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What is Cloud Computing? A Comprehensive Guide

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Explore the transformative benefits of cloud computing: cost savings, scalability, disaster recovery, collaboration, and more!

Cloud computing is defined as an access to a shared pool of configurable computer resources (including software, hardware, data storage, software development tools, networking infrastructure, and more) located in a faraway data center and made available via the internet by a cloud services provider (CSP). The CSP either charges a regular subscription fee or charges customers for their actual consumption of these services.

Types of Cloud Computing models, source: edoxi.com

The advantages of cloud computing over traditional on-premises IT vary based on the specific cloud services you choose. Cloud computing can help you save money on IT expenses by relieving you of the burden of acquiring, installing, configuring, and operating your own on-premises equipment.

Using the cloud, your business may begin utilizing corporate apps within minutes, rather than waiting weeks or months for IT to reply to a request, acquire and configure necessary gear, and install software. This improves agility and time-to-value. Developers and data scientists, in particular, can benefit from the cloud’s ability to give them autonomous access to tools and resources.

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Save time and money on scaling by taking use of the cloud’s elasticity to respond quickly to changes in demand without having to pay for resources that aren’t being used. Your cloud service provider likely has a global network that you can leverage to help get your applications to more people.

Cloud computing can also be used to describe the underlying infrastructure. Some sort of virtualization is used to abstract servers, operating systems, networks, and other IT infrastructure using specialized software so that it can be pooled and divided independently of the underlying hardware. For instance, a physical server can be partitioned into several “virtual” ones.

Because of virtualization, cloud services can make efficient use of their data center infrastructure. In order to provide their end customers with the same level of self-service and agility as that provided by the cloud, several companies have begun using the cloud delivery model for their on-premises infrastructure.

Whether it’s email (via a service like Google Gmail or Salesforce), movies (through services like Netflix), or files (through services like Dropbox), cloud computing is likely something you use every day if you have a computer or mobile device at home or in the workplace. The public cloud market is expected to grow to about USD 600 billion by 2023.

Benefits of Cloud computing 

Software hosted in the cloud has many advantages for businesses of all types, including portability (you can access it from any device with either a native app or a web browser). Users are then able to transfer their data and preferences to other devices with no hitch.

Benefits of cloud computing, source: esds.co

The capabilities of cloud computing extend far beyond just sharing files among different gadgets. Users may access their email from any device and save files to cloud services like Dropbox and Google Drive. It is also feasible to back up one’s music, files, and images via cloud computing services, making them quickly accessible in the event of a hard disk failure.

It has the potential to save large corporations a lot of money. Before cloud computing became an option, businesses had to spend a lot of money on infrastructure and software to handle their data. In place of expensive data centers and IT staffs, businesses may instead rely on reliable Internet connections and have their employees perform their work in the cloud.

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The cloud architecture helps people avoid running out of hard drive room on their computers. Because software is distributed over the internet rather than on physical media like CDs or USB drives, users can update their programs much more quickly. 

For instance, Adobe’s Creative Cloud provides users with access to the company’s software via an online subscription, facilitating the simple installation of bug patches and updates.

Disadvantages of Cloud Computing

There are benefits to using cloud computing, such as increased speed and efficiency, as well as new and exciting developments. When it comes to personal information like medical records and financial transactions, cloud storage has always been fraught with security concerns. 

Even if laws are in place to make cloud services more secure and compliant, this problem persists. The loss of the encryption key renders the encrypted data useless, hence its use should be avoided if at all possible.

Disasters, faulty software, and power outages are just some of the threats that might affect cloud providers’ servers. Because of the nature of cloud computing, disasters as far away as California can affect consumers as close as New York, and a company in Texas can lose data if something brings down its supplier in Maine.

There is a learning curve associated with this technology for both employees and supervisors. Inadvertent errors can spread throughout a system if multiple users access and manipulate data through a single interface.

Most popular cloud computing services

The most popular forms of cloud services are Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS), Platform as a Service (PaaS), and Software as a Service (SaaS), and it is not unusual for a company to employ all three.

What is SaaS (Software as a Service)?

Application software that is hosted in the cloud and accessed by users using a web browser, a dedicated desktop client, or an API that connects with desktop or mobile operating systems is known as software as a service (SaaS). Users of SaaS often pay a subscription fee on a monthly or yearly basis; some services may also provide “pay as you go” pricing based on your actual usage.

Users of a SaaS platform don’t have to worry about coordinating an on-premises upgrade in order to take advantage of new features added by the provider. Because SaaS backs up user data to the cloud with the program, it protects users from losing information in the event of a device failure.

The vast majority of commercial software today is distributed via the software as a service (SaaS) paradigm. This includes everything from niche industry and departmental apps to enterprise-level database and artificial intelligence (AI) systems.

Platform as a Service, or PaaS

Without the high costs, cumbersome management, and limited adaptability of an on-premises platform, PaaS frees developers to focus on writing, testing, and releasing new versions of their software.

