The Ultimate Guide to Cloud 2024

In 2024, cloud computing is no longer a near-future technology disruptor; it’s the present-day foundation for business agility, scalability, and innovation.

For many companies, the cloud has unlocked business flexibility, optimized costs, and stronger security. But for organizations yet to embrace it, there have been rising challenges. 

Legacy infrastructure struggles to keep pace with evolving demands, inflexible systems hinder growth, and cyber attacks loom large. The consequences? Missed opportunities, rising costs, and potential vulnerability.

The time to act is now. Cloud adoption is no longer optional, it’s essential. This comprehensive guide answers the most common cloud questions for 2024 and beyond. Learn what the cloud is, the different service models, deployment options, and considerations.

What is cloud computing?

Cloud computing is a digital technology that allows your users to access and store data, as well as use applications and services, over the internet instead of on local computers or personal devices. The cloud relies on a network of remote servers hosted on the internet to manage, process, and store data, offering scalable resources as per demand.

For businesses, cloud computing offers increased operational efficiency by enabling remote access to servers, computing power and data storage without the need for significant upfront investment in physical hardware or IT infrastructure. It also supports business agility, data analytics, and collaboration across dispersed teams by providing a flexible and cost-effective platform for hosting applications, services, and databases. 

In other words, the cloud enables your company to scale resources (servers, storage, etc) up or down instantly, better helping you align IT capacity with evolving business needs. 

It also means your teams can access applications from any device, deploy resources in minutes (not months) and collaborate seamlessly on shared documents at the time, from anywhere.

Ultimately, cloud computing offers you the opportunity to innovate and scale efficiently, reducing IT costs while enhancing productivity and your ability to respond to market demands swiftly.

Who is cloud computing for?

The answer is simple: everyone. 

In 2024, global spending on cloud services is predicted to total $679 billion according to Gartner Research. The same study also reveals that most organizations will leverage the cloud as a business necessity by 2028. 

From fledgling startups to established enterprises, across all industries, cloud computing has significantly transformed how businesses operate today.

Scalability is a core component of cloud. If your business is growing, you can seamlessly expand resources to meet increasing demand, while established companies can optimize costs by scaling down during slower periods. No more expensive upfront investments in underutilized hardware.

Similarly, cyber security and compliance are top concerns for all businesses. Leading cloud providers invest heavily in robust cloud security infrastructure and comprehensive compliance solutions, allowing you to focus on your core strengths with peace of mind in your new platform.

What are the types of cloud computing options available?

  1. Public cloud: These services are provided over the internet by third-party cloud service providers, who own and maintain the infrastructure for you. The public cloud model allows your business to access computing resources such as servers, storage, and applications on a pay-as-you-go (PAYG) basis. The scalability and flexibility of public cloud services make them ideal for businesses that experience fluctuating demands, as they can easily adjust their resource usage and costs according to their needs without the burden of managing physical servers. 

  2. Private cloud: These services refer to cloud computing resources used exclusively by a single business or organization. The private cloud can be hosted on the organization’s on-premise data center or by a third-party service provider, but in either case, it is maintained on a private network. This model offers greater control and security over the computing resources, making it suitable for businesses with strict data privacy, regulatory compliance, or unique customization requirements.

  3. Hybrid cloud: This is a computing environment that combines public cloud, private cloud, and on-premises infrastructure, allowing data and applications to be shared between them. This model leverages aspects of both public and private clouds, providing your business with additional flexibility and more deployment options. The key to a hybrid cloud is the ability to seamlessly connect and orchestrate operations across these different environments, enabling data and applications to move freely and securely as needed – which requires expertise.
Providers of Public and Private Cloud Platforms

Who are the providers of public & private cloud platforms?

Among providers of public cloud solutions, three lead the market due to their extensive range of services and global infrastructure: Microsoft Azure, Amazon Web Services (AWS), and Google Cloud Platform (GCP). Each offers a vast array of services including software computing power, storage options, and advanced machine learning and analytics capabilities. For example, Microsoft Azure provides a strong integration with Microsoft’s software products, making it a preferred choice for organizations heavily invested in the Microsoft ecosystem (Microsoft 365) and has strong capabilities in hybrid cloud solutions.

For private cloud solutions, there are several vendors on the market such as VMware and OpenStack with flexible and customizable deployment options that specifically cater to businesses seeking to maintain greater control over their own data and infrastructure, while benefiting from cloud computing’s proven efficiency and scalability. Public cloud providers like Azure also offer private cloud platform deployment options.

What services do cloud providers offer?

