What is Cloud Computing? A beginners guide
Have you ever wondered how your files magically appear on all your devices or how you can access software and data from anywhere? That’s because of a buzzword that has been trending for last 2-3 years, cloud computing. In this article, we’ll discuss cloud computing, sharing its elements in depth. So, read on to learn practical insights into this essential aspect of modern technology.
Don’t worry if you are a non-tech person, this article is a complete guide for beginners on cloud computing and its basics.
- Hosting: Providing space and services for storing and managing websites, applications, or data on a server accessible via the Internet.
- Server: A computer system that provides resources, services, or data to other computers or devices on a network. It fulfils the request of a user requesting any data or information through a client.
- Client: Client is a computer from which the information or resources were requested.
- Virtualization: Creating virtual versions of computing resources such as servers, storage, or networks to maximise efficiency and flexibility.
- Virtual Machine: Spftware-based instance of a physical machine server in a emulated environment using Guest OS. It runs on a hypervisor.
- Container: The virtualization at OS level is container where kernal gives the storage space of running apps
- Cloud: A virtualized pool of resources accessible over the internet for storing, managing, and processing data and applications.
- Cloud provider: A company that offers cloud computing services, including infrastructure, platforms, or software, to businesses and individuals. Currently, we have companies like AWS, GoogleCloud, Azure etc. When you work on a cloud or deploy your application on a cloud, the most important task is to optimise cost because blindly allocating resources and using services will drastically increase the bills.
- Automation: Streamlining repetitive tasks or processes by using technology to perform them automatically with minimal human intervention.
- Business Continuity and Disaster Recovery: Plans and strategies to ensure the uninterrupted operation of critical business functions and the recovery of data and systems in the event of a disaster.
- Governance: Establishing policies, procedures, and controls to ensure compliance, manage risks, and optimise resources in an organisation.
- Migration: Moving data, applications, or workloads from one environment to another, such as from on-premises infrastructure to the cloud.
- Compliance: Adhering to laws, regulations, and industry standards related to data privacy, security, and ethical practices.
In simple words, cloud computing means getting computing services, like servers and software, over the internet (aka “the cloud”). This brings speedy innovation, flexible resources, and cost savings. With the pay-as-you-go model, you only pay for what you use, making it cost-effective, efficient, and scalable for your business needs.
Cloud computing stands apart from traditional server-based methods. The distinction is important especially when comparing cloud computing to prevalent uses like web hosting.
- Unlike traditional hosting, where users pay for a fixed amount of storage and processing power, cloud computing offers on-demand access to vast computing power, billed by the minute or hour. This flexibility accommodates dynamic business needs, contrasting with the rigidity of traditional hosting. But with cloud, you need to monitor resource usage because costs drastically increases sometimes.
- Scalability is a hallmark of cloud computing. Users can scale services up or down based on demand, a feature lacking in traditional hosting. This feature is not available in shared environments prone to performance issues during traffic surges. Like AWS has elastic buckets.
- The management aspect sets cloud computing apart. Cloud services are fully managed by providers, requiring users only to have a device with internet access. While traditional hosting often involves users managing their websites through interfaces like cPanel.
- Reliability is another key difference. Cloud hosting, with its redundant infrastructure and multiple data centres, minimises downtime and enhances availability. Traditional hosting, relying on a single server is more susceptible to hardware failures and downtime risks.
- Security considerations vary between the two. Cloud hosting providers prioritise robust security measures with user access controls and security policies, yet certain organisations may prefer traditional hosting for greater control over security protocols and security requirements.
Cloud computing services are categorised into three main types:
- Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS): Providers like Amazon Web Services (AWS) offer virtual servers, storage, and APIs, allowing users control over VMs and storage configurations. IaaS mirrors a remote data centre, providing scalable solutions for diverse workloads. Example Amazon EC2, Rockspace etc.
- Platform as a Service (PaaS): PaaS hosts development tools on cloud infrastructures. Users access these tools through APIs or web portals, streamlining software development. Examples include Apache Stratos and AWS Elastic Beanstalk.
- Software as a Service (SaaS): SaaS delivers software applications over the internet, accessible from any location with internet connectivity. Microsoft 365 exemplifies this model, offering productivity and email services directly through the web.
Additionally, there’s Function as a Service (FaaS) or serverless computing, allowing users to run code in the cloud without worrying about infrastructure management. FaaS enables developers to focus solely on code creation, responding to events or triggers seamlessly.
In cloud computing, client devices seamlessly access computing resources—data, analytics, and applications—via the internet. Cloud service providers manage a network of remote data centres, ensuring storage capacity, security, and computing power for user data. This process involves a connection between the front end (client device, browser, network, and cloud software) and the back end (databases, servers, operating systems).
Essentially, cloud computing operates through key steps:
- Internet connection links the front end to the back end, facilitating data exchange.
- The back end acts as a repository, storing data accessed by the front end.
- A central server manages communication, using protocols for data exchange.
- Dedicated servers handle specific applications or workloads.
