As these examples indicate, it’s hard to go very far in almost any industry without encountering the term “cloud” somewhere. Today’s organizations make extensive use of the cloud and people all around the world utilize some form of cloud application every day. But despite its ubiquity, there is still some confusion about how the cloud works and how it can benefit an organization.
What is the cloud? How does the cloud work? What is cloud storage?
Read on to find the answer to these questions and more.
What is Cloud Computing in Simple Terms?
In the most basic terms, cloud technology involves the delivery of computing services over an internet connection. These services come in a variety of forms, but at their core, they always involve some combination of functions one would expect from basic computer hardware, such as data storage, processing, networking, or software applications. The distinguishing feature of cloud services is that they can be accessed by any device from any location with nothing more than an internet connection.
While the term “cloud” implies that these computing services float somewhere in the digital ether, the reality is that they are powered by very tangible hardware. The servers, databases, storage drives, and networking equipment that make cloud computing possible are typically located in hyperscale data centers. Cloud infrastructure uses specialized software to facilitate seamless connectivity between these linked devices on the backend and then enables end-users to access the data and applications stored there.
In most instances, cloud providers allow people to log in and use their computing resources (their “cloud) as part of a subscription-based model. With an active account, users can log into a provider’s servers from anywhere and with any device to access data and software applications hosted on those servers. This includes accessing powerful development tools that can be used to create new applications and other programs within a cloud environment. In short, if something can be done using on-site hardware, it can also be done through a cloud-based service (although performance may suffer over a low-quality internet connection).
Benefits of the Cloud
Cloud computing infrastructure offers a number of advantages to organizations, which has contributed to the massive growth of cloud-based services over the last decade.
First and foremost, cloud computing can greatly reduce an organization’s capital expenses. Rather than having to build out its own IT infrastructure with expensive servers and other hardware that needs to be maintained, companies can instead purchase those same computing resources from a cloud provider in virtual form. Cloud computing effectively allows them to pass off the expense of managing servers, power and cooling costs, and other IT infrastructure challenges, which makes it easier to focus resources on innovation. This is especially valuable for smaller organizations that may not have the resources to build the IT infrastructure needed to deliver their products and services.
Speed and Flexibility
Growing IT infrastructure is a challenge because companies are hesitant to pay for more computing resources than they need at any given time. Unfortunately, if they don’t have the capacity to grow, they could miss out on key opportunities that might already be gone by the time they can physically expand their infrastructure. Cloud computing services have fundamentally solved this longstanding challenge. If more data storage or computing capacity is needed, the organization can simply provision more resources from a cloud provider rather than comparing, purchasing, and installing new equipment. Even if a company has primarily on-site infrastructure, they can still use cloud services to temporarily expand capacity until they have an opportunity to get new equipment in place.
State of the Art Performance
One of the challenges of building IT infrastructure is keeping up with the rapid developments in equipment and software. Newer technology offers improved performance, better efficiency, and expanded capabilities. When an organization invests in servers and other hardware, it locks itself into that equipment for several years. Since cloud providers typically operate at a much greater economy of scale, they’re typically replacing and upgrading equipment with the latest generation of hardware, which allows their users to reap the benefits of an upgrade without having to make a massive investment. Cloud data centers usually incorporate the very latest in best practices and resource management, which leads to substantial efficiency savings that can be passed on to cloud customers.
Better Reliability and Security
Since cloud services are easily integrated across platforms, they make data backup and disaster recovery easier than ever. Data can be duplicated and stored in multiple redundant sites to guard against a loss of service. Cloud providers are also far more likely than many small to medium-sized companies to have robust policies and controls in place regarding the handling of data and information security. While there is always some risk with accessing data and services over the public internet, the use of virtual private networks and encryption protocols allow cloud providers to offers substantial security assurances.
A public cloud is operated entirely by a service provider who allows customers to access and use their infrastructure. It is accessed and managed over the internet and apportioned out to customers on a subscription basis that allows them to pay only for what they use. When people refer to the cloud in general terms, they’re usually talking about a public cloud that can be accessed by anyone.
From a technical standpoint, there is little to distinguish a private cloud from a public one. They operate in the same way, but the key difference is who has access. A private cloud is used exclusively by a single organization. In some cases, they set up their own private cloud using their own hardware, which allows employees to access it from anywhere. Private clouds offer an additional layer of security for organizations that need to protect their data and proprietary assets.
A hybrid environment uses specialized middleware to allow data and applications to move between a public and private cloud. It provides organizations with the best of both worlds in terms of flexibility and control. Some companies have such diverse computing needs that they opt for multi-cloud deployments, a more specialized form of hybrid cloud that allows them to access several public cloud computing services through their private network.
Cloud computing has sparked a revolution in the way organizations set up and deliver both products and services over the internet. Computing resources are easier to access than ever before, which has allowed more and more companies to take their innovative projects from concept to reality. By shifting the challenge of building and maintaining complex IT infrastructures over to leading cloud providers who have the resources and expertise to build state-of-the-art data centers, organizations can focus on what they do best and continue to build upon their core business.
About Ernest Sampera
Ernie Sampera is the Chief Marketing Officer at vXchnge. Ernie is responsible for product marketing, external & corporate communications and business development.