Yes, we all know that the cloud is for backups by now. Entry-level cloud backup services such as iDrive and Backblaze make it exceptionally easy to get set up with safeguarding your important data, and break your dependency on costly and potentially vulnerable local servers. We’ve already done our research and signed up for the best services.
But is that really the case? Is the rest of cloud computing so advanced and obscure that only the tech giants and hardcore programmers need to know? No way! Let me show you five simple ways that the cloud can help you reach your business goals, improve your customer experience and save some money along the way.
What are some other simple ways that the cloud can help?
Online shops are a perfect example of what cloud computing is good at. The needs of retail can change dramatically as demand fluctuates with the whims of the market, or from the impact of sales campaigns and the changing seasons. Traditional server set-ups can struggle to cope with the peaks and then still be left under-used during the slack times. Cloud services are the ideal solution here, with their ability to respond quickly and effectively to scaling requirements whilst simultaneously saving you money since you only pay for what you need.
Cloud solutions are typically cheaper, more reliable and more secure in comparison to self-hosted e-commerce systems, thanks to the extensive knowledge and best-practices of large providers like AWS or Microsoft. Meanwhile, cloud-based services can also be more customisable, better value, and more scalable than the more traditional hosted solutions.
In practice, you have a whole range of options at your disposal. At the simplest level, you could construct a web store with an open-source tool like Magento and make use of Amazon Lightsail Virtual Private Server to create an efficient and secure environment for your online transactions. To get the greatest benefit, however, you might want to hire someone like PCG to build you a customised cloud solution, with all the latest payment options and everything working exactly as you and your customers want it.
Case study: Read about how we helped Fogia modernize their ordering system with the cloud and serverless development.
2. Online bookings
Almost everyone has experience of airline ticketing systems with forms that respond dynamically to their needs and, as a result, customers have high expectations of online booking systems. These days, even the smallest hotels can expect people from the other side of the world to be checking out their rooms for availability and making reservations.
Traditional server-hosted booking systems can also suffer from the same problem as e-commerce, in that they can let you down when you need them the most at periods of peak demand. Once again, cloud solutions are the perfect remedy for these problems and have a number of distinct advantages over their old-school counterparts:
- Cost Reduction – only pay for what you use, no need for onsite IT staff!
- Up-to-date Tech – always the latest hardware, always the latest software
- Data Security – latest systems mean best security & best practices
- Accessibility – the booking system can be accessed conveniently and securely from anywhere, including mobile phones
- Increased Productivity – efficient, accessible systems mean more productive staff
Any given booking system installed and operating within the cloud will over performance and availability improvements compared to a server-based version, but a customised solution can offer further savings and an enhanced yet secure user experience. For example, you might make use of Amazon Quantum Ledger Database for out-of-the-box history and cost-effective data store for large records at scale, combined with AWS Lambda for a super-efficient backend and Amazon Kinesis to guarantee a reliable booking feed.
Case study: Find out how we helped Teevolution keep their customers happy with SmartGolfa.
3. Analytics Data Processing for All!
Whilst we’ve just looked at two areas where cloud systems can over great improvements over server-based options, with analytics data processing it’s only thanks to the cloud that mining data for special insights is now a realistic and affordable option for ordinary businesses
As an entry option, Amazon QuickSight allows everyone in your organization to understand your data by asking questions in natural language, exploring through interactive dashboards, or automatically looking for patterns and outliers powered by machine learning.
Once you really start to get into it, you might want to use AWS Glue to automate extract, transform, and load (ETL) processes such as file transforms and deduplication, Amazon Timestream to store time series data, and Amazon Simple Storage Service Glacier as low-cost storage for archival copies and retention compliance. This is just the tip of the iceberg though, especially once you start adding things like Machine Learning to the mix.
4. Machine Learning for Games
If you’ve played chess or dice games recently, you’ll notice that the tough opponents are getting harder to beat and, more importantly, the losers are losing in a more convincing way!
Games development has always been a specialised art but, thanks to the new possibilities offered by cloud-based Machine Learning (ML), this process is becoming more methodical and scientific. Intelligent modelling can help not only to understand how users interact with applications and features to inform the design process, but also to help create computer opponents that behave in a more human and believable way.
Amongst other things, Machine Learning is helping games developers to:
- Predict player behaviour
- Automate play testing
- Detect and prevent cheating
- Generate lifelike speech from text
- Automated image analysis
The quickest way to dive in with ML might be with Amazon SageMaker, a fully-managed service that covers the entire machine learning workflow to label and prepare your data, choose an algorithm, train the model, tune and optimize it for deployment, make predictions, and take action. From there, you might want to employ specialised services for collecting and filtering your data and for perfecting the models, but the possibilities offered by Sagemaker are pretty extensive by themselves.
Case study: Yatzy Online by Fictional Factory is a great example of how ML can make a game more realistic.
5. Live Streaming an Event
In the past it was pretty common for a live feed of an event to grind to a halt almost as soon as it started, simply because too many people had logged on and brought the server to its knees. The dedicated streaming services that we have now are much more reliable and efficient, precisely because they make use of the cloud technology and global content delivery capacity offered by providers like Amazon.
As with other services, using the cloud for live streaming provides a range of clear benefits:
- Simple deployment and management
- Highly available
- Broadcast-grade capabilities
- Increased efficiency and reduced cost
Using a service like AWS Elemental MediaLive, you can easily set up streams for both live events and 24x7 channels with advanced broadcasting features, high availability, and pay-as-you-go pricing. Once you’re ready to go beyond simple streaming, you could even establish a cloud-based Interactive Video Service with a number of extra possibilities:
- Social chat with streaming content
- Votes and Polls
- E-commerce and alternative revenue
These can all help you to enjoy a closer relationship with your customers, and respond to their needs much more directly.
Ok, so what’s next?
We’ve looked at various examples and I’ve shown some simple ways that cloud computing can be useful to almost any business — and it certainly doesn’t mean just storage and backup! The next step is to start thinking in more detail about what your needs are as a business and what goals you want to achieve. Perhaps you want to explore new markets or develop new products for your existing ones?
At PCG we can help you to design the best fit and streamline your processes, as well as take care of all the heavy lifting when it comes to the technical side. Contact us today and find out how we can get you started on your cloud journey!