Demystifying the cloud and its benefits for the retail sector

2nd August 2018
Posted By : Lanna Cooper
Demystifying the cloud and its benefits for the retail sector

Cloud computing is often considered tricky to understand due to the fact that the term covers a wide range of services and capabilities. It also comes with its own set of jargon that can be daunting for businesses to learn. In a bid to help guide you through the minefield of Cloud, Chris Cox, Technical Lead at Cloud Technology Solutions, has explained some of the common cloud computing terms and benefits that businesses in the retail sector ought to know about.

Cloud Technology Solutions (CTS) is a large cloud migration company, with more than 7 million users moved to the cloud since 2006. A Google Cloud Premier Partner, CTS works with large private businesses as well as the public sector, retail and finance - offering trouble-free migration to the cloud.

But why should you care? What are the benefits of moving to the cloud for the retail sector?

  • Scalability: Retail businesses experience huge fluctuations in bandwidth demands due to peaks and troughs in customer need, for example, on Black Friday. Cloud services are suitable for this because they are scalable. If a retail business’ needs increase it’s easy to scale the cloud capacity up, while likewise it is easy to scale down again when demand is lower.
  • Improved channel operations: Cloud computing can simplify retail systems and deliver more personalised customer experiences without the need for constant staff input.
  • Higher supply chain visibility: With the cloud, retailers can have supply chain systems capable of adequately handling their business without stock-outs, expedited deliveries, or high inventories.
  • Handling big data: Retail businesses can gain solid insights into customer preferences using the cloud. Retailers can more easily analyse buying trends and make merchandising decisions off the back of these insights.

What is cloud computing?
Cloud Computing involves the deployment and exposure of compute infrastructure; CPU cores, memory, storage and managed services such as Software as a Service, at scale and external to an organisation's own infrastructure.

Typically, Cloud Computing environments are accessible via the internet and can utilise private connectivity where necessary to facilitate secure site to Cloud data access. Cloud Computing replaces the requirement of local compute resource to run applications often requiring only a web browser.

What are the different types of cloud deployments?

  • Private - Infrastructure generally owned by an organisation for their own use. Private cloud hosting is available for organisations to consume but this is typically managed virtual machines and storage rather than a cloud platform. Private cloud is generally at a much smaller scale than Public cloud without the ability to dynamically scale up to large amounts of infrastructure capacity without significant delays. Typically billed up front in yearly terms for the amount of resources provisioned.
  • Public - Public cloud was born out of the large technical organisations and the spare compute and storage capacity across data centres. Amazon and Google found huge amounts of wasted resource within their own infrastructure that they have been able to put to use in a commodity model.
  • Hybrid - Hybrid cloud is a cloud computing environment which uses a mix of on-premises, private cloud and third-party, public cloud services with orchestration between the two platforms.

Cloud Jargon Buster:

  • Software as a service (SaaS): SaaS is the most familiar form of cloud service for consumers. SaaS moves the task of managing software and its deployment to third-party services. It’s offered on top of a cloud platform. It includes software you consume, hosted remotely and the end user will subscribe to it.
  • Platform as a service (PaaS): PaaS functions at a lower level than SaaS, typically providing a platform on which software can be developed and deployed. This allows a customer to concentrate on their industry focused activities e.g. application and data rather than underlying infrastructure services.
  • Infrastructure as a service (IaaS): IaaS is comprised of highly automated and scalable compute resources, complemented by cloud storage and network capability which can be self-provisioned, metered, and available on-demand. It includes virtual servers (CPU/Memory/Storage, back-up), and networking (firewalls/security/connectivity in general, load-balancing).
  • Network as a service (NaaS):  NaaS is encompassed in IaaS.
  • Everything as a service (EaaS/XaaS): EaaS also known as XaaS is a hybrid term referring to a combination of more than one of SaaS, IaaS and PaaS.
  • Application service provider (ASP): An Application Service Provider (ASP) is a business providing computer-based services to customers over a network.
  • Cloud-bursting: This is when cloud-computing services are only used at the point at which an organisation’s local IT infrastructure reaches a high, or near maximum level of utilisation.
  • Cloud-portability: Moving applications and data from a locally hosted environment to a cloud environment, or between two different cloud providers.
  • Cloud-sourcing: This term is combining 'cloud-computing' and 'outsourcing', and is typically use to describe the outsourcing of an internal business function to an IT supplier which will deliver the outsourced service over the internet.
  • Cloud-storming/spanning: This term is used to describe the process of different cloud computing deployments interacting with each other. This can be within the same provider or between different providers.
  • Cloud-washing: A pre-existing product or service which, due to having an element of interaction with the internet, is re-marketed as having cloud credentials.
  • Cloud Oriented Architecture (COA): An architecture for IT infrastructure and software that is optimised for use in cloud-computing environments.
  • G-Cloud: G-Cloud is the name given to the UK Government’s strategy to create a secure government cloud computing infrastructure.

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