As cloud computing is becoming less of a buzzword and more of a technology reality for businesses, what are the benefits and impacts of cloud computing specific to the Oil and Gas sector and especially for the energy consulting firms providing technical solutions? In the current environment of low oil prices with energy companies focusing on cost saving measures, can cloud computing help reduce IT costs and still provide businesses with speedy and reliable IT solutions?

What is cloud computing?

The word “cloud” is a metaphor for the Internet. Cloud computing is a general term for storing data and applications through hosted services over the internet. Because of the dramatic improvements of Internet access speed and advances of server technologies in recent years, instead of utilizing computer resources that are owned and operated locally by a company itself, IT tasks can be fulfilled by services that are offered by service providers through the Internet, or in the “cloud.”

Cloud computing services can be classified as three major categories.

Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) is the cloud service where the business can subscribe to applications and access them over the Internet. As an example, Salesforce.com offers business applications through the cloud.

Platform as a service (PaaS) is a category of cloud computing services that provides a platform allowing customers to develop, run and manage web applications without the complexity of building and maintaining the infrastructure typically associated with developing and launching an app. Google App Engine, Microsoft Windows Azure Cloud Services and Red Hat OpenShift are among the top PaaS providers.

Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) is a form of cloud computing that provides virtualized computing resources over the Internet. In an IaaS model, a third-party provider hosts hardware, software, servers, storage and other infrastructure components on behalf of its users. IaaS providers also host users’ applications and handle tasks including system maintenance, backup and resiliency planning. Big players in IaaS are Amazon Web Services (AWS), Rackspace and VMware.

Benefits of cloud computing

Reduce IT Costs

IT models of hardware and software investments and maintenance can be costly. By unhitching Oil and Gas companies from the cost and burden of managing large data/compute infrastructure, they will be able to have greater focus on their core competence. For energy consulting firms, they will be able to provide more value to clients with faster and better business solutions.

Level the Playing Field

Most of the cloud servers are licensed through monthly subscriptions and only require a browser. This feature of easy access levels the playing field for small, medium and large businesses alike.

Speed of IT Delivery and Time-to-Market

Because of the flexibility and scalability of hardware and software solutions PaaS and IaaS services provide, companies are finding that cloud services can dramatically shorten development and deployment lifecycles and reduce maintenance costs.

Connect the Unconnected

Oil and gas companies and energy consulting firms are increasing relying on partners, service organizations and individuals outside the firewall to share the increasing costs, risks and access the limited industry expertise. Cloud-based systems naturally allow for much broader collaboration as stakeholders are no longer bound to internal fixed assets and sites.