The Technology Behind Cloud Computing

Over the past 10 years, cloud computing has grown from an indefinable concept to an essential operating tool for organisations around the world. As cloud becomes more prevalent in the social care sector, iCareHealth aims to provide its readers with a clear understanding of what cloud computing means. Also how it will change the face of adult social care.

Private Cloud

Cloud computing is a way for businesses – like adult social care providers – to use software and access and store data online; without having to install software or use their own servers. Organisations can implement cloud through three different models, depending on their needs. These are known as cloud deployment models and consist of private, hybrid and public cloud. Private cloud refers to cloud infrastructure that is designed purposely for a sole organisation, like a care home. One of the benefits of using the private cloud model is that it allows greater control over tools and software. Along with compliance and quality of service. However, private clouds do not suit all businesses. They require the purchase and maintenance of all infrastructure. This can necessitate large financial and staff resources to implement and maintain.

Public Cloud

Public cloud on the other hand, is where both services and infrastructure are run by large, trusted, external third parties that specialises in cloud services, such as Microsoft and Amazon. A good way to think about public cloud is in reference to a public utility. A utility, such as water, is provided to a large group of people for a fee, with the water company handling all of the logistics. This strategy is comparable to how public cloud operates, and is the model most likely to be utilised by the adult social care sector. This is due to the small financial and resource investment required from social care providers, and the efficiency provided by sharing resources.

While cloud computing may still seem like an abstract concept to some providers. Many would already be using programs hosted on the cloud, such as Microsoft Office 365 and Xero accounting software. Some organisations have previously been hesitant to use the public cloud due to safety concerns. Examples of companies successfully using public cloud securely – such as the UK banking sector hosting their websites on the cloud – has caused that fear to diminish. In fact, the strength of security around public cloud is often much better than an individual organisation can achieve. Companies like Amazon and Microsoft spend millions of dollars on security each year.

Hybrid Cloud

The final cloud deployment model is hybrid cloud, which is a composition of the private and public cloud computing models. Organisations may choose this model to suit their different needs, such as using a public cloud based email system, while storing more sensitive data on a private cloud. Often this model is used in two ways, either by organisations who operate a private cloud, but rely on public cloud when they require extra capacity, or when a business uses a public cloud, while operating a private cloud for a particular application that must be stored privately. This ability to tailor hybrid cloud based on an organisations requirements is seen as the major benefit to this model, however – like private cloud – hybrid are complex and necessitate time, staffing and financial costs that are beyond many smaller adult social care providers.

Technology aside, the main benefit to cloud computing is the ability to do things quickly, and with a lower total cost of ownership. As the adult social care sector develops through funding, regulatory and population changes, it’s integral providers stay informed about how cloud can benefit their business, workers and those they care for. Stay tuned to the iCareHealth blog, because next time we’ll weigh up the top cloud computing benefits and concerns from the social care care sector, and look at what cloud really means for your business.

How UK businesses are using Cloud Computing to get ahead

Cloud computing has been a hot topic throughout the business world for a number of years, yet it has been met with some trepidation from within the social care sector. Recently, however, adult social care providers across the UK have been looking to cloud solutions for an efficient and safe way to conduct business, use software, and store data. This series on cloud computing is designed to inform our readers on all the key aspects around cloud and how it will change the way they operate. On the iCareHealth blog today, we look at what cloud computing means for adult social care providers on a practical level, who’s using it and why.

Simply put, cloud computing is a way for end-users to use software, access and store data online, without having to install software or use their own servers. One of the best ways to think of cloud computing is in relation to software. Previously when a social care provider purchased a piece of software – such as an accounting program – someone would need to travel to a physical store to purchase the product, then install the software manually onto their hard drive before they could determine whether it suited their needs.

With the use of cloud however, an organisation can simply log on to a web site that stores their data in the cloud. This process takes minimal time, no local storage, and the software can be used on multiple computers both on and off site. In this way, many social care providers may already be using cloud based software – such as the popular accounting software, Xero – without even realising it.

