If you are reading this article, you have probably read or heard about cloud computing. Cloud computing has been one of the hottest topics on the internet for more than one decade now. The current market size of cloud computing services is valued to be at around $396 billion. As more and more people rely on the internet to do their day-to-day tasks, the cloud computing market is bound to grow.
In today’s article, I will share everything you need to know about computing and why it matters. We shall also discuss some of the challenges that need to be addressed to make this technology accessible to everyone.
What is cloud computing?
Cloud computing refers to the practice of using remote servers (very powerful computers) to manage, process, and store data instead of your local computer. You will still need a computer to access the cloud, but this time it will only be used to display information, but the actual computing is done on the remote servers.
Most software developers now prefer building applications that run on the cloud instead of traditional desktop applications. Some of the popular examples of cloud applications include; Gmail, Slack, Salesforce suite of applications, Office 365, Google Docs, Dropbox, Adobe Creative Cloud, Microsoft Power BI, and many more.
Yes, some of these applications can be installed on your computer as desktop apps, but the entire computing is done on the cloud and not the local machine. So, accessing these apps will require an internet browser like Google Chrome, Safari, or Firefox. That means if you don’t have an internet connection, you will not be able to use cloud applications.
Cloud computing delivery models
Cloud computing is divided into three delivery models, including Infrastructure as a Service, Platform as a Service, and software as a service. Let’s look at what each of these means with relevant examples.
1. Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS)
IaaS is a cloud computing delivery model that provides computing infrastructure, including physical computing hardware, networking infrastructure, and storage services over the internet. With this model, the user is given access to computing resources to deploy their applications or store data. Users are also responsible for installing, managing, and updating the operating system and all the software required to deploy and manage their applications or store data.
This cloud computing delivery model is suitable for users that have advanced skills and experience in managing and configuring servers. IaaS is best for professionals, small businesses, and large enterprises that want to deploy apps or store data to be accessed via the web. The popular IaaS platforms include;
- Amazon Web Services (AWS) – the largest
- Microsoft Azure – the second largest
- Google Computer Engine (GCE) – the third largest
- IBM cloud
All these platforms provide different services, and the choice of which one to use should largely depend on the particular service you need to use, the ecosystem of apps you are already using, and your budget. With these providers, you can also decide to pay for computing resources for a certain period or based on the resources your application or data utilizes.
2. Platform as a Service (PaaS)
PaaS is a delivery computing model that enables individual developers and companies to create, host and deploy applications without having to worry about the infrastructure. With this delivery model, users do not have to worry about the operating systems, software updates, storage, or Infrastructure like it is with IaaS; these are taken care of by the service provider.
These platforms are suitable for developers or companies that are seeking to develop and deploy apps without having to take care of software installations and doing any sort of hardware customization. PaaS platforms also make it easy for developers to collaborate on projects.
Some of the popular examples of PaaS include the following;
- Google App Engine
- Windows Azure
- SAP Cloud
- IBM Cloud Foundry
The focus of all these platforms is to offer individual developers and companies the necessary tools they need to build and deploy their applications.
3. Software as a Service (SaaS)
SaaS is a cloud computing delivery model where service providers host applications on their servers and make them available to end-users via the internet. End users access these applications through their browsers. However, some of the apps also have desktop and mobile applications, making their user experience even much better.
With SaaS, the service provider manages all the technical issues such as software updates, security, privacy, data storage, etc. The user doesn’t have to deal with any technical issues or configurations. This takes away the burden from the end-users, so all their time is spent using the software to do productive work and not making configurations.
Popular examples of SaaS applications include the following;
- Google WorkSpace
- Office 365
- Zoho Suite
These platforms’ focus is to give their end-users the best user experience by ensuring the software is well optimized and available at all times.
Why does cloud computing matter?
If you are still wondering why cloud computing has been a hot topic in the last decade, this section is for you. Cloud computing has become popular because of the many advantages it has over running applications and storing data on local machines. Let’s discuss some of these advantages;
1. It is cost-effective for businesses
Instead of having to invest in strong computing hardware, businesses can now deploy their applications and store data on the cloud. Running apps on the cloud is cheaper because you have a choice of only paying for the hardware resources you need. You also won’t have to deal with the maintenance aspects of the hardware like is with on-premise infrastructure.
Another reason that makes cloud computing cheaper for businesses is the fact that they don’t have to hire a lot of IT technicians and managers to handle the technical issues of the on-premise infrastructure. If you are storing data or running your applications on the cloud, all you need cloud engineer or someone that has deep knowledge about how the cloud works, more if you are using an IaaS platform.
