What is Cloud Computing?
Cloud computing has increasingly become a terminology that is not only used in the IT sector but across various domains such as businesses, enterprises, institutions and corporations. Perhaps you’ve heard almost everyone next to you talk about “the cloud” or somebody say that their enterprise applications are moving to the cloud.
But what does cloud computing really mean? For one to get a rough idea about cloud computing as explained by Salesforce, it can be said to represent a shift from the orthodox software models to novel models where the software applications are hosted over the internet. It’s a shift that began about a two decade ago and it has been steadily gaining momentum.
Microsoft defines Cloud Computing as,
“Simply put, cloud computing is the delivery of computing services—servers, storage, databases, networking, software, analytics, and more—over the Internet (“the cloud”). Companies offering these computing services are called cloud providers and typically charge for cloud computing services based on usage, similar to how you’re billed for water or electricity at home.”
Here is a better way to understand Cloud Computing
In the simplest terms possible, cloud computing involves storing and accessing software or data via the internet as opposed to the computer’s physical storage. In favor of a deeper meaning, cloud computing is the delivery of on-demand configurable computing resources that are usually traditionally installed on on-premise hardware, desktop computers and hard drives or company data center, via the internet or hosted servers. With the computing applications run through the internet or hosted on servers, the applications can be remotely accessed via the internet at any time.
By adopting or running computer applications on hosted servers, the headaches of managing software and hardware are eliminated as the control and management of the applications is transferred to the hosting company. With the shared IT infrastructure, it means it operates like a utility and for that reason; payments are made for the services offered depending on the specific needs.
Scaling up and down is simple and upgrades are automatic. Companies hosting computer applications on their servers are known as Cloud Vendors or Cloud Service providers. Some of the common cloud examples include Microsoft and Google web hosted applications such as Microsoft Office 365 and Google Docs respectively.
Cloud-based applications can run throughout in days, weeks or months. Once the computer applications are hosted on the server, users can just log-in on the platform, customize the application, and start operations. Cloud computing supporters tout that it allows companies to evade the initial infrastructure costs and grants them with the opportunity to focus on their essential business components rather than wasting money and time on IT infrastructure. Supporters also say cloud computing helps businesses get their applications up and running quicker with enhanced manageability and reduced maintenance. Other reported benefits of cloud computing are high computing power, high performance, cheap cost of services and scalability.
Cloud services are broadly divided into public, private and hybrid cloud with solutions namely Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS), Software-as-a-Service (SaaS), and Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS). Furthermore, all sorts of applications are available in the cloud and these include storage, Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP), Human Resource (HR), accounting, Customer Relationship Management (CRM), accounting, e-commerce software, inventory and many more.
How Does Cloud Computing Work?
To know and comprehend the nature of precisely how cloud computing works, it’s helpful to consider that the cloud is divided into two sections. These sections are the front end layers and the back end layers. These layers connect through a network, mostly the internet. The front end layer is what the users see and interact with whereas the back end layer is the systems end point where all the data seen by the front end user originates.
The front end layer includes the user’s computer and the applications needed to access the cloud computing system. For instance, when one accesses their profile on LinkedIn account, they are using the software running on the front end layer of the cloud. The back end layer supports the software running the front end layer that conveys the data seen on the front of the computer or device used. Just like LinkedIn account, the cloud uses the same system whereby users log-in to a portal on their cloud provider’s server and once logged in, users can accomplished any tasks associated with their cloud computing needs. It’s just as simple as that!
Everything else such as software upgrades, management, maintenance and security are controlled and monitored by the back end layer of the cloud computing server, which is created by the cloud service provider. The back end layer consists of the software and the hardware architecture that delivers what is viewed on the front end layer. Cloud computing systems have different user interfaces which normally bring about the variations from one cloud computing vendor to another. Maybe that’s why Amazon Web Services (AWS) user interface differs from Microsoft Azure’s user interface.
Cloud systems use a network layer to link user’s end point devices such as smart phones, tablets, or computers to centralized resources in the cloud provider’s data center. The data is accessed by users through the internet or a company’s network or both. Clouds can as well be accessed from any location, granting users the flexibility collaborating or working from whichever location they are provided there is internet connectivity. This makes the cloud computing applications to be practically limitless in functionality.
With the suitable middleware, a cloud computing system can successfully execute any program a normal computer can run. The possibilities are the delivery of merely every on-demand configurable computing resources from software to computer programs designed to perform different IT purposes. The applications running on the cloud utilize the advantage of flexibility availed by the computing resources and power.
Once the operating data is set up together, it runs a myriad of applications on different machines or devices at the same time. This flexibility is the most important benefit of using cloud computing since it allows users choose the cloud resources they need in the shortest time possible, without the trouble of allotting any particular hardware for the resources in advance.
Sources: IBM, How Stuff Works
Image credit: Tymon
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