What is the Cloud Exactly?
The cloud, which gets its concept from the fact that it functions somewhere beyond the physical realm of your computer’s hard drive, is a vast virtual information bank that stores and manages information, delivers content or services, or runs applications using the internet. In fact, any service or software that runs on the internet as opposed to your computer is considered the cloud, including streaming services, such as Netflix, email services, such as Yahoo Mail, office productivity software, or social media.
Using the cloud, which is actually just a network of servers located worldwide, users can retrieve this information and services online at any hour and from any location using a device that connects to the internet.
Clouds can be public or available to the masses, which is known as public cloud, or they can be private or limited to a single enterprise, also known as a private cloud.
A Brief History of the Cloud
The cloud, though a fairly new concept to us, is actually not new at all. As a matter of fact, the idea to enable users to share a virtual computing experience as a whole came about in 1963, which gave way to MIT’s development of the first virtual machine, also known as the computer.
Soon after, in 1969, this notion was further advanced with the creation of the internet, formerly known as the Intergalactic Computer Network, by psychologist and computer scientist J.C.R. Licklider, which miraculously enabled people from across the globe to interconnect and access information “virtually” from anywhere, proving the concept of virtualization, thus, setting the stage for cloud infrastructure as we know it today.
By the 1970s, the cloud computing infrastructure was expanded upon even more to include virtual machines complete with operating systems capable of supporting basic computing functions, such as processing and storing data and executing applications that were also internet-compatible, which enabled many businesses to capitalize from purchasable internet services.
It wasn’t long before the internet soared in popularity, which eventually paved the way for cloud computing as a business. In fact, by the late 1990s and early 2000s, many notable businesses, such as Google, Amazon, Microsoft, IBM, Apple, and Netflix, were already using the internet to provide various cloud-based services, such as downloadable software programs, applications, and streaming and storage usage, to end-users, which could be accessed via the internet.
Today, it is safe to say the realization of the cloud as it was preconceived is finally here and quickly growing in demand and has since even sparked several different models and deployment strategies to meet the specific needs of various users, providing a myriad of advantages for both consumers and businesses alike, which we will see next.
Why Use the Cloud, Advantages of Cloud Computing?
Saves Disk Space
The main advantage of the cloud is because a vast majority of storage and computing is managed by servers; it helps eliminate the need for computer hard drives and disk space, which helps preserve the memory for greater machine efficiency. It also enables many advanced operations to be carried out on the simplest, most budget-friendly machines, which helps eliminate the need for more upscale devices.
Accessible Any Time and From Any Location
The cloud can be utilized from any location as well as from any device, provided you have an internet connection, which means access to your data is always just a click away. It also means you can begin file work on one computer and then resume your tasks on a different computer, such as an office computer. You can also collaborate with others on the same file.
Store Your Entire Photo Collection
Some cloud drive services enable users to both store and view hundreds of photos, which is undoubtedly what the cloud has become most notorious for these days due to the number of high-profile data breaches involving hacked photos. However, chief evangelist Ian Massingham advises that users can help decrease these risks simply by controlling how their data is protected, which will be discussed in more detail later.
Save On IT Costs
Businesses can shell out big bucks for IT department services, such as maintenance and storage planning, which can cut their costs and ultimately slow their growth. Furthermore, managing your software applications in-house takes up valuable time that can be used towards other important IT tasks. However, using the cloud enables businesses to leave many IT tasks to outside companies who are also equipped with expert skills in tech services, which saves time and lowers costs that can be passed onto customers.
Businesses, as well as consumers, can also purchase many popular versions of software available on-demand, often at lower costs, right from work or home.
Types of Cloud Computing
Cloud computing is described by both its deployment model, as well as the service that it provides, which will be discussed in the next section. But, for now, let’s take a look at the different deployment models, which determine how you will connect to your chosen cloud service.
The public cloud provides lots of storage, and it can also handle various projects at the same, which makes it more available to a wide range of users.
Users simply rent the program and hardware services as opposed to flat out buying the programs and hardware, and the vendor handles all the maintenance, administration, troubleshooting, backups, and capacity planning instead.
Public clouds can be used for personal use, which enables users to easily access and share files while also safeguarding their data, or for business use, using one of the cloud business services.
A private cloud is similar to a public cloud, except it offers more control over privacy and security concerns. It uses private hardware and a cloud network that is not shared by anyone else outside of the company or organization.
The company can also choose if they want their private cloud to be located remotely or on-premise, which provides the company with more physical control over the cloud infrastructure.
Private clouds are often used for emails, some social media platforms, and signing in online.
There is also a community cloud that is shared solely between organizations, such as a government, that can also be located on-premises or off-premises.
Hybrid cloud enables users to use both private and public clouds for the best of both worlds. For instance, the private cloud can be used to store and share information or interact with customers, while the public cloud can be used for less risky tasks.
Types of Cloud Services: SaaS, IaaS, PaaS, and Serverless
There are 4 types of cloud services, including Software as a Service (SaaS), Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS), Platform as a Service (PaaS), and serverless, or Function as a Service (FaaS), which are each designed to provide users with varying degrees of management for greater flexibility and control. Therefore, it is important to understand the differences between each service to help ensure you select the right one for you so you get the most out of your cloud experience.
Saas (Software-as-a-Service), like its name, is the cloud’s largest and most developed service that provides software or a set of applications available in the cloud.
Using this program enables users to forego the traditional route of downloading and then storing bulky software right on their hard drive but instead download it to the cloud drive where it is stored and accessed via the internet, which helps preserve computer memory.
IaaS (Infrastructure-as-a-Service) provides the most basic, or raw, computing services, which means it requires a high level of IT expertise. Therefore, it is most suited for tech companies or those with exceptional IT training.