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With PaaS, the cloud service provider handles the hosting of all hardware and software components, including but not limited to servers, networks, storage, OSs, middleware, and databases. Using a simple menu, developers can “spin up” the servers and environments required to execute, build, deploy, maintain, update, and scale their applications.

Containers, a type of virtualized computation paradigm intermediate between virtual servers and cloud computing, are a common foundation for modern PaaS platforms. By virtualizing the OS, containers allow programmers to bundle an app with only the OS services it needs to run on any platform without requiring any code changes or additional middleware.

In order to automate the deployment, scaling, load balancing, and other operations associated with container-based applications, Red Hat OpenShift makes use of Docker containers and Kubernetes, an open source container orchestration system.

Infrastructure as a Service, or IaaS 

Infrastructure as a service (IaaS) is a model for delivering core services like as servers, networks, and storage over the internet on a pay-as-you-go basis. With IaaS, customers can expand and contract their use of resources on demand, eliminating the need for costly upfront investments in infrastructure or excess purchasing of resources to handle temporary spikes in demand.  

In contrast to software as a service (SaaS) and platform as a service (PaaS) (and even newer PaaS computing paradigms like containers and serverless), infrastructure as a service gives users granular control over their cloud infrastructure.

When cloud computing first appeared in the early 2010s, IaaS was the most widely adopted approach. It’s still the go-to cloud model for many different kinds of workloads, but SaaS and PaaS adoption rates are skyrocketing.

Computing without servers

Serverless computing, also known as serverless, is a cloud computing model that allows developers to focus solely on their applications’ code and business logic by shifting the burden of managing the underlying server infrastructure (such as provisioning, scaling, scheduling, and patching) to the cloud provider.

Furthermore, serverless executes application code on a per-request basis and automatically scales the underlying infrastructure up or down based on demand. Customers using serverless architectures only ever pay for the resources actually consumed by their applications. 

FaaS, which stands for Function-as-a-Service, is frequently misunderstood as being synonymous with serverless computing. Function-as-a-service enables programmers to trigger the execution of predefined sections of code (called functions) in response to a variety of situations. 

As the code executes, the cloud service provider automatically spins up the necessary hardware, virtual machine operating system, and web server software management and spins it down again after the code has finished executing. When work is initiated, billing begins, and it ends when work is completed.

Categories of Cloud Computing

Public Cloud

The term “public cloud” refers to a specific flavor of cloud computing in which a cloud service provider makes its computing resources available to users over an open network, such as software as a service (SaaS) applications, virtual machines (VMs), bare metal hardware, and even entire enterprise-grade infrastructures and development platforms. These tools could be provided at no cost, or users could be charged a fee for each time they make use of them.

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As a rule, a public cloud service will give its customers with high-bandwidth network connectivity in addition to owning and operating the data centers, hardware, and infrastructure on which their workloads operate.

All users of a public cloud service provider share the same underlying data center infrastructure. Those users can number in the millions in the largest public clouds like Amazon Web Services (AWS), Google Cloud, IBM Cloud, Microsoft Azure, and Oracle Cloud.

Public cloud services are elastic and quickly adaptable, dynamically shifting to meet changing workload demands, which is why many businesses are migrating sections of their computer infrastructure there. Others are drawn to it because of the potential for increased productivity and decreased resource wastage that comes from charging clients based on their actual consumption. There are many who would rather spend less on hardware and internal networks.

Private cloud

A private cloud is a type of cloud service in which the entire cloud architecture and pool of available computing resources is reserved for a single user. Access control, security, and resource customisation are all advantages of on-premises infrastructure that are also present in private clouds, along with the flexibility, scalability, and ease of service delivery that cloud computing is known for.

Typically, a client’s own data center will play host to their private cloud. A private cloud, however, can also be constructed on rented infrastructure located in a remote data center or hosted on the infrastructure of an external cloud service provider.

Private clouds are preferred by many businesses over public ones because they can more easily (or even exclusively) fulfill regulatory compliance needs in this environment. Others prefer private clouds because their workloads involve sensitive information such as patents, social security numbers, medical records, financial records, or customer credit card numbers.

A company that constructs its private cloud in accordance with cloud native principles positions itself favorably to migrate workloads to the public cloud or to run them in a hybrid cloud environment whenever it sees fit.

Hybrid cloud

The term “hybrid cloud” refers to a specific type of cloud computing that combines public and private clouds. In particular, a hybrid cloud integrates an enterprise’s private cloud services with those of a public cloud to form a single, highly adaptable platform on which to execute its applications and workloads.

The purpose of a hybrid cloud is to combine public and private cloud resources with some degree of orchestration between them, allowing for the selection of the most suitable cloud for any given application or workload, as well as the freedom to move workloads between the two clouds as needed. 

This allows the company to achieve its technical and business goals more efficiently and cheaply than it could with either public or private cloud alone.

Multicloud and hybrid multicloud

The term “multicloud” refers to the utilization of multiple clouds from multiple cloud service providers. If you use one vendor for email and another for editing images, you already have a multicloud setup. However, when businesses discuss multicloud, they usually mean utilizing several SaaS, PaaS, and IaaS offerings from multiple major public cloud providers.

