What Is Cloud Computing? How Does Cloud Technology Work?
“It’s in the cloud.” That common phrase still causes confusion. Here’s another one: “It’s a cloud service.” Why isn’t the service firmly rooted to the ground?
Cloud computing is everywhere. Most major online services use cloud computing in some manner. Cloud computing powers Facebook, Twitter, Netflix, iCloud, Google Drive, and countless other day to day services.
Wondering what cloud computing is? Here’s how cloud technology works, the different types of cloud services, and how you can use cloud computing.
What Is Cloud Computing?
Cloud computing is the delivery of computing services over the internet. Those computer services include servers, online storage, databases, networking, analytics, intelligence, and even whole cloud platforms (more on these in a moment).
On the development and services side, cloud computing is predominantly pay as you go. That means you only pay for the cloud computing resources you use. The switch to cloud computing was a marked change from existing internet business infrastructure where an organization would purchase and maintain its own hardware.
Cloud computing allows for the sharing of hardware resources, helping to lower costs, increase infrastructure efficiency, and scale with the demands of a business. In that, cloud computing also refers to the sharing of resources and infrastructure over the internet to the benefit of businesses, customers, and other users.
Cloud computing has existed since the 60s, when organizations could rent time on a mainframe. However, it wasn’t until Amazon popularized the concept in 2006 with its ground-breaking Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2) that the term “cloud computing” hit the mainstream.
How Does Cloud Computing Work?
Websites and applications run using a front end and back end. The front end is the part you interact with, like your Facebook account or Google Drive.
The back end is the cloud computing aspect, which contains the service or application code, monitoring services, databases, storage, and much more. The largest cloud computing providers have enormous warehouses filled with servers dedicated to providing cloud services. The core aspect is that cloud computing is easily accessible from anywhere with an internet connection. It doesn’t matter if you’re in London or Lebanon, a cloud computing service can deliver the same service.
These days, cloud computing has several different models, which deliver different types of services.
- Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) is a common cloud computing service that provides a site or service with the infrastructure backend. The infrastructure varies between deployments and is very flexible, making IaaS one of the most popular cloud computing models.
- Platform as a Service (PaaS) helps organizations deliver an entire online platform, taking care of the hardware and operating system. One of the major differences from IaaS to PaaS is the range of development tools and frameworks available to developers, allowing for the creation of complex applications and services.
- Software as a Service (SaaS) is the use of cloud computing to deliver an application as a service. SaaS is the cloud computing model you are most likely to have used.
There are two primary cloud computing deployment models, too:
- Full cloud deployment exists entirely in the cloud environment. Applications are developed in the cloud or migrated to it.
- Hybrid cloud deployment allows existing infrastructure and applications to use cloud computing technology without full migration. Hybrid deployments allow existing products to adopt some major benefits of cloud computing without sacrificing an existing internal system.
What Is a Public Cloud?
A public cloud is a cloud computing service, like Amazon Web Services (AWS), Microsoft Azure, or Google Cloud, that is open to anyone to purchase and use. Typically, public cloud charges for the resources consumed during a specific billing period.
Conversely, a private cloud is a cloud computing environment only accessible by certain people. Private clouds are sometimes referred to as an internal or corporate cloud, because they provide the same benefits of a public cloud—infrastructure, scalability, cost management—without as much exposure to the negatives, such as security and privacy issues.
What becomes slightly confusing is that many major organizations use the same cloud computing services as the public. For instance, you can head to Amazon and create an EC2 instance right now. At the same time, Netflix, Twitch, LinkedIn, Facebook, and many more global tech companies are also using the same cloud computing technology to power those sites and services you use daily.
At a basic level, everyone is using the same cloud computing services. It is just different models, deployments, and products separating them.
What Are the Advantages to Cloud Computing?
There are several advantages to cloud computing for end-users.
The main advantage, and one that most people are familiar with is that your work and data is available on any computer. Once you login to your Dropbox, Google Drive, iCloud, or otherwise, you can access the same files and documents as if you were sitting at your desktop.
Cloud computing extends into other services like Google Docs, Sheets, and Slides, allowing you to start working at one terminal and finish at another, with very little difference between either.
Cloud computing has also changed personal hardware requirements, too. Instead of dragging a powerful laptop everywhere, users can opt for cloud services. Users of all kinds can opt for smaller, less power-hungry devices safe in the knowledge that at least some of their work will take place using a cloud service, predominantly via a browser or web app.
A prime example of this is Google’s Chrome OS and Chromebook models. Often much cheaper than a similarly sized laptop, Chromebooks are a cloud-focused computer that’s primarily aimed at users on the go and the education market.
Another facet of cloud computing is the vast quantities of cloud storage now available to end-users. Uploading and storing hundreds of gigabytes of photos is now commonplace. It is a cheap and easy way to backup your digital files.
Are There Any Disadvantages to Cloud Computing?
The biggest disadvantage of cloud computing is requiring an internet connection to access certain services. If you haven’t synced your files, you could find yourself locked out of them at an inopportune time. Similarly, if your internet connection suffers an outage, getting into those cloud-based files and services is impossible.
Adding to internet downtime, latency plays a significant role in cloud computing.
Users of cloud computing services also face issues with security and privacy. As cloud computing services and apps are constantly online, there is the threat of a security breach from either the user or the service. For instance, did you know that some ransomware types can encrypt cloud storage ?
Also, many of the most popular cloud services are completely free, which on the one hand is great for consumers. However, on the other hand, many services hoover up user data, in turn creating security and privacy issues.
By extension, cloud computing services also remove control from the user. You can download your photos and sync your files to your computer. But you don’t control the service, nor do you own it, regardless of your subscription or otherwise. If the service goes offline, you’d better hope you receive ample warning to extract your data. Depending on the cloud computing service, finding an alternative can be difficult.
Cloud Computing Is Everywhere
Cloud computing and cloud services are everywhere. Global research firm, Gartner, estimates that worldwide public cloud spending will increase from $182 billion in 2018 to a whopping $331 billion in 2022.
“Cloud services are definitely shaking up the industry,” according to Sid Nag, research vice president at Gartner. “At Gartner, we know of no vendor or service provider today whose business model offerings and revenue growth are not influenced by the increasing adoption of cloud-first strategies in organizations. What we see now is only the beginning, though.”
Even with the phenomenal amount of spending on cloud computing, the market will continue to grow. The introduction of faster internet connections across the globe and the imminent expansion of 5G technology provides the opportunity for even more services to switch to a cloud model.
Despite the rise of cloud computing and cloud services, there is still a lot of confusion. Check out these seven common cloud computing myths , so you can finally put them to bed.