Other benefits

Another benefit of using cloud based software is the speed and ease of which providers can receive updates and upgrades. When an organisation finds a program that works well for them, they can be hesitant to upgrade, even when there are new features that would suit their needs. This is because of the time and training implications that are often associated with a major upgrade. By creating software that is cloud based, software companies are able to schedule small updates regularly with little or no impact on the user. These updates are done in the cloud, without the constraints of traditional deployment. In some cases can take place as often as several times a day. With the ability to perform minor updates on a regular basis, cloud computing keeps software current; without the time and training associated with a full upgrade implementation.

While cloud computing is a relatively new concept in social care, many industries have well and truly embraced cloud as an integral part of how they do business. In 2013, Barclays launched the cloud document storage service, Cloud It, which allows their customers to store and access important financial documents in a secure setting. Another notable cloud computing adoptee is supermarket giant Tesco, which implemented Microsoft’s Office 365 cloud-based software and services platform for the 2,000 staff working within their customer call centre. In fact, the shift towards cloud has become so significant that a recent study undertaken by the Cloud Industry Forum (CIF) found that 78% of British organisations are now using cloud technology to help with their operations.

Here at iCareHealth, we want to ensure our clients and supporters truly understand cloud computing and the benefits it can bring to adult social care providers across the UK. Stay tuned to the iCareHealth blog because next time, we’ll be taking a look at the technical side of cloud computing. Including a practical explanation of the cloud layers and deployment models.

In what way has cloud computing changed the way you do business?

The Key benefits of cloud software

1. Reduced total cost of ownership

The costs associated with purchasing, managing and upgrading traditional servers and related hardware can go beyond what some social care providers can realistically afford. By utilising cloud based software, social care providers can eliminate the operating costs associated with large scale servers. This can be things such as expert staff and large energy consumption bills.

When a business decides to implement or update a software system, the running requirements often dictate the purchase of new infrastructure or an upgrade of their current servers. By utilising cloud based software, the barriers to entry are greatly reduced, as the necessity for this infrastructure is eliminated.

Another benefit of using cloud based software solutions is that many providers offer a pay-as-you-go cost structure. This can greatly reduce the amount of upfront investment, and often results in a significantly lower overall cost than that of an on premise solution.

2. New functionality delivered sooner

When a software update requires a business to upgrade their servers, the cost associated with this change can work as an additional barrier for social care providers. This can result in providers missing out on additional functionality that would create efficiencies for their business. Simply because a server upgrade is not financially achievable.

Traditional software updates often require each existing software package to be individually updated. Meaning it is impractical for both the software provider and their clients to undertake frequent updates. As a result, software updates often see a significant change in the functionality and design of the product, which may require subsequent staff training. By utilising cloud based software, software providers can send through updates automatically, with little or no disturbance to users. This results in more frequent updates, and a contemporary product featuring the latest functionality.

An added benefit of using cloud based software is that software providers tend to develop solutions based on key components, rather than complex functionality. Demonstrated when comparing feature packed Microsoft Word with the streamlined Google Docs. As a result, cloud based software is typically easier to use and navigate than traditional solutions.

3. Speed of implementation

With traditional software, deployment is typically a lengthy process involving IT experts, a full assessment of requirements. Alongside internal staff resources dedicated to ensuring the implementation runs smoothly. For large scale operations with multiple locations, the implementation process can take over 12 months from start to finish. In selecting a cloud based software solution, social care providers do not require the same level of staffing or hardware resources as there is no installation process. This results in a significant reduction in cost and time. With cloud based software, the advantages of the system are achieved sooner. Social care providers can concentrate their time and resources on providing care.

Cloud computing’s biggest myth

Lack of security

Data security is a common concern for social care providers considering moving to the cloud. This perceived vulnerability has been a topic of discussion across the business world for a number of years. As credible cloud based solutions are now established throughout the market, this perception has proved to be largely unfounded.

With all major UK banks now hosting their online banking portals in the cloud, other industries have begun to recognise that security levels far surpass what was once imagined. Cloud hosting providers – like Amazon and Microsoft – spend millions of dollars on cloud security each year. They hire teams dedicated to eliminating any potential threats. In fact, small and medium social care providers typically have very minimal or outdated security practices around their data. The hosting of their servers and patching of these servers – as a result, moving to the cloud is often a security upgrade.

By partnering with Microsoft Azure, iCareHealth can offer social care providers a cloud solution with a trusted cloud service provider.

Interested to learn more about cloud based software solutions? Contact us today.