Software-as-a-Service (SaaS):

A distribution model that represents one of the core offerings of the public and private cloud models, where workplace applications are hosted by the cloud service provider, such as Microsoft Azure, and made available to your business over the internet. In the SaaS model, your users can access Azure cloud’s software apps remotely through a Web browser, without the need for installing, maintaining, or updating the software on individual computers or servers. Some examples include the Microsoft 365 stack of Word, Outlook and PowerPoint (collaboration tools), Microsoft Power BI and Microsoft Fabric (data analytics tools) and Microsoft Defender for Cloud Apps (cyber security tool). The SaaS model is an integral part of the cloud ecosystem because it embodies the cloud’s principles of on-demand service, scalability, and subscription-based pricing.

Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS):

IaaS provides virtualized computing resources over the internet, offering your business a foundational layer of cloud computing that includes virtual servers, storage, and networks. This model allows you to rent infrastructure on an as-needed basis without the capital expense of purchasing and maintaining physical servers and data center infrastructure. IaaS is highly flexible and scalable, making it ideal for businesses looking to quickly scale their IT resources up or down based on demand. It serves as a critical component of the public cloud and private cloud by offering a robust and cost-effective solution for running virtual machines, storing data, and handling complex workloads.

Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS):

PaaS provides a complete development and deployment environment in the cloud. This tier of ‘as-a-service’ includes infrastructure—servers, storage, and networking—but also middleware, development tools, database management systems, and more. This model enables your developers to build, test, deploy, and manage applications without worrying about the underlying infrastructure. PaaS is designed to support the complete Web application lifecycle: building, testing, deploying, managing, and updating within the same integrated environment.

Security and compliance:

Public cloud providers typically have strong security and compliance programs that accompany their SaaS stacks, such as encryption and security protocols to protect data, identity and access management (IAM) services to manage your end-users’ authentication and access to the cloud, and compliance certifications for industry standards such as the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). All of these offerings serve to help you maintain the integrity and privacy of sensitive business and end-user information.

Management and governance:

Cloud providers include these tools to enable efficient monitoring, management, and optimization of resources and applications. They are particularly helpful for cost management and guiding you on how to optimize your cloud spending, and provide frameworks for policy and governance for secure and efficient use of resources.

Data analytics:

Public cloud providers typically include access to advanced business intelligence (BI) and analytics platforms as part of a cloud deployment which help you monitor business performance and gain data-led insights. For example, Google Cloud bundles Looker for Business Intelligence in its Google Cloud portfolio of services. Many of these BI tools include advanced modules such as pre-built AI services for tasks like image and speech recognition.

Serverless computing:

Also known as Functions as a Service (FaaS), serverless computing allows your business to run code in response to events without the complexity of managing servers, opening up an event-driven architecture that simplifies app development and deployment processes for better agility and efficiency in building and scaling applications.

What are the benefits of cloud infrastructure?

While public and private cloud providers will differ in the services they offer, the cloud model in general brings several general business benefits.

Cost-effectiveness and scalability:

The cloud allows you to ditch hefty upfront investments in hardware and software licenses. The pay-as-you-go model and ability to scale resources in real-time, ensuring you always have the capacity to meet demand without unnecessary downtime or delays, is an advantage over on-premises hardware that cannot be understated.

Improved collaboration:

Cloud SaaS applications that run and work over the Web seamlessly enable your team to work together anywhere across multiple devices (meaning you don’t have to physically be in the office to access business critical data or software for work). Cloud-based apps open up the ability to access and share documents, communicate instantly, and collaborate on projects in real-time, boosting productivity and efficiency.

Increased cyber security:

Data breaches are a major concern for any business. Leading cloud providers offer robust security measures, including advanced encryption, intrusion detection, and disaster recovery solutions to keep your data safe and accessible against breaches and digital threats. Learn more about what cybersecurity is in our separate guide.

Simplified IT management:

There is no more need to manage complex IT infrastructure in-house. Cloud providers handle maintenance, updates, and backups, freeing your valuable resources to focus on core business activities.

Business continuity:

Power outages and hardware failures are no longer a problem. With data securely stored in the cloud, your business can instantly recover from unexpected disruptions, which minimizes downtime and ensures operational continuity.

Global accessibility:

The cloud breaks geographical barriers by allowing your end-users to operate anywhere in the world. Cloud-based apps and data are accessible from any device with an internet connection, empowering your team to work remotely and globally.

