In the past few years, cloud computing has taken the world by storm. In fact, it is expected that by 2021, cloud computing is going to replace traditional data centers almost completely. While the concept of the cloud is no news to anybody who owns a smartphone, cloud computing may need a few clarifications.
What is cloud computing?
The cloud is just another name for the internet. Broadly speaking, cloud computing is defined as the concept of storing and accessing services and programs through the internet, instead of private servers or personal hard drives.
At its core, cloud computing is nothing but a software business model, which has proven to be more efficient than the on-premises model. The on-premises approach involves the software product being designed to work with the client’s in-house infrastructure. The traditional method has proven to be inefficient in some situations, being more complicated to upgrade, more demanding and time-consuming.
A cloud-based approach can be implemented much faster and can be accessed from anywhere, provided the user has access to the Internet.
As opposed to traditional software methods where the client has full ownership of the infrastructure needed to support the applications when it comes to cloud computing, the infrastructure is owned by a third party and the client, also known as end-user, is paying for the services they need and use on a daily basis. There are 5 key characteristics of cloud computing that need to be understood:
- On-demand self-service: the end-user can access the services on the cloud whenever they need to, without needing permission from the service provider.
- Broad network access: all services provided through cloud computing can be accessed through any platform, be it a desktop, a smartphone or a tablet.
- Resource pooling: cloud computing allows multiple clients to share the same infrastructure while keeping their privacy and the security of their information. This was often compared to people living in the same apartment complex. They share the same building, but they each have their own private apartment.
- Rapid scalability and elasticity: viewed as one of the greatest advantages of cloud computing, rapid scalability means that resources can be allocated as needed, with the ability to increase or decrease without affecting the overall quality of the service.
- Measured service: resources are measured constantly, allowing both users and service providers to keep a record of usage. This way, end-users can pay exclusively for the resources they used, making it extremely cost-effective.
Cloud computing services
While there are multiple cloud computing services available for users, they can all be categorized into three main service models:
- SaaS (Software as a service)
Perhaps the most popular form of cloud computing, SaaS means delivering applications as a service, though the Internet, making it available directly from the browsers, with no need for software installation. SaaS application development has gained popularity because it cuts down on operational and maintenance costs. The most common uses of SaaS are emails and CRM (customer relationship management) software.
- IaaS (Infrastructure as a service)
By using IaaS services, clients can rent servers, networking and storage blocks on a pay-per-use basis. The services are highly scannable and far more cost-effective than traditional storage options, offering a large variety of services, from databases to big data analytics and machine learning incorporation. A common practice for businesses is to turn to IaaS to support workload spikes, especially for eCommerce websites during holidays and sales season.
- PaaS (Platform as a service)
PaaS is more oriented towards developers, providing a set of services they can use, such as shared tools, database management, as well as operating systems, which help speed up the development and launch of applications. Businesses turn to PaaS services, so that their developers have access to the tools they need, without affecting the in-house infrastructure.
Types of Cloud Computing
There are three types of cloud computing distribution options available: private clouds, public clouds and hybrid clouds, all possessing a set of advantages and disadvantages. Companies should be advised to choose the option that best suits their needs.
- Public clouds
The most common use of cloud computing, public clouds are managed off-site and shared with multiple users. Public clouds have the advantage of being highly efficient and cost-effective, as they use shared resources. End-users are not involved in the management and maintenance of the infrastructure. Public clouds can be used by both private users and businesses.
- Private clouds
Private clouds are not targeting the general public, but a set of selected users, who can benefit from the services through either a private network or the Internet. Private clouds typically have one end-user and all the data available is protected by firewalls. They are mostly used by companies who want to benefit from all the advantages of the cloud while having more customization and security options available.
- Hybrid clouds
Developed as a combination of private and public clouds, hybrid clouds were developed for users who want to benefit from both options. While the clouds operate independently, they share the same environment and communicate through an encrypted connection, allowing applications to be moved from private clouds to public clouds when needed. For example, businesses can choose to store archives in the public cloud and more sensitive data in the private cloud.
Businesses have tremendous benefits when using cloud computing, depending on the nature of their business:
Cost-effectiveness: when migrating to the cloud, businesses may find themselves making quite a significant investment, but the ROI is as significant. By benefiting from the pay-as-you-go model, businesses will only pay for the services they use, eliminating monetary waste.
Reliability: an in-house infrastructure is fairly less reliable than the cloud, where service providers offer backup options far more efficient and reliable. Plus, there will be far fewer service interruptions and downtime issues.
Mobility: the cloud allows end-users to access the software or data at any time and from any platform, making it easier for employees in a company to communicate with each other and share information whenever needed.