What is cloud computing?

The rise of the cloud

Cloud computing is a buzzword with a host of different meanings. Some see it as a method for delivering information technology (IT) services, whereas others view it as a direct way to connect a server. In order to provide clarity to the matter, the following breaks down cloud computing and why it has become so popular.

What is cloud computing?

At a basic level, cloud computing consists of storing and obtaining data and programs over the web rather than on a computer’s hard drive. The cloud is simply a metaphor for the internet. Instead of storing files on proprietary hardware, the cloud provides a way to save data on a remote device. The purpose of cloud computing is to take the weight of processing data off the shoulders of the device and onto a cluster of computers in cyberspace. Major examples of cloud computing include Google Drive, Apple iCloud, Amazon Cloud Drive, and hybrid services like Box, Dropbox and SugarSync.

Different types

Not all cloud computing infrastructures are created equal, however. Instead, they primarily consists of three services: software as a service (SaaS), platform as a service (PaaS) and infrastructure as a service (IaaS).

SaaS is the most popular cloud service available, which involves the licensure of software on a subscription basis; although, many licenses are offered as a pay-as-you-go service or on-demand. Most SaaS can run on a browser. Common SaaS apps used by companies include Salesforce, Google Apps, Gmail, Office365 and Dropbox.

PaaS is arguably the most complex among the services. Similar to SaaS, PaaS provides a platform that software can be developed and deployed atop of. The main difference between SaaS and PaaS is the latter is a platform for designing software that is launched on the web instead of delivering software online.

IaaS is a process that involves deploying network services through IP-based connectivity as part of an on-demand service. Rather than invest in software and services, users are able to secure resources using an on-demand service. In addition, clients can use IaaS based on consumption similar to an electric bill. Some of the service providers that offer IaaS include Amazon Web Services (AWS), Microsoft Azure, Google Cloud and Navisite.

Benefits

According to research conducted by business management consultant firm Forrester, the cloud computing market is expected to reach $191 billion by the year 2020. There are a myriad of reasons for this explosive growth. For one, cloud computing cuts the cost of having to purchase, install, manage and update proprietary hardware at data centers. In addition, cloud computing provides services automatically, provisioning large amounts of computing resources in a short amount of time. Cloud computing services are also scalable, allowing IT professionals to allocate the appropriate amount of resources, from storage to bandwidth. Finally, major cloud computing services that run on a global network of secure data centers provide reduced latency for applications and economies of scale.

Drawbacks

As with any budding technology, cloud computing isn’t without its drawbacks. Security can be an issue for companies leveraging public clouds, especially as it pertains to sensitive data. While encryption is able to shield important information, the data disappears if the encryption key is lost. In addition, services managed by cloud computing businesses can be subject to natural disasters and power outages, losing important data in return. Moreover, differences among vendor systems can make users unable to move from one cloud to the next, resulting in what is infamously known as vendor lock-in.

For an in-depth look at cloud computing infrastructure, check out the video below.

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