Jul 19, 2018

So how does cloud computing work?

Just getting started?

Whether you’re looking to become a cloud engineer or you’re a manager wanting to learn more about this industry, learn the basics about cloud computing here.

What Is Cloud Computing?

Sometimes referred to as “the cloud,” cloud computing is a way for individuals and companies to access digital resources over the internet, from just about anywhere in the world that has connectivity.

Cloud computing is typically provided by a third party as a software service, or is sometimes built in-house using DIY techniques and ad hoc hardware. Vendors such as Google, Amazon, Netflix,  Dropbox are all providing their services via the Cloud computing platform - some in house our via other vendors.

Cloud computing usually eliminates or reduces the need for on-site hardware and/or software. For example, if a person buys a hard drive backup service that relies on cloud computing, he or she could transfer his or her files through an internet connection, so they’re stored on servers that may be located in another region, or even in another country.

Typically, the files would be stored in multiple places offering added security and redundancy that is impossible with standard hardware solutions.

Common Examples of Cloud Computing Technology

Cloud computing may seem like a foreign concept, but you probably use it every day without even realising it.

Here are some familiar tasks that are made possible through cloud computing:

  • Mail: Checking your email from anywhere in the world by logging onto a cloud-based webmail client.
  • Storage: Saving a document in an online cloud storage account and later accessing it at work, even though the original file resides on your home computer.
  • Work: Collaborating in real-time on a shared online spreadsheet with colleagues that are working from different office locations.
  • Software as a Service: Being able to rent software applications and save the documents you create online, rather than purchasing the physical software disks and having to download the contents to your hard drive. This example of cloud technology is especially useful considering how quickly some software becomes obsolete. Rather than making a one-time purchase of a physical disc, a user could pay a monthly access fee for the service, and then receive alerts whenever it’s time to download the latest version of the software. Newer examples are streaming services for music, film and television programmes, eliminating the need for a television (if you so choose), dvd/ blue ray players or even any form of media  - just login and stream on any device.

Characteristics of Cloud Technology

There are several factors that set cloud computing technology apart from other options, and which make it especially attractive for business use.

  • Providing a managed service, so you can just focus on whatever task you’re doing that’s supported by the service.
  • Services are available on-demand and are quite scalable. If your needs vary from one month to the next, it's likely you can simply pay more or less depending on how your usage changes. 
  • Services available publicly or privately, too. A cloud-based email account is one example of a public cloud computing service. However, many companies use virtual private networks (VPNs) to access secure private clouds, such as those that are only accessible to people who work at a particular company or department.

Pros and Cons of Cloud Computing Technology

Like any other type of technology, cloud computing has both good and bad attributes. Although we touched on a few advantages in the previous section, let’s go into more depth about the benefits of cloud technology, and then examine the potential downsides.

  • A reduced need for on-site IT staff: When choosing a service provider for your cloud computing needs, you’ll probably notice how most of them guarantee a very high level of consistent uptime. If you pick a provider that promises to be very reliable, won’t be dependent on on-site IT professionals for troubleshooting.
  • Cost-effectiveness: As mentioned above, it’s usually possible to buy only the cloud services you need and have the option of scaling up later when necessary. That means you don’t have to make huge investments in physical equipment that may break down, get stolen, or age out over time.
  • Fewer maintenance concerns: When dealing with physical computer networks, software, and hardware, there are a lot of maintenance needs. With the cloud you don't worry about managing infrastructure.
  • Cloud computing usually allows you to log into a well-maintained online interfaceand access the latest versions of applications and content — without having to download anything that needs to be checked for viruses.
  • Service is unavailable when the internet goes down: As mentioned above, most of today’s top providers of cloud-based technology are very reliable and can promise an exceptionally high percentage of uptime (almost unbelievably high). However, problems can occur if you’re solely reliant on the internet to access your files, and the internet connection in your workplace or home suddenly malfunctions.If you’re using content in the cloud exclusively to run your business, operations will grind to a halt until your internet connection is restored. This is where a multi-vendor approach might come in handy, basing your cloud DR strategy to leverage a multivendor approach will keep your business going!
  • Potential migration issues: If you start using one cloud computing service and then want to transfer your files over to a different provider, that process may prove much more complicated than expected. Although progress is occurring to make the task easier, there are still substantial incompatibility issues that may make moving your files between providers painful — at best. A workaround is to use and demand open standards from the vendors you choose, it make compatibility issues a thing of the past.
  • Reduced customer control: Because cloud computing offers a managed service, that means customers give up some control to use what’s offered. That’s especially true in terms of what’s happening in the background. Many cloud computing service providers don’t provide details about their infrastructures, which may be frustrating to customers that prefer to handle administration needs on their own. 

Predictions About the Future of Cloud Computing

Let’s look at some of the things analysts think are likely to happen as the cloud computing industry continues to grow and evolve:

  • IT companies will continue to favour public or hybrid cloud services: Over the past five years, IT companies have contributed to a 43.3 percent increase in public cloud usage. Furthermore, hybrid cloud services (which use both public and private clouds throughout single organisations) saw a 19.2 percent growth. However, the use of private services fell by almost 50 percent, and there’s no sign of them gaining significant momentum anytime soon. 
  • Cloud computing providers must deliver products that are innovative, yet secure: Because the cloud computing industry has become increasingly popular, many well-known companies are launching improved or entirely new cloud services. Recently, Google has asserted its readiness to become a respected entity that provides enterprise-level cloud services.
  • In order to be competitive, providers of cloud-based services must prove that their technology is the most current and robust available, but also that everything’s being delivered and stored in an incredibly secure way. When answering a question in the Wikibon survey to identify their top concerns, 63 percent of respondents said security was first on the list. 
  • Cloud technology will move beyond computers: Although we’ve focused on computers, analysts think cloud technology will soon be widely thought of outside the computing world. Use of the technology is already occurring in other industries, but still on a relatively small scale. For example, some automotive companies have utilised cloud technology to deliver and share vehicle data and apps, while cloud-related advancements in the travel industry allow Lufthansa Airlines passengers to choose media at home before they leave, and then access that stored media/data during their flight for a personalised entertainment experience. 
  • Customers will prefer to buy cloud-based services directly from providers: Until recently, individuals or companies that wished to take advantage of cloud computing options usually bought them from outside vendors, rather than going directly to the providers. However, trends show an increasing preference for straightforward, transparent transactions between service providers and their customers. 

Keep watching this space!

Tagged: Cloud Computing

Jerome Wagner

Posted by Jerome Wagner

Jerome started Startsmart back in 2004. He is a cloud technology architect with over 20 years experience in data centre infrastructure, virtualisation and cloud hosting platforms.

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