But with SaaS and PaaS, most of the tasks can be handled by the end-users as long as they have the basic computer skills and an understanding of how cloud applications work.
2. Better performance
Platforms like AWS and Microsoft Azure have very powerful servers that will boost the performance of your applications. For instance, AWS gives users access to up CPU 64 CPU cores and up to 24TB of RAM. These platforms also give you the option of always upgrading the computing hardware to boost the performance of your applications.
Achieving this kind of performance with on-premise Infrastructure will require to invest huge amounts of money in computing hardware and hiring experts to do the required configurations. So, if you are looking at getting the best out of your application, you are better off using cloud resources than investing in on-premise infrastructure.
Another important thing to note is the fact that IaaS platforms also give users the option to only pay for hardware resources they are utilizing. For instance, if the number of users accessing your application goes up, your app is given access to more CPU cores and RAM to ensure all the users get stable performance. When users reduce, the extra cores and RAM are terminated to minimize costs. This is a cost-effective model that doesn’t compromise performance.
3. Faster development and deployment of apps
With cloud computing, developers can use PaaS providers to create and deploy apps much faster because they don’t have to deal with hardware or software configurations. Not having to worry about technical issues on the server-side gives developers and other creators peace of mind and enough time to focus on building and deploying their applications.
4. It eases collaboration
The covid19 pandemic has made it evident that cloud computing is one of the most valuable innovations in the last couple of decades. Businesses have managed to continue operations even when their workers are not physically present at their physical premises thanks to cloud collaboration tools like Slack, Office 365, Google WorkSpace, and many more.
With these tools, workers can remotely have meetings, share files, and collaborate on projects in a seamless manner. Without cloud computing, remote collaboration would almost be impossible.
If your business or an organization you work for has ever deployed apps on their local servers, you should have noticed a couple of times in a year when the application was off due to maintenance or technical faults. Only big corporations have the money to invest in a sophisticated computing infrastructure that can minimize this downtime.
However, with cloud computing, downtime is extremely minimized to a level where most users never experience downtime throughout the year. For instance, the uptime of AWS is 99.95%, Azure is at 99.99%, and that of Google Computer Engine is at 99.95%. This level of reliability cannot be reached with on-premise Infrastructure.
6. Unlimited storage space
With cloud services, you can store as many files as you wish if you have the budget. Most data storage service providers like Dropbox and Google Drive allow users to always upgrade to more storage space with just a few clicks. The beauty of cloud storage is that you access your files anywhere as long as you have internet and a computing device.
7. More secure
If you store your data on the cloud, it will be much safer from hackers and malware than on-premise Infrastructure. Cloud platforms like AWS, Azure, and GCE invest billions of dollars annually in cybersecurity. For instance, Microsoft hires over 3,500 cybersecurity experts to ensure its cloud platforms are safe from any form of malware attack and hackers.
Trying to match the security level of these cloud platforms will require huge investments that most small businesses and startups cannot afford. So, if you are looking for a safe place to store your data, you are better off choosing a cloud storage platform than using on-premise storage hardware.
Disadvantages of cloud computing
Despite having so many benefits, cloud computing still has several drawbacks. Some of these include;
1. It requires a stable internet connection
Accessing your applications deployed on the cloud requires stable and fast internet. If you are in an area that doesn’t have good internet coverage, you will always have issues using cloud services. There is also some latency, especially if you are using older internet generations like 3G and 2G.
2. Privacy violation by some providers
There are some cloud storage providers that scan their user data due to government policies or for their own benefit. So, if you have very sensitive data, you will be safer storing it locally than trusting a cloud storage service provider. For instance, providers like Google, Dropbox, and Microsoft scan all the photos on their cloud storage platforms to look for CSAM content.
3. Cloud storage is expensive in the long run
Storing data on the cloud gives you the convenience of accessing it wherever you go. However, it is more expensive to store data on the cloud in the long term. For instance, the average cost for getting 1TB storage on the cloud is about $10 per month, making it $120 a year. On the other hand, the average price of a good 1TB HDD is about $50.
Cloud storage should be utilized for only sensitive data you are scared of losing or data you want to access remotely.
Cloud computing was a revolutionary invention that has completely changed the way we use applications and store data. It has many benefits over using on-premise Infrastructure, which has prompted several businesses to migrate their applications and data from local machines to the cloud.
However, like any other technology, cloud computing has its drawbacks that need to be addressed if this technology is to be utilized by everyone. The long-term cost of cloud storage and the fact that you need fast internet to get the best out of cloud services are some of the major challenges that users of cloud computing services face today.