Cloud computing. What does it mean to you? Most people struggle to answer that question, even though they use cloud services every day. If you stream movies, send instant messages, or listen to music playlists, you do too.

And for your organisation, cloud can save you both time and money. If you use cloud services well, you could:

Save money

on equipment and hardware

Save time

with online systems and data processing

Be flexible

work anywhere and adapt as you grow

In this lesson, we’ll be your cloud guide. We’ll show you the different options and how they can help your organisation. And you’ll learn how to write a compelling business case for using cloud.


  • Know what cloud is, and the benefits it brings
  • Identify the different services and storage options
  • Prepare your business case

Read time:

12 mins

Chapter 1

Cloud - What is cloud computing?

Read time:

2 mins

What is ‘the cloud’?

‘The cloud’ is where we can store data, instead of storing it on our own machines. Let’s look at an everyday example. You might save your photos to iCloud or Google Drive. If you do this, it this frees up space on your phone. And if you lose your phone, you can still retrieve those photos. But where is my data when it’s in the cloud? Machines called servers hold your data for you. And you reach it from the internet.


How can cloud computing help?

Cloud gives you services that you can use wherever you are, whenever you want, over the internet. So you don’t need to rely on expensive, limited and often quickly out-of-date hardware and software. You can manage your services, platforms, and infrastructure with cloud computing.


Here are a few examples of how cloud can help with day-to-day issues. Select each one to find out more.

Write down your needs

These examples give you an idea about where Cloud computing could help. It's time now to think about your own organisation's needs, and what the key issues are. Jot these down now. And bear them in mind, as you read the options in the rest of this lesson. 

Chapter 2

Types of cloud services

Read time:

3 mins

What services are there?

Cloud can help with three main things – your services, your platforms, and your infrastructure. And there’s a cloud service for each of these:


Software as a service


Platform as a service


Infrastructure as a service

SaaS - Software as a service

This service gives you applications over the internet. There’s a wide range of these, and you might even be using some right now. You can pick the ones you want and get started quickly and easily. You don’t need to download or install anything on your device. You just need an internet connection.


SaaS examples include:

  • Accounting software, for example, Sage and Xero
  • Customer Relationship Management (CRM) systems, such as Salesforce and Hubspot
  • Collaboration and teamworking tools, like Slack, Google Workspace and Microsoft 365
  • File hosting services, such as DropBox and WeTransfer
  • Customer Service platforms, like Zendesk and Freshdesk
  • Fundraising platforms, like JustGiving and Donorbox


You might already be using this type of service. Web-based email services such as Outlook or Yahoo! are a type of SaaS. The email software is on the provider’s network, and this is where your messages are. But you can log into your account on a web browser and access this data anytime, on any device.


Benefits of SaaS are:

  • A low-cost option – Cheaper than the non-cloud versions of this software
  • Only pay for what you use
  • Use them from your web browser - So you don’t need to buy or install software
  • There for all your team - No matter where they are or what device they use

Do your research

See what cloud applications are out there, so you can decide on the right ones for your organisation.

Platform as a service

So, SaaS gives you applications that are ready to use. But what if you have your own in-house systems? PaaS is for the software developers in your team. It gives them an all-in-one platform where they can build, test, and launch their systems. Examples include AEM (Adobe Experience Manager), Google App Engine and AWS Elastic Beanstalk.


Benefits of PaaS are:

  • Build apps quicker – and with less staff
  • Develop apps for multiple devices easily
  • Use top tools – where the non-cloud versions are too costly
  • Work remotely
  • Manage the whole project in one place


Infrastructure as a service

IaaS helps small organisations really compete with larger ones. It lets you rent IT infrastructure on a pay-as-you-go basis. This includes things like servers, data storage and networks. So your infrastructure can grow – easily – as your organisation grows. And you only pay for what you need at the time.

Popular services include Amazon Web Services (AWS) and Microsoft Azure.


Benefits of IaaS are:

  • Save money – Get cheaper web hosting and save hardware costs
  • Create faster – Flexible infrastructure means you can create products and services quicker
  • Built-in backup and recovery
  • Easy maintenance and security - The right IaaS provider will support your software and hardware for you
  • Run remotely - Gives you and your team the flexibility to access data and work remotely


Which should you pick?

As you move towards cloud computing, you can pick which one or combination of all these services suits you. You should consider your needs – which will fit best and in what way? We’ll help you to start thinking about this later.

Test your knowledge

Answer this question by selecting one answer from the three options provided.

That's not quite right!

Outlook is a ready-made application that you can reach through your web browser

That's right!

You can see and write your Outlook messages on any device, through your web browser

Chapter 3

How cloud services store data

Read time:

2 mins

What storage options are there?

Now we’ve looked at the different cloud services, let’s talk about storage. Cloud services store data and host their services in three ways. You’ll need to decide which one works best for your organisation.

The three options are:

Public cloud

An external company hosts the service and stores your data

Private cloud

You host and store the data on your premises

Hybrid cloud

A mix of public and private options for your data and hosting

Public cloud

This is where a specialist company hosts your services and data. You get your own cloud in a shared environment. It’s cheaper and easier than private hosting. You don’t need to buy your own hardware or look after the data. The company gives you a complete service. It keeps your data safe and its infrastructure up to date. Examples of public cloud are Google Drive and Microsoft OneDrive


Private cloud

Here, you host, run, and manage your cloud system on your own hardware. This can be safer than using a public cloud, as you keep your own data on your own servers. But you need to bear the costs of keeping your data secure. You’ll have hardware and maintenance costs, too. Plus, you’re responsible for keeping everything up to date. So it gives you more control but tends to cost more than the public option.