This service provides a cloud server, or servers, as well as data storage space, for access to computing power but without the hassle of installation and maintenance.
PaaS (Platform-as-a-Service) helps eliminate the need to oversee much underlying hardware and operating tasks associated with running your application, such as software maintenance, capacity planning, and procuring equipment and supplies by enabling businesses to outsource many tasks associated with running their application. This way, users are free to focus on just the deployment of their application.
Using Platform-as-a-Service, businesses can create their own applications and software that can be used on their own or incorporated into their current applications, using various software development technologies, such as Java, .Net, and Python.
Once the application or software has been written, it will be hosted by the service provider, during which time others will have access to it.
Despite its name, serverless computing, also known as Function-as-a-Service (FaaS), does utilize a server. However, since it eliminates the need to physically manage servers to run your code, it is referred to as a serverless service.
Instead, a code is written detailing the exact computing needed to carry out a specific function, and then each time the programmed event occurs, the code prompts the serverless platform to perform the function.
How Big is the Cloud?
The answer to this question remains a mystery partially because many companies are simply not willing to share their true cloud space due to the competition. However, it is estimated that just Amazon, Microsoft, Google, and Facebook alone are capable of transmitting and storing more than 300 petabytes between them each day, which leads many tech gurus to believe that the cloud can reach at least 1 exabyte.
According to one tech guru, this translates to enough space to fit 1,000,000 64 GB iPhone 4s, 1,000,000 Macbook Pro 64 GB hard drives, 1,000,000 5 GB HD movie files, 1, 000,000 4 GB flash drives, 100 million 700 MB 80-minute compact discs, 1 billion 6.1 MB Canon EOS 5D MKII Hi-Res Photo cameras, 1 billion 78 MB Carly Rae Jepsen “Kiss” torrents, 1 billion 3 MB 3 minute MP3 songs, and 1 billion 1.44 MB floppy discs.
How Secure is the Cloud?
Cloud security provides protection similar to IT security systems. This includes the protection of sensitive information, data leakage, and theft. However, because your information is stored online, there’s always the chance that it can be stolen, leaked, wiped, or lost. Furthermore, you are also entrusting your data to outside data centers located in different locations throughout the world, which further increases these risks.
Therefore, it is up to you as a user to control how your data is protected, which begins by selecting a quality cloud provider. In fact, though all companies that use cloud services are held to strict standards, which means, they are required to have strict measures in place to safeguard against malicious threats, they are not created equal.
As a matter of fact, upon further research, you will find that some cloud providers are taking extra measures to protect your data. For instance, many companies are now utilizing data encryption, such as sharding, to increase their level of security. Sharding separates each data file into individual clusters. Each cluster is then encrypted individually and then stored separately. This way, if someone gains unauthorized access to your data, the hacker will only have access to random chunks of data. Therefore, be sure to inquire about if as well as what type of encryption the cloud provider uses before storing and sharing your data.
Furthermore, reports show that most major data breaches that have occurred recently involved internal databases and not the cloud. Therefore, many companies are also allowing users to manage their encryption keys to help prevent anyone from inside from gaining access to it.
You might also consider using a provider that enables you to store your private data in a private cloud and all other data in a public cloud, also known as a hybrid cloud.
Lastly, cloud providers understand that security is a major concern when it comes to customers utilizing the cloud; therefore, they are always improving their security measures, so continue to push the demands for tighter security, and don’t jump in until you feel secure.
11 Stats Proving The Value Of The Cloud
- It is predicted that in the near future, cloud use will grow because all of your music, documents, and pictures, will be conveniently stored in the cloud, which will enable them to be accessed everywhere we go, no matter the computer type or hard drive size. In fact, stats show the demand for cloud will grow at least 18% just this year alone.
- The main reason for the increase in demand for the cloud is affordability. In fact, stats show that mid-size and small businesses report that it is 40% more cost-effective to utilize cloud-based services than to maintain their own system in-house.
- 74% of tech companies say cloud computing is already making a measurable impact on their business.
- 25% of businesses report favoring the cloud for its storage, which helps save paper, storage, and space on their hard drive usually consumed by bulky customer billing, inventory, and more.
- 82% of companies that use the cloud reported experiencing increased efficiency, which helped them save money, which enabled them to pass the savings onto customers.
- The typical employee utilizes at least 36 cloud-based services in their daily workday, including file sharing, collaborative tasks, and content sharing. There are over 210 cloud services for collaboration tasks alone, which can be used to help simplify employee tasks.
- The average enterprise employs about 1,400 cloud-based apps.
- 57% of companies report using the cloud for improved customer support and continuity, which is especially important for small businesses building their brand.
- Cloud computing statistics show that Amazon experienced 3.5 billion in revenues in 2017 from its AWS cloud computing services, which is an increase from the previous year.
- More than 90% of businesses reported experiencing improved security and easier government compliance after switching to the cloud.
- Most consumers are already using some form of cloud service and aren’t even aware of it. If you use Google Drive, Instagram, Facebook, Turbo Tax, or even Gmail, you are using a cloud-based application that sends and stores your personal data to a cloud-hosted server for later use.
Ultimately, cloud computing enables both businesses and consumers to access software and storage on the internet as a service, which helps save costs by enabling users to only pay for the services they acquire as opposed to having to purchase the right equipment and software, which also often requires additional costs for installation and maintenance, including upgrades and data security. In the meantime, businesses can also choose their level of service based on their particular needs, including memory space, storage, number of users, and more, to further suit their budget and help save costs. The key is to ensure you choose a good cloud provider, meaning they have the flexibility, scalability, backup plan, and cybersecurity you need, which can be done simply by doing your homework.