Many businesses these days will have heard the term ‘cloud computing’, as its risen hugely in popularity over recent years, with lots of companies recognizing the benefits that it offers.
So what exactly is cloud? Often, for the non-technical, the word brings to mind a scenario where all of their data is somehow floating around in cyberspace until they are ready to access it. However, this of course is a misconception and cloud just refers to a data centre which performs a variety of functions.
- Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) – this describes applications which are hosted on data centre servers, rather than at the business premises and can often be accessed from anywhere with an internet connection, depending on permissions allocated by the company. SaaS is the most commonly used cloud computing service.
- Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS): is a set of tools and services intended for developers in order to make coding and the deployment of applications quick, simple and efficient
- Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS): is the hardware and software that lives in the data centre, including servers, networks, operating systems and so on. If IaaS is used, often a business will just need a thin client (where nothing is installed on the machine itself except access to the infrastructure) in order to operate – this is also true of SaaS.
- Cloud storage: is widely used both by enterprise and consumers. Think iTunes, Dropbox and Spider Oak and you have examples of cloud storage. Again, the data being stored is kept at a data centre.
Whilst there are further examples of cloud computing and all of the terms which are encompassed by it, these are the most widely used, so we will avoid listing all of them. This is especially relevant right now as the lines between cloud terms are now becoming somewhat blurred, as more businesses use hybrid solutions. These are a mixture of all of the above.
How does cloud relate to CMS?
More and more CMS providers are offering a cloud solution these days, as it’s a safe, secure and simple way for businesses to make the most of the software. Sometimes, these solutions are offered on a more affordable pay-as-you-go basis, which is ideal for the small business with little in the way of capital outlay.
SaaS in particular has seen huge growth over the course of the past year; according to a 2011 study by Gartner, it’s estimated that the cloud services market will reach $150bn by the end of this year.
SaaS, whatever its form is characterized by:
- The ability to offer web access to commercial software (Office 365 is a good example of this)
- Software which is managed at the data centre
- Software which has the capability of being delivered to numerous end users
- Users and IT departments don’t carry out upgrades and patches to the software, this is also carried out at the data centre
- Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) allow further apps to be added to the software to provide integration
Software defined as SaaS can be any number of applications, including email which isn’t hosted at the premises, such as Gmail.
Benefits of SaaS CMS
The benefits of using a cloud-based CMS are numerous. Whilst we’ve mentioned the cost-saving benefits, this is just one aspect that can be beneficial to businesses. Security is often a good reason, having data stored away from the premises means that you can leverage the infrastructure and processes to reduce risk, as data centres have back-up generators and a decent disaster recovery plan in place.
Conversely, many businesses don’t; they also often fail to back up their data properly and even keep all copies of data at the premises, making for a total disaster should there be a fire.
It’s also useful for companies who allow telecommuting as it means employees can access work from home, just as if they were in the office, especially if hosted desktops are also used.
Other benefits to elaborate on:
- Support & Maintenance/infrastructure upkeep
- Demand bursting into other clouds (i.e. click frenzy)
- Pay as you go
- SLAs (up time promise)
Cons of cloud-based CMS
Like anything in life, cloud computing doesn’t suit every business, especially those which use extremely resource hungry applications. It may also not be suitable for those businesses that have to adhere to very strict compliance regulations when data is kept away from the premises. In the latter case, it’s sometimes impossible to use cloud CMS because it’s not allowed at all, whatever the circumstances.
However, most good cloud suppliers have their own compliance procedures in place which can be assessed by an audit.
Of course, there is also the case where a business feels that having their CMS system based on-premise fulfils all of their requirements and they see no particular need to change things.
Other points to elaborate on
- Support – important because if your supplier has poor support and something goes wrong, you can’t go in and fix it yourself. You have to rely on them
- Security – you are effectively giving your data to a third party.
On-premise versus cloud CMS
So, when it comes down to it, which is most suitable for your business? There are a few reasons why you may, or may not want to ‘deploy to the cloud’. To begin with, let’s look at the benefits offered by on-premise CMS solutions.
- Better for those who prefer to implement and administrate all of their own web content management software, applications and data
- On-premise gives greater control over the administration of servers and their contents, including software and apps
- It’s easier to keep within the parameters of specific IT plans, software can be patched and updated, backups carried out and security guidelines adhered to when it’s on-premise
- More control over applications and third-party software (such as browsers, plugins etc.) can be experienced
- Deployment to SaaS is relatively simple should the company decide to take that route at a later date, such as when new equipment and software is necessary
So for some, on-premise may still be the best solution when it comes to choosing where to host a CMS. The primary benefit is of course that the company retains control over all of its IT assets and security.
The benefits of cloud CMS include:
- Often more cost effective, especially for start-ups, as they can pay for thin clients, rather than full workstations which require
- Ongoing maintenance and support is included at all times
- Fast deployment of software which doesn’t rely on an old and clunky intranet to be accessed
- Data stored off premises and often safer
Over the past year, many companies have cited security as the main barrier to using cloud services but this is much less relevant now. In fact, some experts believe that cloud services are much safer when it comes to data security.
However, compliance is something that will need to be looked carefully at when choosing a provider.
Most businesses require a CMS these days, it not only simplifies and automates many work processes, but increases productivity across every department. Choosing whether to have an on-premise CMS or a cloud based CMS really is up to the individual needs of the company.