Cloud computing is a widespread word nowadays in the digital world. I am sure you come across this term. Ever wondered what it is? Well, cloud computing is a method for storing and accessing programs and data over the internet instead of your computer’s hard-drive.

Remember using the cloud symbol for depicting the internet in a diagram?  The cloud is used as a metaphor for the internet to explain how remote servers can be used to access data and services.

Cloud computing deals with delivery of hosted services over the internet. It allows different organizations to consume a compute resource, like a virtual machine (VM), storage or application as a utility. They don’t need to build and maintain computing infrastructures oneself!

Cloud is the buzzword nowadays. So why not know more about it? In this article, you will come across what a cloud is (definitely not the one in the sky), how it works, its characteristics, benefits as well as different models of cloud computing and its examples.

Let’s get started.

What exactly is the cloud?

The ‘cloud’ can be explained as to how remote servers or networks can be accessed to store and manage data using an internet connection. In more simpler terms, it is a place other than your device for keeping information and applications.

Earlier, when there were no cloud storage services, we used to save our files and records in the local hard drive of our computer.

We required a USB key to transfer data from one device to other. Sometimes, we even mailed it to ourselves for opening them on another machine!

What cloud is not?

Cloud computing is not about your hard-drive. Storing files or running programs from the hard drive refers to local storage and computing.

In cloud computing, you need to access your data via the network (mostly internet) and can have information synced with other data sources over the web.

The cloud is also not about possessing a dedicated NAS or network attached storage hardware or server at home.

Also, keeping data on a home or office network is not considered as utilizing the cloud.

Private cloud sounds similar but it is much more than just storing data on an office network.

Cloud computing can be practiced anywhere, anytime with the facility of an online connection!

What are the benefits of using the cloud?

Cloud computing is advantageous for both businesses and end-users in several ways. It helps you in setting up the virtual office with the flexibility of managing your business anytime, anywhere.

It makes data access easier to a great extent!

Let’s take a look at its benefits.

Elasticity

Organizations can scale up or down based on the needs of computing. Cloud computing eliminates the requirement for massive investment in local infrastructure and purchase of expensive resources.

Instead, your cloud service provider can help you out in this regard and also, using cloud helps you in devoting more time at work instead of managing resources all the time.

Business continuity

Keeping your data secured and protected under any circumstance is a crucial aspect of maintaining business.

Whether it is a power failure, natural calamity or any other issue, you can ensure that your data is safe and sound with cloud computing.

Quick access to your data helps you to regain your activities faster and reduces any downtime and loss of productivity.

Cost reduction

Switching to the cloud can minimize your cost of maintaining and managing the IT systems. Using the resources of your cloud computing service provider instead of buying expensive equipment can help you decrease the operating costs as well.

This is because 

     The charges of system upgrades, new hardware and software will be included in your contract.

     No need to pay for expert staff.

     Energy consumption costs will be decreased.

     There will be fewer time delays.

Self-service provisioning

With cloud computing, you no longer need experts or IT administrators to manage your compute resources.

Instead, it enables end-users to spin the resources for nearly any kind of workload on demand.

Collaboration efficiency

While working on a project with employees and contractors across different geographic locations, you can use cloud computing to provide them the access to the same file.

You may even select a cloud computing model for a smoother way to share the records with your advisers.

Also, more flexibility in work practices of employees is facilitated by cloud computing.

Whether at home, on holiday or on the way to or back from office, you can access your data if you have an internet connection. While off-site, you may also connect quickly to the virtual office.

Pay-per-use

Compute resources are measured at a granular level. So, users can pay only for the workloads and resources they use.

What are different cloud computing deployment models?

Cloud computing services can be of three types:

     Private

     Public

     Hybrid

Besides this trio, another model called multi-cloud model is rapidly growing in popularity.

Private cloud services

This model provides the versatility and convenience of the cloud. They are delivered from the data center of a business to the internal users.

Private cloud services also manage and control the local data centers and look after their security.

Internal users may or may not be charged for services via IT chargeback. Popular private cloud technologies and vendors include VMware and OpenStack.

Public cloud services

Here, a third-party cloud service provider provides the cloud service over the internet. There may be long-term contracts for many services, but typically, these services are sold on demand, by minute or hour.

Users have to pay only for the CPU cycles and the storage or bandwidth consumed.

Amazon Web Services (AWS), Microsoft Azure, IBM, Oracle and Google Cloud Platform are some famous public cloud service providers.

