In both business and technology, terminology is frequently used without a full understanding of what it means. “Cloud computing” , “The cloud” etc are perfect examples.
People talk about the cloud often without fully understanding what the technology is. It’s understandable. The word “cloud” all by itself suggests something nebulous and ethereal.
But the cloud is neither of those things. It is simply an efficient and cost-effective way to store and run programs and data through outsourcing.
In simple terms, a “cloud” service is a data-center infrastructure connected to the Internet that offers compute, software, data processing and other Information Technology functions to clients (who rent these services from the cloud provider).
Here, we will discuss the true nature of cloud computing and the various forms of this application of information technology.
Table of Contents
- What is Cloud Computing?
- Private Cloud
- Public Cloud
- Hybrid Cloud
- Community Cloud
- Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS)
- Software as a Service (SaaS)
- Platform as a Service (PaaS)
- Storage Cloud Service (SCS)
- Database Cloud Service (DCS)
- The Benefits of Cloud Computing for Business
What is Cloud Computing?
To understand the cloud, we should understand the purpose of all technology, which is to reduce the burden of work.
The burden of work comes from having our own technology infrastructure, the space required to store this infrastructure, the chore of maintaining it and the expertise required in human resources to run this infrastructure.
With cloud computing, we outsource all of those functions by hiring a service provider who will store our data, programs, and the compute resources that they are rendered on. The service provider houses, powers, and maintains servers where apps and data are stored.
To clarify, consider the standard computer desktop consisting of a tower, a screen monitor, keyboard, and mouse.
That computer tower consumes power to run, takes up space on or under the desk, must be cleaned, and occasionally repaired.
Now, imagine we took that computer tower, moved it to your neighbor’s house, and ran some wires across the lawn to connect to your peripherals.
What you have now is a monitor, mouse, keyboard, and maybe a printer. But you also have additional space on and around your desk. For a small fee, your neighbor will take good care of your desktop computer and perhaps even perform security functions.
Now suppose that the time you will save taking care of that computer, the money you will no longer need to spend on its maintenance, and the space you can now use to place other things on your desk are more valuable to you than the service fee you pay your neighbor.
This is the essential value proposition of cloud computing, and it might be beneficial to think of it as “computing as a service.” This will make more sense as we move into the various types of cloud computing.
Of course, the simplistic example of a desktop computer given above might not show the true potential of cloud computing. However, in larger environments and in more complex IT requirements, renting cloud computing services makes much more sense with many advantages.
In the business world, there are mainly eight types of cloud computing, each with its own strengths, weaknesses, and specialties. Let’s discuss them below.
More often than not, a private cloud will be on-premise data center infrastructure housed behind a firewall and available only to members of a specific organization.
The key attribute of the private cloud is that access is limited to those who are authorized to use it. It is recommended for businesses with very stringent regulatory requirements, those that frequently deal with sensitive customer data, and those who are the targets of industrial espionage.
Private cloud computing comes with built-in stability that helps ensure the ongoing integrity of your apps, files, and data. It offers greater reliability with a dedicated IT team with a duty to maintain the infrastructure.
This means that you not only have Capex costs in running the hardware and software of the Private Cloud, you also have Opex costs in the engineers and IT employees required to run and maintain the private cloud infrastructure.
The public cloud typically offers an enormous amount of available compute resources (CPU, memory, data storage etc).
For businesses, this translates into ease of scalability. The greatest strength of the public cloud is its ability to make collaboration over great distances and disparate locations easy. For this reason, it is highly recommended for collaboration and for software development.
With public cloud computing, you gain access to a lower-cost model since it is supported by multiple clients (multi-tenant environment).
Scalability and reliability will improve. But in comparison to the other cloud computing models, the biggest advantage is ease of sharing and collaboration.
One of the newer forms of cloud computing, the hybrid Cloud combines the advantages of the public cloud with those of the private cloud.