Virtualization enables the creation of virtual instances, allowing multiple environments to run on a single physical server. Automation and orchestration empower users to self-service, easily provisioning resources without direct intervention.
In cloud computing, deployment models cater to different organisational needs. Let’s explore these models:
- Private Cloud: Here, a business hosts its own cloud services internally, offering flexibility while retaining control and security, akin to traditional data centres. Notable examples include Amazon VPC, VMware and OpenStack.
- Public Cloud: In this model, a third-party provider delivers services over the internet, charging users for consumed resources. Examples like Office365 by Microsoft, Google WorkSpace etc.
- Hybrid Cloud: Combining public and private clouds, this model allows businesses to balance workloads. It offers flexibility, scalability, and control over critical data, enabling seamless orchestration between both environments.
- Multi-Cloud: Increasingly popular, organisations utilise multiple cloud providers for enhanced flexibility, cost-efficiency, and risk mitigation. Challenges arise due to differences in services and APIs, but industry initiatives aim to streamline interoperability.
- Community Cloud: Shared by several organisations with similar concerns and security requirements, a community cloud fosters collaboration and resource sharing. It can be managed by the organisations involved or a third-party vendor.
Cloud computing stands out with distinctive characteristics that revolutionise how businesses operate. Here’s a glimpse into the key features shaping the cloud computing landscape:
- Self-service Provisioning: Users can effortlessly set up computing resources on demand, eliminating the traditional need for IT administrators.
- Elasticity: Businesses can seamlessly scale up or down based on computing needs, avoiding hefty investments in local infrastructure.
- Pay-per-Use: Compute resources are measured granularly, allowing users to pay only for the resources and workloads they utilise.
- Workload Resilience: Cloud Service Providers deploy redundant resources to ensure resilient storage and uninterrupted workloads globally.
- Migration Flexibility: Organisations can effortlessly move workloads between clouds or platforms to optimise efficiency.
- Broad Network Access: Users can access or upload cloud data from anywhere using any device with an internet connection.
- Multi-tenancy and Resource Pooling: Multiple customers share physical infrastructures or applications while maintaining data privacy. Cloud providers efficiently service numerous customers from the same resource pool.
- Security: Cloud providers prioritise security measures to ensure confidentiality, integrity, and availability of hosted data. Compliance certifications further affirm adherence to industry standards and regulations.
Cloud computing is a powerful force in modern business, transforming how organisations operate. Adopting cloud infrastructure brings numerous benefits that redefine cost management. It offers a more cost-effective alternative. Here are the key advantages:
- Cost Management: Reduce capital costs and eliminate the need for extensive IT teams. Cloud providers efficiently handle data centre operations, minimising downtime-related expenses.
- Data and Workload Mobility: Access information seamlessly from anywhere with an internet connection, eliminating the need for physical storage devices. Cloud computing ensures easy data processing and recovery.
- Business Continuity and Disaster Recovery (BCDR): Safeguard your data against loss with cloud storage, ensuring accessibility even in the face of device failures or natural disasters.
- Speed and Agility: Enable rapid deployment of applications and services, accelerating time-to-market by eliminating cumbersome hardware procurement processes.
- Environmental Sustainability: Cloud computing promotes resource utilisation, reducing energy costs and carbon footprints through efficient data centre operations, contributing to environmental sustainability.
Cloud computing can present challenges for IT professionals as well including:
- Security Concerns: Cloud usage exposes organisations to data breaches, API and interface hacking, and authentication issues. The lack of transparency in data handling by some cloud providers necessitates security measures but now it is improving with UAM and Authorisations.
- Unpredictable Costs: Pay-as-you-go plans and scaling resources for varying workloads can lead to unforeseen expenses. Interdependent cloud services contribute to complex billing structures, resulting in additional, unplanned costs.
- Skills Gap: Rapid advancements in cloud technologies create a gap in expertise. Organisations struggle to keep up with the demand for skilled professionals capable of managing cloud workloads effectively.
- Governance Challenges: Cloud’s do-it-yourself emphasis makes IT governance difficult. It hinders control over infrastructure operations and risks lapses in, security, compliance, and data quality.
- Compliance Issues: Transferring data to the cloud complicates compliance with industry regulations, demanding meticulous attention to data location and regulatory requirements.
- Migration Complications: Cloud migration projects often exceed time and budget expectations, with workload repatriation issues being frequently overlooked until unforeseen challenges arise.
Cloud computing offers a diverse range of capabilities to meet various business needs. Here are some examples:
- Google Docs and Microsoft 365 enable users to access documents and spreadsheets stored in the cloud. It enhances productivity across devices.
- Email, calendars, Skype, and WhatsApp leverage the cloud to provide remote access to data. It boosts communication and collaboration for users.
- Zoom facilitates video conferencing with cloud-based recording. This app ensures accessibility and flexibility for users letting them stay connected with each other.
- AWS Lambda allows developers to run code without managing servers.
- Salesforce offers a cloud-centric CRM platform for managing sales, marketing, and customer service operations efficiently.
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