Despite the concept of “cloud computing” being around for less than 20 years, its popularity only exploded in the last decade. Why? Because the computing needs of businesses kept growing to enable innovation in our hyper-connected world. As the cloud took over, cloud computing became the ideal way for companies to deliver corporate applications, extend infrastructures, and launch new products.
Cloud computing 101
The basic principles of cloud computing
In simple words, cloud computing delivers computing services over the internet (the cloud). Those services can range from servers and storage space to databases, software applications, analytics and many more. Through the use of cloud computing, companies can expect, among other things, faster innovation, flexible resources, and economies of scale.
How does cloud computing work?
Cloud computing is made possible through the use of huge data centers that provide the storage capacity and computing power required to support cloud infrastructures. Providers take care of hosting and maintaining the infrastructures while clients pay for the rights to use the services on a pay-per-use or subscription-based model.
How is cloud computing used?
As the technology advanced and gained in popularity, its use has diversified massively and branched out to various industries. Nowadays, cloud computing can be used for:
- Online data storage: to store, back up, and recover data more efficiently and with less limitations.
- Computing: to run websites and power applications without having to spend money on hardware and licenses.
- Online communication: to stream high-definition audio and video, and hence collaborate with people all over the world.
- Application development: to build and test web applications at a lower cost and scale them more effectively.
- Data analysis: to unify data in the cloud and gain valuable insights through the use of artificial intelligence and machine learning.
Cloud computing models made simple
Cloud computing isn’t a one-size-fits-all type of service. Depending on the budget and needs of a business, a certain type of cloud deployment is going to be more efficient.
The term “Public cloud” refers to cloud infrastructures owned and operated by third-party service providers. This type of cloud offers a variety of services going from webmail and online storage to work applications and servers.
In comparison to the other two cloud computing deployments, a public cloud solution comes at a much lower price, thanks to its pricing structure and the lack of any additional purchases required (hardware, software). Additionally, the service provider takes care of maintaining the infrastructure and fixing any failures that may occur making it a very reliable solution.
“Private cloud” is the name given to cloud infrastructures that are operated exclusively for a single business. This type of cloud can either be hosted and managed physically onsite, if the organization chooses to and has its own datacenter, or externally through a third-party provider. What makes a private cloud “private” is that both its infrastructures and services are maintained through a private network.
Private clouds offer more flexibility and control than public clouds. Organizations can, for instance, customize their cloud environment to better suit their business needs while having better control over their resources, allowing them to strengthen their internal cybersecurity. Private cloud solutions also offer increased scalability over public clouds, although scalability remains limited in comparison to multi-cloud solutions.
As its name suggests, a hybrid cloud is the result of the combination of a public cloud and a private environment, generally a private cloud, that are bound together despite remaining separate entities. This solution has become the preferred model in large organizations, as on average, companies use at least 2 public and 2 private cloud services.
Hybrid cloud deployment offers many benefits over a single public or private cloud solution. First of all, it brings greater flexibility to businesses as data and apps can circulate freely while operating in the optimal environment. I’is also considered the most cost-effective and scalable solution as companies can leverage public clouds when they need more computing power and storage space.
Cloud computing services explained
Services provided by cloud-computing companies generally fall into one out of four models. However, these models aren’t necessarily separated. They build on top of one another (sometimes overlapping themselves) and are thus generally portrayed as “layers in a stack”.
Short for “Infrastructure as a Service”, IaaS is the base of the cloud-computing stack. This category of CC is geared towards companies that need to rent a whole IT infrastructure while remaining in control of their operating systems, storage, and applications. Companies pay the providers on a pay-as-you-go model in order to manage their resources on the cloud.
PaaS, or Platform as a Service, is the second layer of the stack. This model gives companies an adequate platform to develop, test, deliver, and manage software applications. It’s designed to facilitate the developing process without having to worry about creating and managing the infrastructure. Organizations pay the providers on a pay-per-use basis in order to host, build, and deploy their applications.
Software as a Service, most commonly called SaaS, is the final layer of the cloud computing stack. This type of cloud computing service delivers software applications over the internet. It’s a way for companies to run software in the cloud without needing to install it on their own computers. Organizations pay the providers on a subscription basis in order to use online software.
The benefits and limitations of cloud computing
As more and more companies made the switch to cloud computing over the years, there’s no doubt that the solution brings great advantages to businesses. However, the technology also comes with its share of challenges.
4 advantages of cloud computing
- Cost effectiveness: Organizations don’t need to own the infrastructure, hardware, and software anymore. In addition to the convenient pricing model offered by providers, companies can make huge cost savings that can be redirected towards business development.
- Flexibility: Opting for a cloud solution offers way more flexibility in comparison to a local server. Organizations can scale services as their needs evolve almost instantly.
- Increased performance: As cloud providers focus on keeping their infrastructure up to date, companies benefit from the highest gears without having to pay the price for it.
- Mobility: Cloud computing allows secure access to corporate data from anywhere and on any platform. Employees are able to follow business decisions and work progress from their mobile phone, wherever they are.
4 disadvantages of cloud computing
- Downtime: As the technology relies on the internet, businesses can get affected negatively in the event of a reboot, power outage, or downtime.
- Cybersecurity: Even if providers do everything they can to ensure that their cloud environment is safe, nothing is ever bulletproof. This can open companies up to many risks such as data loss, data leakage, hijacking, denial of service attacks, and so on.
- Restricted control: As providers own the entirety of their cloud infrastructure, companies have limited control over the environment. For instance, they won’t have the administrative rights to perform tasks regarding the firmware and the servers.
- Vendor lock-in: Once committed to a vendor, it can be very difficult to make the shift to another one as they may use widely different platforms.
The future of cloud computing
For all its popularity, you could argue that cloud computing is still in its early days. So, there’s no doubt that the technology will experience profound transformations in the years to come. If we take a look at the most popular predictions, we can expect a rise of multi-cloud computing to meet companies’ ever-growing needs, an expansion of serverless computing to reduce costs on all fronts, and an increase in the importance of cloud-based AI services.