Cloud Computing in this day and age is not a foreign concept. As technology has become more and more intertwined with our everyday lives, companies have had to find better ways of delivering their services more efficiently and affordably. Zambia is no stranger to cloud computing services, as we already have our own cloud service providers such as Infratel and Paratus Zambia. Letting a cloud service provider maintain and house the backbone infrastructure of these services ensures a company utilising their services becomes more cost-effective. Imagine being able to solely focus on managing your company’s e-services through a portal created by the cloud computing service providers while they handle all the networking and computing jargon.
Scalability in the cloud service provider space means the ability to add and remove resources dynamically, and in real-time without having to shut down the system. Imagine a period when your business experiences unprecedented levels of traffic from customers. Typically, one would need to provision more computing and networking power, but with cloud computing, a company simply needs to add extra computing resources they need in that instant and for that particular workload, and then remove them immediately after they fulfill said need. This is extremely ideal for businesses that experience fluctuating demand, especially on specific holidays across the year. The scalability goes a step further by allowing a user to “book” computing power in advance for specific dates or occasions. Everything is dynamic ensuring the resources allocate at your demand and reallocate when done being utilised.
Cost-effectiveness comes from the fact that a company need not house cloud computing infrastructure on-premise which may or may not be extremely expensive to secure but also maintain in the long run. Because cloud computing is pay-per-use, it means a company only pays for the resources they use. Everything is hosted and maintained by the service providers. Cloud service providers allow customers to set usage limits and alarms for different thresholds when their accounts use up certain amounts of computing power and bandwidth. You get to set a maximum on how much is spent and you get to save a Kwacha.
Imagine being able to work with people regardless of proximity. Cloud-based collaboration tools enable teams to work together more efficiently, regardless of their physical locations. Employees in different regions or even different countries can access shared files, work on documents simultaneously, and communicate in real-time, fostering collaboration and boosting productivity. Cloud-based applications such as Google Workspace let multiple people create, edit and publish documents on the fly simultaneously. Users can save their documents, and have them available to their entire workspace within minutes, irrespective of location.
On-premise solutions, even if can be monitored more easily, are not as reliable and efficient as their cloud computing counterparts. With how finicky the Zambia electricity grid currently is, investing in generators and inverters costs a lot of money most Zambian businesses simply do not have. The beauty of cloud computing is that its service providers guarantee almost 100% uptime with their infrastructure ensuring there is never any disconnection. The technology is set up in such a way that it dynamically diverts traffic and resources when a node or server infrastructure experiences a fault. They handle the infrastructure. You handle your applications.
With a “Service Level Agreement” or SLA, both customer and service provider are bound to terms of agreement that govern how the former uses the services offered to them, and how the latter provisions and charges said services. An SLA is simply a contract between a service provider and its customers that documents what services the provider will furnish and defines the service standards the provider is obligated to meet.
With the recent boom in startup technologies Zambia is currently experiencing, it only makes sense that a lot of small upcoming businesses that are heavily focused on technology set up their infrastructure in the cloud. Letting cloud service providers such as Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure, and Digital Ocean handle the infrastructure gives more financial freedom and time that can be directed toward software development. This is especially crucial when one considers how daunting the task of creating said applications or software is. For example, serverless computing is a cloud computing model in which cloud providers take care of the servers on behalf of their customers. Developers of serverless applications are not concerned with capacity planning, configuration, management, maintenance, fault tolerance, etc. Such applications are triggered by user-generated events such as file uploads or messaging. Resources are dynamically allocated during the triggered event and released immediately after.
In spite of all this, there still lie some disadvantages to using cloud computing technologies. From a constant need to be connected to the internet, to vendor lock-in especially when one is developing software, to the question of data security and privacy, to skills and training. Just like everything, one needs to weigh the benefits the service would bring to their company, and make decisions based on that.