What is Cloud Computing?

The Basics of Cloud Computing

The term cloud computing is often thrown around with the assumption that people know what “the cloud” is. Of course, most people understand that the cloud hosts your website, new service, photos, videos, and almost anything else. However, what is cloud computing in real and simple terms?

What is Cloud Computing?

With cloud computing, instead of accessing your tools, applications, or files on a local computer or even a computer you or your company own, you are accessing these resources virtually or remotely. As a result, you can be located anywhere and use any computer but still have access to everything you need.

This means a company sets up a network of computers and sells resources to you. Then, you access these resources over the Internet. For example, you could be storing files such as photos, videos, and audio files, or you could be accessing an application or tool remotely.

In this scenario, the Internet is the cloud, so the cloud is not a single thing but a group of different companies that provide remote services to you. So you could be accessing multiple clouds to do your daily work. For example, one cloud stores your files, and another hosts an application you use to edit or create your files.

The benefit of all this is that you’re not paying for large computers or storage space that needs maintaining. You often pay a monthly or yearly fee to access the resources that a company maintains for you. You’re also able to access it no matter where you are, and everything is backed up, so your files are safer than on your own hard drive in most cases.

What Types of Cloud Computing are Available?

So we know that cloud computing is basically computers sitting on the Internet and providing services to you so that you don’t have to worry about anything except doing your work.

There are different types of cloud computing available. What you use and what company would be best for you will depend on your needs and technical expertise.

  • Software-as-a-Service

Software is provided remotely, often via a web browser, to individual users. You usually pay a monthly or yearly subscription to use the service. As long as you have a computer with internet access, you can use it.

This could include things like photo editing software like you get from Adobe. File storage systems like Dropbox. A large majority of people use or have used Google Apps, such as Gmail, which is also SaaS.

Companies or individual home users can use SaaS. As a company, you may get discounts for the number of licenses, but you essentially get the same service.

  • Infrastructure-as-a-Service

Companies will often use IaaS instead of building out their own network of computers. This means they don’t have to maintain the computers or other infrastructure and can focus on their core job. The cost savings in infrastructure and employees to manage them are often what drive the use of IaaS.

You can run whatever you want on this infrastructure—operating systems, databases, applications. It’s yours to use as you see fit, as long as you pay the monthly, yearly, or on-demand fees.

The largest IaaS providers are Amazon EC2, Azure Virtual Machines, Google Computer Engine, and many others.

  • Platform-as-a-Service

Companies use PaaS to develop applications. Then, they will often start offering it to consumers, and that application becomes a SaaS product.

The platform you are using is specifically designed and maintained so that you don’t need to worry about anything except building your application. You will have access to middleware, development tools, and the ability to deploy your applications.

A PaaS is ideal for a company that wants to offer a SaaS service without an infrastructure team and provides services and products that developers know well and can get up to speed quickly.

What Are The Advantages of Cloud Computing?

Cloud computing offers a range of advantages over building your own networks. While it’s still a relatively new idea, almost all companies today are moving towards this type of service.

  • Access your applications and data from anywhere. Instead of saving files or installing applications on a laptop, everything is hosted on the Internet. As long as you have access to the Internet, you can access your files and use your applications.
  • Always available and backed up. Your files and applications are always available and backed up. If your laptop is lost, stolen, or gets broken, then you could lose everything on it. If you’ve been hosting your files and applications in the cloud, then you get instant access and no loss of data.
  • Substantial cost savings for businesses. Without the cloud, companies need to purchase servers and networking equipment, hire people to install and maintain it and have physical space to keep it all. This can be extremely expensive, especially if you don’t plan correctly.

With cloud computing, you buy what you think you need, and if you didn’t purchase enough, you can quickly upgrade, and if you purchased more than you need, you downgrade. This includes how many licenses you are buying or even how many resources you need to use.

  • Faster access to upgrades and new features. Instead of performing upgrades yourself or waiting for new features to come out, you often have cloud computing companies continuously release fixes for issues, and new features become available.

This does take some getting used to, but often if you’ve found a bug or you need a new feature, it’s much quicker in cloud computing for that to be released and tested.

What Are the Disadvantages of Cloud Computing?

While cloud computing is great, and most businesses and consumers are heading in this direction, there are still some disadvantages that you should be aware of.

  • Because cloud computing services are available over the Internet, it means anybody potentially has access. Your data is no longer stored locally, and you can’t just switch off your internet connection or hide your files away. So security is a significant concern with sensitive data.

You need to ensure that any cloud computing service you use utilizes robust security protocols and is quick to implement fixes when security concerns arise.

  • The same outages you had in the past are still possible with cloud computing. The cloud is still made up of physical servers sitting somewhere in the world. So if there are power outages or natural disasters where your service is hosted, it could still go down.

Many cloud computing services provide redundancy and host their applications or your files in multiple locations. So if one site goes down, then you are moved to another location that is functioning correctly.

You should ensure that if your data or service is critical, your provider has redundancy and can move you to a new location quickly.

Final Thoughts

Cloud computing is likely where the world is going. The benefits are enormous, and the drawbacks can be mitigated if you select the appropriate company to provide services to you.

Whether you’re a company or a home user, you’ll likely see cost savings as well as easier access to everything you need with less effort required by you.