter where they are.
Sifting through endless data to find valuable and actionable information is difficult without cloud-based solutions. Many cloud-based storage solutions offer integrated analytics that gives a detailed picture of data. It’s also easier to implement tracking mechanisms and create customised reports to increase efficiencies and re-adjust plans.
- Immediate Scalability
Capacity can be adjusted as demand rises or falls. Provisioning can be done automatically or manually. The ability to scale up or down increases overall efficiency and incurs cost savings.
- Quality Control
With cloud-based systems, documentation is stored in one place and in one format enabling everyone to access the same version. This maintains consistency in data and avoids human error creeping in. It also avoids employees accidentally saving different document versions and leading to confusion!
- Automatic Updates
Having to wait for updates to be installed is frustrating and means that less work can be done. Cloud-based applications automatically update and refresh. This maintains high application performance and ensures the IT department doesn’t have to perform organisation-wide manual updates. According to PC World, 50% of cloud adopters required less input from IT as a result of migrating to the cloud.
- Use of APIs
Application programming interfaces (APIs) can be used to access third party data and storage services. They can keep cloud applications smaller by handing data to applications or API backend services for processing or analytics – with results then sent back to the cloud application. API technology can offer significant layers of consistency that can speed development and achieve predictable results.
- Cost Reductions
Cloud-based applications are generally cheaper to run and manage than on-premises applications. The larger cloud infrastructure and services providers have data centres with the size and scale to lower prices for business users. There’s also a lot of competition in the market between vendors – which also helps to keep prices low.
- Better Data Sharing
Data stored in the cloud is immediately available to users with the correct levels of permission. This can speed up workflow and make your staffs’ lives easier.
- Increased Security
Because of their huge scale, cloud providers can make use of best-in-class security expertise and put into place security measures that are out of reach for small businesses. Data is centralised and managed by IT operations employees who can more easily back up that data regularly – should there be a need for disaster recovery.
With environmental issues ever more top of mind, organisations need to play their part in sustaining the planet. Adopting a cloud-based infrastructure can cut down on your energy costs, as well as purchases of hardware, paper, and other resources.
How does cloud computing work?
The ‘cloud’ refers to a combination of the internet – a virtual space that connects users from around the globe – and data servers. Information is shared through virtual networks. Resources, software and information, is stored on servers and maintained and ran by cloud-based computing providers.
Cloud computing is an application-based software infrastructure that stores data on remote servers. These servers can be accessed through the internet. Cloud computing can be divided into the front-end and the back-end. The front-end allows users to access data in the cloud via internet browsers or cloud computing software.
However, it’s the back-end that comprises the backbone to cloud computing. Maintained by cloud service providers, it’s here that the primary components powering the cloud reside – those responsible for storing data and information securely. The back-end architecture in the cloud empowers the front-end.
The back-end needs to be especially robust since it holds the whole architecture together. Prime components include:
- Application: The application is a major part of the backend architecture, and it refers to the user interface which the backend offers to end-users to send queries. The application handles client requests.
- Service: This adds utility to the backend architecture and handles all the tasks running on the cloud computing system. These include app development, storage and web services.
- Cloud runtime: This is where tech like virtualisation is used to enable the creation of software. It’s the virtual representation of apps, servers and storage.
- Storage: This is where data resides in the cloud; it varies per provider. Cloud storage is a key part of many applications, so this is vital.
- Infrastructure: The engines that steer the cloud application services, for example, the central processing unit (CPU) and Motherboard.
- Security: Virtual firewalls and regular debugging take place.
Cloud Applications Vs. Web Applications
Both cloud and web applications access data that resides on remote or on-premises or in remote data centres.
The chief difference between cloud and web applications is architecture. A web-based application needs a continuous internet connection to function. A cloud application, on the other hand, can process tasks on a local computer or workstation.
Cloud Applications Vs. Desktop Applications
Desktop applications are platform-dependent and need separate versions for each operating system. Since they require multiple versions, this increases the time and cost to develop them and makes testing them more complicated. It also makes version control and supports more difficult.
Every device on a desktop app needs to be installed separately, making it difficult for all users to upgrade to new versions when they become available. The ongoing tech support to enable different versions can become burdensome.
On the other hand, you can access cloud applications via multiple devices and operating systems. The fact they are (mostly) platform-independent makes them more cost-effective in the majority of cases.
Additionally, there’s no problem with version control when it comes to cloud-based applications since users can access and run only the available version on the cloud.
What are the Cloud Application Models?
Three common cloud application models provide ways for cloud services to store their data and host services; these are public, private and hybrid cloud. It’s essential to select the right model – one that aligns with the size of your business and its requirements.
The Public Cloud
The public cloud service runs on an external platform run by a provider. Users get their own cloud within a shared infrastructure. The cloud provider oversees security and maintenance issues. A public cloud system can be a good choice for companies requiring a flexible, cost-effective way of accessing up-to-date cloud technologies. However, it does place security options in third-party hands.