The hybrid cloud usually consists of both on-premises private cloud systems which are interconnected with public cloud services. Those with the correct credentials can easily log in and join the hybrid cloud.
This form of cloud computing is recommended for organizations that must balance the needs of strict privacy regulations with the heavy lifting of big data analytics on public cloud resources.
One of the biggest advantages of the hybrid cloud is cost savings. But more importantly, the hybrid model makes it easy to work with contractors and bring new talent into your project or business. It gives you greater control over how work is done and by who.
In this iteration of the cloud computing concept, a collaborative, multi-user platform is set up where multiple individuals or organizations use and access the same networks and the same servers to run the same or similar applications.
This can be imagined as similar to an apartment building where different tenets shelter within the same structure, but they retain their privacy and autonomy.
In the community cloud, clients of the same cloud computing provider are usually operating within the same field or industry.
Most often used for private purposes, community cloud computing does have business applications. For example, content creators can use a community cloud for easier access to clients.
This is similar to a hair salon where many hairdressers work under the same roof but are all private businesses of their own with their own incomes and overhead.
With a community cloud, you get openness and impartiality. It eliminates dependency on service providers while skirting the privacy issues associated with public and private clouds.
A community cloud is both flexible and scalable but the owner has to bear the cost and burden of both. Community cloud-based systems are also known to benefit from greater ease in compliance, and security as well as availability and reliability.
Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS)
This type of cloud computing offers full computing functionality for a business client with generalized computing needs.
IaaS is a generalized cloud computing service with which the client can do whatever he needs or wants to do. The client can implement their own software in the cloud or in-house at their discretion.
Basically, the IaaS provider rents compute resources (CPU, RAM, Storage) to clients who can do anything they want with these resources (e.g install their own software such as Databases, Webservers etc).
To use IaaS for software development, the client organization would need to deploy their entire software stack above the layer of visualization.
This goes for runtime, middleware, as well as other peripheral applications. However, a development company or organization with very specific business processes would do better with a PaaS computing model, which we discuss below.
The advantages of IaaS include cost savings, scalability, and flexibility. With IaaS functionality, producers can bring their products to market more rapidly due to lower overhead and set up complexities.
IaaS offers Disaster Recovery (DR), Business Continuity (BC), and high availability for better business growth. One of the most impressive benefits of IaaS is that it can continue running even if a server goes down.
Software as a Service (SaaS)
In this form of cloud computing, a host uses his hardware to store and run a program that the client accesses via the Internet.
This software is provided on a subscription basis. In most cases, the user will access the software through an Internet browser, but specific portals can be made available.
SaaS has many valuable business applications. For example, a client company may turn to SaaS providers for email, file sharing, calendars, customer relations management, human resources, accounting software and much more.
SaaS was one of the first differentiated forms of cloud computing to emerge. For a large organization, SaaS offers great freedom from the task of updating a piece of software.
Before SaaS, every machine in an office would have to individually have its various programs updated from time to time. With SaaS, the service provider updates the software when needed and all of its users get the updated version at once.
As with every form of cloud computing, SaaS also saves the client the wear and tear on their machines that comes with processing the functions of a program in-house. Once again, this saves the client physical space, security concerns, and the time and cost of repairs and maintenance.
Platform as a Service (PaaS)
Similar to IaaS, PaaS is a cloud computing model that enables specific types of businesses to access the tools they need to provide their product or service to their clients.
For example, in the case of a software developer, PaaS delivers a complete platform including the hardware and software for developing, operating, and managing applications which are optimized to write lines of code and render software products.
In a PaaS format, the infrastructure is outsourced to the cloud and a dedicated server designed to meet the client’s functionality needs.
PaaS provides a remote computing infrastructure that is optimized for the needs of the client whether that is developing software, organizing data, creating content, crunching numbers, drafting architectural designs, and much more.
PaaS makes it possible for businesses that would ordinarily require a large amount of physical space to be fully fleshed out within much smaller accommodations.