Hybrid cloud

This is where you use a mix of public and private cloud. You manage part of the cloud in-house, and a third party manages the rest offsite. So you can host any sensitive information on a private cloud, and still cut costs by using public cloud for the rest.

Research(PDF, 9.6MB) shows 99% of organisations use at least one cloud.


Use public cloud only


Use a mix of public and private

How to decide

Every organisation has its own unique needs. So think about yours when you decide on a storage and hosting solution. Ask yourself - what’s most important to your organisation? In the next chapter, we’ll look at some factors that could help you decide.

Test your knowledge

Answer this question by selecting one answer from the three options provided.

That's not quite right!

You’ll be responsible for looking after your data, on servers that you’ll need to buy.

That's right!

Your data is on your premises, so it’s always in your control.

Chapter 4

Considerations – what you need to know

Read time:

4 mins

Before you decide …

So you’ve seen some examples of the types of cloud services and storage options. Before you pick your cloud options, we’re going to list some things to think about.



You want a cloud option that will keep your data safe and secure. So finding a trusted cloud service provider is key. Look at what their contingency plans are. And explore data loss prevention (DLP) solutions. These protect your data from unauthorised access and disable access when they detect suspicious activity.

If we look at data storage, you might think that private cloud is the way to go. But you need to know what’s involved. It’s a bit like saying ‘my money’s safer at home than in the bank’. While it’s true that you can always keep an eye on your money at home, the bank has probably got better locks than your front door!

Just like the bank, Cloud companies have high-quality security tools. And they’ve got the funds to invest in them constantly. So using private cloud servers doesn’t always keep your data safer.


Questions to ask your cloud service provider:

  • Who can see my data?
  • Where do you store my data? - And do you hold it in more than one place to give further protection?
  • What do you do to encrypt my data?
  • What happens if there’s a crash or data breach?


The risk of losing your data

When you use public cloud, your data is backed up. So if one server goes down, your data is still safe. And for cloud hosting companies, their reputation relies on keeping everyone’s data safe. So they spend time and money to protect against server damage or loss. As a minimum, it’s good to follow the 3-2-1 rule:

Have at least


different versions of your data

Store it on


different media



data backup offsite


The cost of any solution is high on our list when we’re deciding which way to go. Sometimes, pay-as-you-go options are more affordable than spending lots of money upfront. Look carefully at what you are paying for, and for how long. Is there a minimum amount of time you can sign up for a subscription service? How flexible are the payment plans – and how easy is it to switch between them?

Software pricing can depend on the number of users, the level of service or how many features you want. There are free options for some services, though there may be restrictions with these free options. And organisations like Charity Digital can help charities with the cost of some services.

When you compare private and public cloud, there will be a higher set up cost with private. You may find this works out cheaper in the end, as you’re not paying regular service fees. But don’t forget to factor in maintenance and upgrades when you lay out your costs.


When working out your Cloud costs, think about:

  • What it costs to set up
  • Hardware costs - If you are using private cloud
  • Regular costs – Like subscriptions to cloud services
  • Any free options – This might include ‘free trials’ after which you need to pay, so check the post-trial rate
  • Training costs – As you move to cloud, your team will need to learn how to use the services
  • Likely upgrade costs – to a greater range of services, or for more users
  • Return on investment (ROI) – what is cloud going to save for your organisation

More information

The government has this useful guide on how to manage your cloud spending.

Your internet connection

You might not need much to get started with cloud services. But you’ll need good, stable web access. Without it, there could be issues trying to access cloud software and data. Lags and downtime will slow down your operations. And if you’re investing in cloud to speed up your productivity, this could have a huge impact.

So if you’re thinking of using these services, now’s the time to check your connection. It needs to be stable, and reasonably fast. Free tools like SpeedSmart can test your internet speed. You may need to think about upgrading to a higher speed service, if this is an option.

Chapter 5

Writing your business case

Read time:

1 min

Before you write your business case

By this stage, you may have some ideas about the types of cloud services and storage options that are right for you. It’s a good time to check you have all the information you need, now. So, before you start your business case, make sure you have notes that include:

A list

Of your organisation’s needs and the issues that cloud can help solve

Secure options

That say where you’re going to store your data

The tools

List the cloud-based applications and services you think can help you

Cost details

Including initial and ongoing costs, plus the potential cost savings

A plan

For next steps, including research, testing and the move to cloud service

How to write your business case

Your business case should bring together what you’ve learned. It explains how using cloud can solve the issues and meet the needs that you’ve identified. In this document, you’ll be helping your team to understand how and where cloud will save your organisation time and money. And they’ll see your proposed tools and storage options.

Focus on costs and savings, as this is where most questions come from. Often, smaller organisations think they can’t get the benefits of cloud as it takes too much time or costs too much. Your business case should show that time and money spent now could unlock more, later.

Once you’ve shown the business need and the potential to solve issues, lay out the costs and savings, for both now and the future.


Next steps

You should now be able to explain what cloud is and why it’s important. So you’re well on your way to being able to build a business case for using cloud in your organisation.


Bank of Scotland Academy is committed to providing information in a way that is accessible and useful for our users. This information, however, is not in any way intended to amount to authority or advice on which reliance should be placed. You should seek professional advice as appropriate and required. Any sites, products or services named in this module are just examples of what's available. Bank of Scotland does not endorse the services they provide. The information in this module was last updated on 28th August 2023.