These are just a few of the many benefits that make cloud computing the perfect fit for SMBs. By embracing the cloud, you gain access to cutting-edge technology, unlock agility and scalability, and empower your business to thrive in the competitive digital age.

Learn More: Our Cloud Services

What is the Optimal Cloud Solution

Which cloud solution is the best option?

The best cloud solution and provider for your business depends on your specific use cases. 

For example, the public cloud model is particularly appealing for startups and SMBs that require flexibility to scale their IT resources up or down based on shifting demands – without the upfront costs of new hardware and software. Additionally, a provider like Azure can offer a wide array of services and applications (in this case, Microsoft 365) that can be quickly deployed to replace legacy software, making it an ideal solution to innovate rapidly and stay competitive.

To achieve the benefits of either a public or private cloud infrastructure model, however, expertise in cloud deployments is essential to guide your journey. For SMBs without in-house expertise or a dedicated IT department, this step can be a significant challenge to face alone. 

This is where managed service providers factor in.

What is the managed cloud?

Managed service providers (MSPs) play a pivotal role in the ecosystem of cloud computing, acting as intermediaries that facilitate the adoption and management of cloud services for businesses. MSPs specialize in understanding the complexities of cloud computing models, including both public and private clouds, and their architects offer cloud expertise that can help you leverage these technologies based on your needs, such as data sensitivity, workload sizes, and operational flexibility. Typically, MSPs market these solutions as a managed cloud service

By offering tailored cloud solutions, MSPs assist you in:

All of this ensures that your organization’s transition to the cloud is smooth and efficient.

The best MSPs provide a comprehensive suite of services that extend beyond just cloud migration and deployment. They offer ongoing support, cyber security management, performance monitoring, and cost optimization services. This support is particularly crucial if your business cannot fully exploit the potential of cloud computing on your own, and MSPs can also ensure you only have to focus on core activities while enjoying the full benefits of cloud computing, such as scalability, enhanced security, and increased operational efficiency.

What should I consider when choosing a cloud expert?

Migrating to the cloud is a strategic decision, and partnering with a MSP can significantly streamline the process and maximize your successful cloud adoption. But choosing the right partner is crucial. Take into account the following core considerations before your decision.

  1. Expertise: Look for an MSP with proven experience in public cloud, private cloud and hybrid cloud deployments, such as Microsoft Azure expertise. Seek independent reviews and testimonials from past customers in the same industry.

  2. Security: Data security is paramount. Ensure your potential partner boasts robust cyber security expertise in their assessments, certifications and practices, and are able to help you take advantage of your chosen cloud platform’s various offerings in this area, including data encryption, access controls, and regular security audits.

  3. Transparency: Beware of hidden costs and complex pricing structures. Opt for an MSP that specializes in helping customers manage IT costs, offering transparent pricing models and clear communication about any additional fees or charges.

  4. Scalability: Your business needs will evolve. In fact, managing cloud spend has become a top priority for SMBs and enterprises, with 82% of all organizations finding cloud spending their main challenge according to an AAG study. Look for a MSP that offers flexible cloud support and who specializes in optimizing cloud costs. Seek a partner committed to adapting and supporting your journey, not one offering a one-size-fits-all or one-off assessment approach.

  5. Collaboration: You want a partnership, not just a vendor: Choose an MSP with a collaborative approach to your ongoing cloud requirements where they actively listen to your needs, understand your goals, and work together to achieve success. One helpful resource to determine this is to investigate their customer case studies to see how the MSP handles partnerships with other SMBs and businesses in your industry.

Ultimately, choosing the right cloud partner can be transformative. By carefully considering these factors, you can more confidently select an MSP who will guide you through a smooth and successful cloud adoption journey, unlocking the full potential of this game-changing technology.

Why is the cloud so important today?

Imagine instantly scaling resources to meet surging demand, collaborating seamlessly across borders, and leveraging cutting-edge technology without hefty upfront costs. The cloud can drive a lot of benefits for your organization as a whole, and by reading this guide, you’ve taken the first step towards understanding the cloud’s potential for your business use case.

Whether it’s public, private, or hybrid cloud, SparkNav’s Managed Cloud solution can act as your launchpad and support partner for a thriving cloud-enabled business in 2024 and beyond.

Robert Griffin
Robert Griffin
As COO, Robert Griffin plays an instrumental role in aligning operational excellence with strategic goals by leveraging his decades of experience in enterprise leadership. With deep knowledge and expertise in security, governance, risk, and compliance (GRC), and AI, his insights are often shared through thought leadership channels, including LinkedIn and blogs. → Follow Robert on LinkedIn.