For example, a newsroom before the age of computers would take up an entire city block. At the start of the information age, such a business would need the space of an office suite. Today, with PaaS, an entire media compound can be run and rendered in the space of a small house.
PaaS can be done via a private, public, or hybrid depending on the nature and needs of the organization. Like IaaS, PaaS offers reduced time to benefit and reduced time to bring products and services to market.
The costs are lower than traditional computing. Scaling and integration are more straightforward, and upgrades are simple to implement.
Storage Cloud Service (SCS)
One of the most straightforward forms of cloud computing, SCS enables you to store files on the host server. Rather than storing documents, images, forms, data, or whatever it is you need to store locally, SCS gives you the ability to do so with a reduced burden on the cloud.
This simple service can be essential to companies that generate or buy huge amounts of data or statistical information that must be studied, formatted, and formalized.
It could be that your local hard drives are running low on available space. You could go through the painful and laborious process of sorting out what information you need most and throwing the rest away, or you could entrust your stored data to a SCS provider.
Another important benefit of SCS is your SCS provider has a duty to supply security and availability services for your stored files and objects.
Once your files are safely stored in the SCS server, you can easily access them using any terminal, including a smartphone or tablet. Files and images stored on an SCS server can be used in a much more agile fashion since the remote server is doing all of the rendering.
The most noticeable advantage of SCS is the ease of access to your files and objects. But security is likely the most important benefit, as long-term storage of files done privately is the most significant contributor to lost files.
You also get the benefit of outsourcing security, which is often best done by cybersecurity professionals.
Database Cloud Service (DCS)
Like a traditional database, a cloud database is a library of data. This data can be structured or unstructured.
A DCS service will be stored on a public, private, or hybrid computing platform. In many regards, a DCS asset functions much in the same way as an in-house server with the exception that space requirements, security, power, and maintenance needs are all outsourced to the DCS provider.
DCS users usually first notice enhanced elasticity and scalability. DCS servers are optimized to make the most of additional resources when needed, enabling organizations to ride out turbulent processing demands with zero to little reductions in the quality of service.
Cost savings is another important advantage, associated with all forms of cloud computing. But with DCS, companies have the flexibility of choosing affordable monthly subscription services that can be tailored to their needs and budget.
Some examples of Database Cloud Services include Amazon DynamoDB and RDS, MongoDB Atlas, Oracle Database service etc.
The Benefits of Cloud Computing for Business
For the private user, the benefits of cloud computing are lower costs, better resources, and less hassle. But for the purposes of a full-scale enterprise, the potential advantages are exponential.
94% of businesses reported an improvement in security outcomes after switching to the cloud. This is an instance where the benefits are compounding. Because you save money by leveraging the cloud, and because it boosts security- the result is a chain reaction of cost reduction.
20% of businesses report that they turned to the cloud to save overhead. Not only does this computing model save you on the cost of infrastructure, but the returns on your investment will also improve.
We’ve already described how this less expensive model saves companies in loss prevention, but this savings reverberation works in multiple ways.
With traditional systems, expansion and alteration mean physical renovation to the building you house your business in. This costs you time and money. With cloud computing, all the physical barriers to growth and optimization are removed.
With the burden on your hardware outsourced to a remote infrastructure, you will find that applications that previously needed a full-sized desktop to run on can now be accessed and used on mobile computing devices.
For online merchants, it makes sense to use the same mobile websites their customers use for a host of technical and psychological reasons.
Ease of Collaboration
The difference between meeting timelines and missing them often comes down to the time it takes to complete a basic communication. Cloud computing models make collaboration easy, breaking down physical barriers to group productivity.
Often overlooked, when disaster strikes, it can mean the end of entire enterprises. But with cloud computing, you benefit from remote servers.
The most competitive providers choose locations with few seasonal concerns such as flooding and they harden their infrastructure against fire, flooding, and other acts of nature.