So, what is cloud computing?
Cloud computing is the name used to refer to computing services including servers, storage, databases, networking, software, analytics and so on that are accessible over the internet.
There is a good chance that you have used cloud computing many times you are probably using cloud computing right now. Almost every online service that you use to send email, edit documents, stream music or movies, play games or store pictures and other files using services like Google Drive, Google photos, or iCloud are implementations of cloud computing.
But, the ‘cloud’ doesn’t exist, there is no actual cloud. Much like the clouds in the sky, the cloud in cloud computing is not something you can touch. A popular Meme is “there is no cloud, it’s just someone else’s computer” but thankfully it is not just anyone’s computer it belongs to a company providing a service to you in exchange for either money or to get you to use another of their devices or services.
There is a story behind why we call it cloud computing. Many years ago when the internet was in its infancy when engineers drew architecture diagrams or flowcharts the connection between computers over the internet this part of the diagram was drawn as a cloud like the one below:
The official definition from the National Institute of Standards & Technology reads:
“Cloud computing is a model for enabling convenient, on-demand network access to a shared pool of configurable computing resources (e.g. networks, servers, storage, applications & services) that can be rapidly provisioned and released with minimal management effort or service provider interaction.”
If that seems confusing simply put it means anytime, anywhere, access to services, data, and applications without the user having to do, or know, much about it.
Types of cloud services: IaaS, PaaS, SaaS
Cloud computing services can be categorized into three areas: infrastructure as a service (IaaS), platform as a service (PaaS) and software as a service (Saas). These are often referred to as the cloud computing stack because they can be placed on top of one another to provide a full service.
The most basic category of cloud computing services. With IaaS, you rent IT infrastructure—servers and virtual machines (VMs), storage space etc. Usually on a subscription pricing model.
Platform as a service (PaaS)
Platform-as-a-service (PaaS) is cloud computing services that provide a scalable environment for developing, testing, and delivering software applications. As users don’t need to build the infrastructure first, PaaS makes it quicker and easier to create web or mobile apps.
Software as a service (SaaS)
Software-as-a-service (SaaS) is as the name suggests refers to software applications available over the Internet, on demand. These are usually charged on a subscription basis.
SaaS, providers host and manage the software applications, infrastructure, upgrades, and maintenance.
There are three types of cloud implementation; public cloud, private cloud, and hybrid cloud.
Public clouds are owned and operated third-party cloud service providers. Computing resources such as servers and storage are accessed over an Internet connection through a web browser.
A private cloud refers to cloud computing resources used only by a single business or group of users. A private cloud can be located in an on-premise data center or obtained through a third-party. The services and infrastructure are maintained on a private network.
Hybrid clouds are a combination of public and private clouds, bound together by technology that allows data and applications to be shared between them. Hybrid clouds give businesses greater flexibility and more deployment options by allowing data and applications to move between them.
How cloud computing works
Depending on the provider cloud computing services can work a little differently. But usually, a friendly, browser-based dashboard that is easy for developers to add resources and manage their cloud accounts, is provided.
Why the cloud?
The biggest benefit besides cost reduction is the ability to almost instantly scale up or down resources to suit the changing needs of modern dynamic businesses. Read more about scaling here.
The Future of Cloud computing.
As we approach 2030, just over a decade from now, it is expected that most business will be operating primarily using the cloud. The anticipated result is that companies will be more flexible, more productive, and more efficient.
Almost everything in our modern internet age is connected to the cloud in some way or another. There has been a sudden influx of startups to process and present data. In 2017 the buzzword was ‘cloud’ in 2018 AI is the word that seems to be appended to every startup or new product. But AI applications available today are heavily reliant on the cloud. So it appears that cloud computing will continue to be more and more important to our lives.
Another example is IoT – The internet of things, a term used for a truly interconnected world.
So what is the impact of cloud computing on our future businesses? Concepts like decentralized cloud and serverless cloud computing are creeping into mainstream vocabulary.
A popular definition of is “Cloud computing is the practice of using a network of remote servers hosted on the Internet to store, manage, and process data, rather than a local server or a personal computer.”
What that means for businesses is truly remote working. A whole team can interact in real time, work on the same document, collaborate in real-time, wherever they are in the world. It also means that instead of purchasing hardware, software, and employing dedicated support staff, businesses can outsource their computing power allowing them more time and money to concentrate on developing their own products and businesses.
Modern business models and product development life cycles demand high growth and cloud computing makes it easy to quickly scale. Cloud computing presents security concerns surrounding data privacy and some industries are understandably cautious. But as many new technologies are developed from the ground up with privacy in mind and the major players adjust their business models to benefit from subscription payment models that cloud computing provides, the balance between ‘on cloud’ and ‘on premise’ technology should start to tilt towards the cloud.
Hybrid cloud may gain the edge in some industries by offering enterprises all the benefit of cloud with the security of on prem.
One thing is for certain, cloud computing will continue to grow, evolve, and shape the way we work, interact and play.