Hybrid cloud services

This is an integrated model which utilizes both public and private clouds to perform different functions.

Organizations can run sensitive applications or mission-critical workloads on the private cloud and use the public cloud to deal with workload bursts or spikes in demand.

Hybrid cloud service model aims at delivering a unified, automated and scalable environment with significant benefits of the public cloud infrastructure, besides controlling mission-critical data at the same time.

Multicloud model

This model refers to the use of multiple infrastructures as a service provider. It facilitates applications to move between different cloud providers or operate concurrently across various cloud providers.

Companies are rapidly adopting the multi-cloud model to take advantage of more competitive pricing from a specific provider as well as to diminish the risk of a cloud service outage.

What are the types of cloud computing?

Cloud computing can be categorized into three subdivisions:

     Infrastructure as a service (IaaS)

     Platform as a service (PaaS)

     Software as a service (SaaS)

Infrastructure as a service (IaaS)

IaaS provides a virtual server instance and storage. It also offers APIs which aids users in shifting workloads to a VM.

Users are also equipped with storage capacity, and they can access and configure it as per their choice.

In addition to customized instances, IaaS providers give small, medium, large, extra-large and memory-optimized instances as well. AWS is one such example.

Platform as a service(PaaS)

PaaS is used for general software development. Most of its providers host the software only after it is developed.

They host the tools on their infrastructure and users can access them over the internet using web portals, APIs or gateway software.

SalesForce.com, AWS Elastic BeanStalk, Oracle and Google App Engine are popular PaaS providers.

Software as a service (SaaS)

It is a distribution model which provides software applications over the internet. These applications are usually called web services.

Users can access them from anywhere with a computer or mobile having an internet connection.

Microsoft Office 365 is a typical example of SaaS and is known for its productivity and email services.

Lot of products like ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning), SCM (Supply Chain Management), HR (Human Resource), CRM (Customer Relationship Management) softwares are especially popular on the cloud as SaaS.

Most popular SaaS cloud vendors are Oracle, Salesforce etc.

How does the cloud work?

To understand how cloud computing works, we shall divide it into two parts – frontend and backend. The internet connects them.

The frontend comprises of the computer user or client. The backend refers to the cloud section of the system. It is not necessary for cloud computing systems to have a same user interface.

Multiple computers, servers, and data storage systems constitute the cloud or the backend of the technology.

A cloud computing system can consider any computer program, from data processing to video games. However, each application shall have its dedicated server.

Internet connection is vital for the clients to use the cloud. A cloud computing system stores all critical data on the internet servers instead of distributing copies of the files to individual client devices.

For example, a video-sharing cloud service like Netflix streams data across the internet to a player application on the viewing device instead of delivering DVDs to every single customer.

Also, games like Xbox Live service can be obtained online only.

What are examples of services using the Cloud?

Some of the popular services using the cloud are listed below.

     DropBox

It is a famous file hosting service. You can easily access your data with its help from any place. 

     Google Drive

Google Drive is similar to DropBox. It also amalgamates all other Google tools like Google Docs, Gmail, etc. 

     Microsoft OneDrive

This resembles Google Drive and integrates Microsoft applications like Word and Excel. 

     Spotify

Spotify is a music streaming service. Thousand of songs are stored in the cloud, and anyone with a subscription can access them anytime, anywhere. 

     Netflix

This is a top-rated TV show and movie streaming service with a massive library of titles stored on the servers. Just pay a monthly subscription fee and stream them from the cloud (their servers).

Conclusion

The cloud is generally used as a metaphor for the internet. It is about how remote servers or networks can be accessed to store and manage data or accessing applications over network (primarily internet).

Cloud providers are competitive, and they continuously expand their services to distinguish themselves.

Cloud computing not only minimizes operation costs in your business, but it also helps in maintaining the business continuity, increases collaboration between employees across different locations, controls elasticity of business, etc.

There are different kinds of cloud computing models like a public, private, hybrid and multi-cloud, which can be deployed according to the demand.

Different types of cloud computing like IaaS, PaaS, and SaaS have evolved which aid in using infrastructure, platform, and software as a utility respectively.

Netflix, DropBox, Google Drive, etc are some famous examples of services using the cloud.

 

The cloud is used as a metaphor for the internet to explain how remote servers can be used to access data and services. Some of popular Cloud Services are IaaS, PaaS and SaaS.