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Two or more public clouds and a private cloud environment work together to form a hybrid multicloud. Companies opt for multicloud environments to limit their exposure to single vendors, expand their service offerings, and speed up the adoption of new technologies. But the more clouds you use, the harder it can be to manage the environment, as each cloud has its own management tools, data transmission rates, and security procedures. 

Through a consolidated dashboard, multicloud management tools make it easy to keep track of all of an organization’s cloud resources, from the projects and deployments of the development team to the clusters and nodes being monitored by the operations team and the security team.

Cloud computing security

Organizations have historically been hesitant to adopt cloud services, especially public cloud services, due to security concerns. However, in response to rising customer expectations, the security provided by cloud service providers is quickly overtaking that of on-premises systems. When it comes to cloud security, it’s not the same old routines and staff skillsets that work. 

The following are some recommendations for keeping your cloud data safe:

Data ownership must be clearly defined between private and public third parties, and both the cloud provider and the client share responsibilities for keeping cloud infrastructure secure and for keeping customer data safe.

Encryption of data is essential, both at rest and in transit and while being accessed. The customer must keep complete possession of the security keys and hardware security module. Management of user identities: Both customers and IT staff need complete insight into which users have access to which resources across all of these domains.

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Management by consensus: IT, operations, and security teams should talk to each other and document their processes clearly so that cloud integrations are sustainable and run well. To ensure security and compliance, businesses must first become familiar with all industry-specific compliance regulations. 

Then, implement an active monitoring strategy for all connected systems and cloud services to keep track of data transfers between their various cloud deployments (whether public, private, or hybrid).

Case Studies on the Cloud

It would appear that cloud computing’s applications are boundless, with 25% of businesses aiming to shift all of their apps to cloud within the next year. However, certain endeavors and cloud computing are an IT match made in heaven, even for businesses not considering a complete migration to the cloud.

Since cloud computing offers low-cost redundancy to shield data from system failures and the physical distance needed to restore data and applications in the event of a local outage or disaster, it has always been a natural for disaster recovery and business continuity. Disaster Recovery as a Service (DRaaS) is available from every major public cloud provider.

Cloud computing is used for tasks that necessitate storing and processing massive amounts of data at rapid speeds, but which are beyond the storage and computing capabilities of most enterprises to acquire and operate on-premises. Such instances include:

Big data analytics: Cloud platforms provide scalable and flexible infrastructure to handle massive data sets, enabling organizations to extract valuable insights and make data-driven decisions.

Internet of Things (IoT): Cloud computing supports the massive data processing requirements of IoT devices and applications, allowing organizations to collect, store, and analyze sensor data efficiently.

Artificial intelligence (AI): Particularly in the areas of machine learning and deep learning, cloud computing offers the computational power and resources needed to train and deploy AI models at scale.

Here are a few more cloud computing use cases:

Software Development and Testing: Cloud computing provides an agile and scalable environment for software development and testing. Development teams can leverage cloud platforms to quickly provision development and testing environments, collaborate on code, and streamline the software development life cycle. The cloud also enables the parallel testing of applications across various configurations, operating systems, and devices, improving the quality and speed of software releases.

Website and Application Hosting: Hosting websites and applications in the cloud offers scalability, reliability, and cost-efficiency. Cloud service providers offer a range of hosting options, including virtual machines (VMs), containers, and serverless computing. Organizations can easily scale resources up or down based on demand, ensuring optimal performance during peak traffic periods while only paying for the resources they consume.

Data Backup and Storage: Cloud storage provides a secure and reliable solution for data backup and long-term storage. By storing data in the cloud, organizations can offload the burden of managing on-premises storage infrastructure, reduce the risk of data loss, and ensure data accessibility from anywhere at any time. Cloud storage also offers features like automated backups, versioning, and data replication across multiple regions or data centers for enhanced data protection.

Collaboration and File Sharing: Cloud-based collaboration tools enable teams to work together on projects, share files, and collaborate in real-time, regardless of their physical location. These tools provide features such as document editing, version control, commenting, and task management, fostering teamwork and productivity. Cloud-based file sharing eliminates the need for emailing attachments and ensures that everyone has access to the latest version of shared files.

Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI): Virtual desktop infrastructure allows users to access their desktop environments and applications remotely from any device with an internet connection. Cloud-based VDI solutions provide flexibility, scalability, and centralized management of desktop environments, reducing hardware costs and enhancing remote work capabilities. Users can access their personalized desktops and applications from various devices, while IT administrators can easily manage and update the virtual desktop infrastructure.

Internet-facing Applications and APIs: Cloud platforms offer a scalable and highly available infrastructure for hosting internet-facing applications and exposing APIs. Organizations can leverage the elasticity of cloud resources to handle varying levels of traffic and ensure high performance and availability for their applications. Cloud providers often provide additional services, such as content delivery networks (CDNs) and load balancers, to optimize the delivery and distribution of internet-facing applications.

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Rene Remsik

I'm the founder of AI Trendz, with 7+ years of experience in content creation and writing. I have run a content creation & social media agency since 2023. 
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