Cloud computing is shrouded in technological jargon that mystifies most lay people. Here is a quick explanation. 1. What is cloud computing? Cloud computing is the delivery of computing, storage, apps and other IT resources through the internet rather than on your own device or local server. It comes in three forms: Software as a Service (SaaS): This is most familiar to consumers and SMEs. Business apps such as Google Apps, Microsoft 365, Salesforce.com, Box, Slack and WebEx are all SaaS – remotely-hosted applications available to the public. Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS): Primarily this is what the major cloud service vendors provide – computing, storage and associated functionality – aimed at business customers. Platform as a Service (PaaS): This is less important to consumers and regular businesses. PaaS is delivered mostly to developers or start-ups who need capabilities on which to build new apps. The line between PaaS and IaaS is often blurred, however – many components can fit into either. 2. What’s the difference between public, private and hybrid cloud? Cloud services can be configured in three different ways. Public: The standard configuration, where a third-party cloud provider delivers data and applications to the public from an external site. This maximises the advantage of the cloud, offering scalability, pay-as-you-go pricing and low-cost resource sharing. Private: Offers advantages similar to public cloud, but through a dedicated architecture. While public cloud services are based on shared IT resources, private cloud is dedicated to a single organisation. Hybrid: A mix of the different configurations - on-premises, private and/or public cloud services, allowing a business to take advantage of the best of both worlds, with the ability move between private and public clouds as requirements change. 3. OK, but does it help my business? There are two great benefits from the cloud. At the SaaS level is the convenience and pay-as-you-go pricing of apps such as Salesforce, Dropbox and Slack, Google Apps and thousands of others. IaaS and PaaS offer a way of managing cost, scalability and complexity by contracting hosting and management of some or all of your IT workloads to a third party. A business that gets heavy seasonal traffic can use the cloud to scale up at minimal cost to meet demand. 4. What is digital transformation? Digital transformation may be a buzzword but describes a real thing, which is the ability to use digital technologies to reframe your business and business model. This is important if your company is being challenged by competitors using new technologies. Aggressive use of the cloud can accelerate this process, giving businesses more flexibility and the ability to take advantage of new functions such as analytics and IoT that rely on the cloud. 5. Is the cloud secure? A big question for any IT service today. Cloud advocates are theoretically correct in arguing that cloud-hosted data is no less secure than privately-hosted data: if it is online it is a target for hackers and thieves. With Cloud provider’s expertise in handling large scale and diversified types of attacks, you may free up more of your in-house resources to focus on core business. Large cloud providers also use Artificial Intelligence to detect risks and give earlier alert of potential attacks. But putting your data in the cloud does not mean you are handing off security to a third party. You need to conduct an audit to ensure your cloud service provider meets your own security guidelines. Alternatively, you may choose a private cloud or hybrid configuration, keeping the most sensitive data under your own control while taking advantage of the flexibility of the cloud.