The Private Cloud
A private cloud is a platform built on-premises using legacy hardware and software. The user’s in-house IT team manages it. This model is better suited for enterprise-level companies that want exclusive access to their own cloud with greater flexibility and control over development.
Industries with stringent security requirements, like healthcare or finance, are likely to make use of the private option. However, it can be expensive due to the hardware and skillsets required for cloud application development.
The Hybrid Cloud
The hybrid cloud utilises both public and private clouds. An on-site IT team manages some of the clouds in-house, and the rest is managed offsite. This is a perfect solution for businesses that want to manage corporate data through in-house databases and store less sensitive data with a third party.
How are Cloud Applications Categorised?
Users can run cloud application software client-side or server-side. Some processing can take place on the end-users local hardware (such as a desktop or mobile device) and some on a remote server. One of the benefits of cloud apps is that most data storage exists remotely. Some can even be built to consume almost no storage space on a local device.
In general cloud applications fall into one of the following three categories:
Software as a Service (SaaS)
This is the most common and popular third party cloud application. It provides the hardware and the software for running the application. SaaS providers usually offer comprehensive customer support for the systems and application. Well-known SaaS providers include Google Workspace, Gmail and Google Drive.
Let’s take a look at Google Docs. After launching Google Docs, users can configure the program so they can continue editing documents – even when they lose internet connectivity. That’s because the app can store changes locally and re-sync with the cloud once an internet connection is re-established.
With these integrated applications in place, users can avoid buying expensive equipment and licensing. Other examples include Microsoft Office 365 and Oracle, enterprise-level services that can deliver a host of integrated development environments (IDEs) such as human resources software, CRMs, and content management systems.
Software as a service is an ideal solution for businesses that don’t want the responsibility of maintaining infrastructure, platforms or software. It’s also a good choice for organisations that only want the ability to carry out a minimal amount of customisation.
SaaS is a cost-effective solution for many companies since there’s no requirement to buy expensive equipment. It is important, however, that SaaS users invest in a robust network connection since app performance is dictated by the internet speed available.
Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS)
This category of cloud application relates to a situation where a third party provides both infrastructure and support services for that infrastructure in the cloud. The infrastructure includes the servers, network, virtualisation and storage (via either public or private cloud). Users access the infrastructure via APIs or dashboards – and rent the infrastructure from the provider.
In this scenario, the application resembles a classic web solution and uses HTML sent by a cloud server to a local device (that’s running a browser). In this scenario, the logic, data and formatting of the output are controlled by cloud servers. A good example of this cloud app design is Dropbox. The user interacts with the app in a web browser to upload or download their files. All data processing and storage takes place remotely in the cloud.
IaaS requires a software provider to supply the middleware, apps and support. Middleware is the software that acts as a mediator between the operating system and app.
Middleware is used to provide extra operating system functionality and to simplify programming. A good example of IaaS is Google Compute Engine. This enables developers to access the identical infrastructure used by Google in their on-demand products, facilitating the handling of spikes in usage.
Other examples of IaaS providers are Amazon Web Services (AWS) and Microsoft Azure – they provide the hardware as well as take care of outages, repairs and other hardware issues.
Platform as a Service (PaaS)
PaaS offers users a platform upon which to develop, run and manage apps without having to build and maintain the infrastructure or cloud environment. An outside vendor provides the hardware and application software platform.
This means that the apps and data reside on the platform – making this a suitable solution for enterprises seeking native cloud application – specifically those with their own developers and programmers.
The app runs the majority of the software program logic by itself. This means the app can still function by storing changes locally – so whenever there’s an internet connection data is automatically synced with the cloud.
RingCentral is a great example of PaaS, as it offers a full business phone solution through the cloud. You can also add additional applications to the platform. As modern software apps can be incredibly complex, PaaS enables companies to use or develop apps without having to manage or update the platforms that host them.
Ready to move your communication into the cloud? Contact RingCentral Expert today!
Cloud-based software applications have transformed business operations around the globe. With a single click, employees can access digital apps that work office-wide as well as remotely. These digital apps enable them to communicate with colleagues and customers at any time and on any device. Finding the right solution for ensuring seamless collaboration between teams has never been such a high priority.
If you’re looking for a cloud-based solution to help you take your communications to the next level, you need to find a platform that:
- Provides security
- Ensures a user-friendly startup
- Is easy to deploy and adopt
- Helps you bring global teams together
- Allows businesses to develop their own cloud application designs
RingCentral ticks all these boxes providing everything you need in just one app.
RingCentral is an all-in-one solution that enables employees, customers and stakeholders to interact in real-time via voice, video and messaging. With seven layers of security RingCentral’s user protection is the highest possible. And, with the ability to activate international numbers in over 100 countries, team-networking across continents is easy.
RingCentral also integrates with third-party apps and allows you to build your own cloud-native applications via its open API operating platform. From Google and Microsoft to Salesforce, Zendesk and ServiceNow, RingCentral allows you to build out of the box communication-based cloud solutions.
For more information about how RingCentral’s communications platform can benefit your business to get in touch today.
Originally published Dec 03, 2020, updated May 15, 2021