What is the Cloud?

What is the Cloud?

Smart Farm: What you need to know

It seems times were simpler when the Cloud was just a fluffy white object in the sky that indicated rain or inspired artists and photographers. These days, everyone talks about storing data and photos ‘in the cloud’ or ‘computing in the cloud.’ If the concept is a little difficult to grasp, we’re going to explain it all for you, including the benefits of the cloud and whether or not it is the best option for your business.

Now before we dive into the technical side of the cloud, it’s worth mentioning that you don’t need to be a tech-head to adopt cloud technology. A good provider will assist you all the way through so you don’t need to stress about it. But if you want to understand it a bit better, read on.

What exactly is the Cloud?

In the most simple terms, the cloud is a collection of services that are accessed via the internet. They store data, provide software applications, enable computing and other networking and infrastructure solutions. In physical terms, the cloud is made up of data centres full of services and networking equipment all over the world.

When something is stored in the cloud, it’s accessible over the internet. You don’t need to be at a specific computer or location to get to your data – you can access it from anywhere you can get online.

The cloud has revolutionised the way we store and share information, going beyond the limitations of our physical servers to the combined power of multiple servers. A network of servers hosted in the cloud makes it possible to store and process data much faster and more efficiently than hosting your own server or hard drive.

‘SaaS’ – software as a service – refers to cloud-based software and services. PaaS referers to a platform as a service where tailored solutions can be built without having to worry out the infrastructure. IaaS refers to the virtual hardware that can be provided in the cloud without having to worry about the physical hardware. With all those different XaaS cloud options someone else is helping you by abstracting everything to the level you want to work out. This will allow you to focus on what you do best, with you only having to worry about using the software, platform or infrastructure. Some common examples are Google Drive, Dropbox, and Salesforce.

Integrating Cloud technology

Hosting your data in the cloud means you free up a lot of time from an IT perspective. You don’t have to buy or maintain hardware or software, worry about setting it up, patching in software or upgrading. The host provider does all of that for you in exchange for a subscription fee.

Transitioning to the cloud happens rapidly, with minimal impact on your organisation and low cost associated with setup. Scaling happens on-demand – if you need more resources, you can get more resources in minutes. Your data is backed up automatically and protected in the event of a disaster like flood or fire, so it’s worry-free.

Yes it is. From a manager’s perspective, there are 3 key benefits to moving to the cloud.

1. Cost reduction. Because your back end is managed off-site, you eliminate the costs of maintaining hardware and software, replacing it with a regular subscription fee. Your IT staff have more time to focus on the business’ goals without having to worry about maintaining your servers and systems.

2. Security. End-to-End encryption codifies your data so that anyone looking at it would only see gibberish. Plus, if your computer fails, you won’t lose your data.

3. Accessibility. Cloud-based hosting means you can access your data at any time, from anywhere. You can also control who sees what within your organisation, so only those who need access to certain data and reports have it.

From a technical perspective, the cloud offers:

1. Centrality. Everyone operates from one single source of truth, creating consistent and accurate reports.

2. Support. 24/7 monitoring and support from the host mean you can be automatically alerted to outages and see problems resolved quickly.

3. Flexibility. Access to more resources allows for rapid scaling, within minutes, taking the pressure off planning.

The cloud has the capacity to maximise your organisation’s Decision Intelligence potential. Having up-to-date, accurate and easily available data will allow you to make rapid, data-driven decisions.

Toustone Cloud Hosting

The team at Toustone have extensive experience in hosting big data. Our hosting solution, combined with Yellowfin’s analytics and AWS capabilities, offer a superior Decision Intelligence solution for your business.

Built on a scalable environment with networks across multiple zones, we are able to cater to small, medium and large organisations. Our support team manages all of your backups and thoroughly tests new patches before upgrading your software. We are automatically notified of any outages or problems in service on a 24/7 basis, so we can usually fix the issue before you are even aware of it.

Toustone can set up your cloud-based hosting within hours, causing minimal disruption to your operations and with the highest level of security. Get in touch today to start the process.


What exactly is Business Intelligence?

What exactly is Business Intelligence?

data source

A recent survey reported that IT leaders saw a 41% increase in requests for Business Intelligence (BI) solutions. Gartner reported that in 2019 the BI industry grew by over 10% to $24.8 billion, with BI platforms the fastest-growing segment. Clearly, a lot of companies are taking advantage of BI to grow their business.

But what is Business Intelligence, really? We’ll explain it in layman’s terms, along with some of the language that goes with it, so you can feel confident using this valuable tool to give you a competitive edge.

Business Intelligence explained

Think of Business Intelligence as an umbrella term. It covers all of the processes, infrastructure and tools of organising and analysing data, then turning it into actionable insights to optimise business performance. In very simple terms, it provides up-to-date information based on facts so you can make better decisions.

A Business Intelligence system gathers data from multiple sources – internal and external – and collates it into a data warehouse. A secure data warehouse is a place where all of your data is stored and organised, ensuring everyone in the organisation works from one single source of data. We refer to this as one single source of truth, a critical piece of any solution.

Data is analysed and presented in visual dashboards to the end-user. The dashboards are adapted to each user so they are easy to understand and contain only the information relevant to that person’s position. The dashboards are delivered automatically and operate on real-time data. The user can click through to understand the story behind the numbers – we call this ‘drilling into the why’ – and see the information modeled in different formats. Trends are identified and presented. Future outcomes can be forecast.

From the dashboard, the user can make fast, accurate decisions and plan strategically. There is no need to spend time gathering information and organising it into reports – with a BI solution, it is all done for you. Insights are delivered to you, modelled to help you achieve your KPIs, so you can spend more time focusing on actions to improve and grow the business.

These insights are based completely on data so decisions made from them are data-driven. Becoming a data-driven organisation means converting to relying on data for all decisions, across the board. Data becomes a key part of business strategy and company culture, eliminating the need to rely on ‘gut feelings’ to make important decisions. Thus data-driven organisations act with confidence and quickly adapt to changing environments.

The overall goal of Business Intelligence is to drive better decisions for a better business.

The layor below the visuals

The above is a surface understanding of BI. Here’s the basics of what happens behind the scenes, and why it is so important to get it right.

A BI system first gathers raw data from all of your sources and extracts it into a data lake – essentially a pool of raw data. It is crucial to ensure that all of the available data is captured here. Then, through a data mapping process, data is matched to appropriate fields. Data mapping integrates the data, grouping like data together so it can be analyzed.

It is critical to get the data mapping process correct. One error can cause a ripple effect throughout the organisation. Data mapping directly affects the quality of your data, and of your data insights. As the amount of data increases, the process becomes more complex.

Following data mapping, the organised data is then stored in your data warehouse in a usable form. From there, queries are run against the data to build automated reports – visual dashboards and reports delivered directly to the user, automatically.

Business Intelligence evolved

Decision Intelligence (DI) has evolved from Business Intelligence to deliver more effective decisions and better business outcomes. Where Business Intelligence tools enable data-driven decisions, Decision Intelligence goes beyond that to combine the cause and effect of a decision to determine the best outcome.

So, what does this mean? It means you don’t worry about processing data, you just get told which decisions fit your organisation best. Learn more about Decision Intelligence here.

Get in touch with our team and we’ll show you how DI can make a difference to your organisation, no matter the size of your business or budget.