The tech world has been revolutionised over the last decade by advances in both mobile and cloud computing. But whilst you can hold an iPad in your hands and get an immediate understanding of what mobile computing is all about, it’s harder to get a similar intuition for what cloud computing is, what it can do and how it works.

We all use cloud based services every day. You might use Dropbox or Google Drive to store your files. You might use Microsoft Offie 365 or Evernote for productivity. You might watch programs on the BBC iPlayer or on Netflix. You might talk with Amazon’s Alexa or Apple’s Siri. Or you might communicate others via social networks like Instagram or Facebook. All of these products and services use very sophisticated cloud infrastructure to deliver content and services that would have been impossible 10 years ago.

What’s really exciting is that so much of that infrastructure is available for anyone to use, and it doesn’t need to cost an arm and a leg. So if you want to deliver an ecommerce site you can use exactly the same infrastructure as Amazon. If you want to deliver video content you can use the same systems as the BBC and if you want to manage and analyse big data sets you can use the same servers and tools as Google.

This is all because the big players in tech have decided to open up their infrastructure and sell it on as a service in its own right. The big three platforms are Amazon Web Services, Google Cloud and Microsoft Azure.

What are the benefits of running your apps from the cloud?

The key benefit of using cloud servers over traditional dedicated servers is scalability. Lots of things can be quickly, easily and automatically scaled up and down to your app/site’s needs.

So if you sell jewellery online you might need a shed load of capacity around Valentine’s day and Christmas time and not so much during the rest of the year. With traditional servers you have two options;

  1. You can either pay for a very expensive server that will handle demand throughout the year, even though for 10 out of 12 months you’ll be paying more than you should.
  2. Or you can go for a more economic option, but then your site might slow down and crash during your most important sales periods.

With the cloud you can set up a system that automatically watches demand on your site and increases resources when demand increases and removes it when demand wanes.

You are only charged for what you use, meaning that switching to the cloud can be both cheaper for you as well as delivering improved performance as far as your users are concerned. Win win! Switching to a Cloud infrastructure may also help with cash flow as it is an operating expense, whereas your current server setup may be a capital expense. Capital expenses are often depreciated over a period of time, whereas operating expenses are fully tax deductible in the year they are made.

Every aspect of the cloud is scalable. Maybe you need to run reports on big data sets every quarter. No need to invest in a really powerful server for the task — just schedule that computing time on the cloud platform in advance for a fraction of the cost. Or if you have a huge amount of data that you want stored economically and securely and you only want to pay for the storage you use, then the cloud is for you.

And when there are new security concerns or software updates, don’t worry about having to upgrade your server, it’ll be taken care of automatically as your site remains cutting edge and future proof.

From a development point of view you can build more stable, scalable and secure websites and apps that will load in a flash anywhere in the world and will be able to take advantage of all the cloud can offer. You can get ahead of your competitors by finding out how to use the same infrastructure that the big tech companies use to deliver your web site/service.