What is the "cloud"?

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July 24, 2019

What is the "cloud"?


One of the first things that you may have noticed about our company is the name. It's a simple name, really. We provide field training tracking in the cloud. You're likely familiar with field training (if you're not, send me an email). But what the hell is the "cloud"?

The simplest definition is a group of networked servers, often in multiple geographic locations, that perform different functions to deliver a software product.

Still confused? Me too. Let's break it down a bit more and use some tangible examples.

As computing has grown by leaps and bounds, so has the delivery of software. A few decades ago, software was delivered via floppy disk, then CD, then eventually download. As the end user, you would install and run this software on your computer. The majority (if not all) of the files necessary to run this software were stored on your computer, including any data that you create.

With the introduction of cloud computing, software providers turned this model upside down. The storage, maintenance, and upgrade of software is done by the software provider with no interaction from the end user.

Cloud computing offers a variety of benefits that were previously unattainable by antiquated software delivery methods.

Accessibility

Cloud-based software allows accessibility from most modern web browsers. This allows users to simply open their web browser, go to a URL, and instantly have access to the software product with nothing to install.

Security

The burden of security is shared by every stakeholder in the software, from founders down to end users. Outside of security best practices (strong/unique passwords, two-factor authentication, etc.), the burden of security rests in large part on the software provider. Utilizing cloud-based providers (AWS, Microsoft Azure, Google Cloud), a large majority of security is already in place. When vulnerabilities are identified, patches can be released instantly to all users behind the scenes. With on-premise software, this requires ensuring compliance from all users, which may take weeks to months.

Updates

Software providers can deliver continuous security and features updates via the cloud. At FTOCloud, we're always looking to deliver the best training software. We do this through new features, bug fixes, and continuous updates. As we receive feedback, we are able to make incremental changes in our software. All of our updates can be made with 100% uptime of our software. This allows us to always deliver the most secure and up-to-date version of our software across our entire customer base, with no interaction required from the end users.

Speed

Cloud technology is improving rapidly. Access to enterprise-grade servers and software is much more cost effective through cloud service providers. This allows software providers to pay a mere fraction of the cost of hosting a server on-site, with increased reliability. This cost savings then permits the cloud provider to increase server coverage and reliability.

For example, we offer server availability in multiple geographic regions across the United States. When you log in to FTOCloud, you are connected to the closest datacenter, giving you an extra speed boost. In times of increased traffic, our infrastructure automatically scales in size to meet the traffic demands being placed on it.

We also utilize several products offered by our cloud server provider to help deliver faster performance (cloud-based caching, cloud databases with 5x speed increases).

Pricing

One of the largest differences in cloud vs. on-premise software is the pricing structure. With on-premise software, organizations typically pay a one time-fee (with optional add-on support costs). Cloud-based software companies (such as FTOCloud) typically adopt a Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) model. In this model, the software provider offers a monthly and/or annual pricing model that is paid in perpetuity. In this respect, it is comparing apples to oranges. On-premise software is offering you limited support and a one-time implementation of their solution. They will provide updates within a limited window, but will often require a service contract to continue delivering support and updates.

With cloud SaaS providers, organizations pay for an all-inclusive license that includes the software, support, and updates.

Support varies based on the software provider. At the very least, most active software providers are providing updates at a modest interval. Beyond that, software providers offer multiple support channels (email, chat, phone, Twitter). Best in class support will offer a full knowledge base, in app support, and proactive education. All of these are part of the SaaS pricing model.

Wrapping Up

There's a lot more technical details that we will continue to unpack in further blog posts about how we run our company. For now, this should cover the intro in cloud computing. Take a look at this article by AWS for a bit more info.

If I can help answer any questions about cloud computing, our software, or a combination of the two, please don't hesitate to reach out to me.