Does the infamous cloud seem like some sort of mystical being that you don’t fully understand? That’s totally fair–but, if you’re considering a career in tech, you should definitely be comfortable with describing the cloud and, of course, working with it! If you’re unsure what the cloud is or how it manifests itself in real life, look no further: this article has everything you need.
What is the Cloud?
Spoiler alert: it’s not actually in the sky, but it’s not a physical thing either. So what is it? Well, it’s a global network of servers that hosts a wide range of services, such as data storage, servers, databases, networking, and software over the internet. You probably have a few more questions, so let’s break it down:
These services are maintained by a third-party provider who guarantees access through both public and private internet connections.
The benefit of the cloud is simple: it takes away the responsibility of storing large amounts of data from individuals or companies, removing the need for personal and physical data centers.
Users can choose exactly how much storage and access they need, constantly expanding or shrinking their cloud access.
To put it simply, let’s try this: the cloud serves as your computer’s hard drive, but without limitations on data or slow processing times. By storing your data on the internet, it’s always available and there’s no limits to what you can do. This brings us to cloud computing, the on-demand delivery of computer resources over the internet.
Four types of cloud computing
There are lots of options when it comes to cloud computing, but we can group them into four areas: private clouds, public clouds, hybrid clouds, and multi-clouds.
Private clouds belong to a specific person or organization and are not run by a third party; managed private clouds provide IT hardware and digital infrastructure to those who use this model. Dedicated private clouds, on the other hand, are designed for the unique use of one user or company. These boast enhanced data security and easier recovery and system management; however, private clouds are more expensive to both create and maintain.
Public clouds are managed by a third party and offer services to practically anyone; these services are on-demand and scalable, meaning companies can select exactly what they need. Companies take advantage of public clouds like AWS, Azure, and Google because they don’t require setup and are easy to maintain, but risk less secure data and a limited ability to create exactly what they need.
As the name suggests, hybrid clouds bring the benefits of private and public clouds together to give users a flexible yet scalable environment. This type of cloud offers better security and a more customized experience, in addition to a cheaper and quicker setup period. However, they require a detailed and complex IT environment, which is costly to maintain, and challenges when it comes to transferring data between public and private clouds.
Separate from hybrid clouds, multi-clouds work exclusively with public clouds, bringing together public clouds from various providers. By using multi-cloud services, users can take advantage of the benefits of diverse providers and avoid being negatively impacted if one provider has issues. Be careful, though, because security risks increase when more third parties are involved and working with different servers can complicate the efficiency of your projects.
The benefits of cloud computing
If the aforementioned advantages weren’t enough, don’t worry: we have lots more! The cloud is an incredible development that has helped lots of people transform the way they handle their data:
Its pay-as-you-go model makes it an accessible option for all, regardless of the size of your company.
Students, developers, and companies alike can access services like storage and computing without having to have their own servers.
Users can work from any location and deliver their products to anyone, anywhere.
Using the cloud is much cheaper than maintaining on-site servers.
Today, the cloud offers pre-configured servers to help kickstart your product development.
In fact, if you’re in tech, you’ve probably heard of the three C’s of cloud computing: cost convenience, and control. These are the three main reasons that people opt for the cloud:
Cost: for both major companies and those learning how to code from their bedroom, the low cost of using the cloud is an absolute major plus. And for those working on their own, lots of services offer free options to help you get started, like AWS, Google Cloud, and Microsoft Azure.
Convenience: what’s better than something that’s always right at your fingertips?! Nothing! The cloud is incredibly convenient, boasting pre-configured options to save you time, requiring smaller amounts of computer power, and offering options to users around the world.
Control: depending on you and what you’re looking to achieve on the cloud, there are lots of available options for you, so that you're able to exercise the exact amount of control you desire:
Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS): here, engineers are expected to build and manage the infrastructure to create the solution that will best support the company’s goals.
Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS): develop and deploy your application on the cloud and the cloud service provider will take care of capacity planning and software updates.
Software-as-a-Service (SaaS): don’t worry about underlying resources or services; just think about how you’ll use the software to achieve your objectives.
Now that we’ve established just how the cloud works and what you can expect from it, let’s discuss some real life examples to show you just how important it is.
Real Life Examples of Cloud Computing
If you read our sister article about real life examples of artificial intelligence, you’re probably wondering how cloud computing manifests itself in your daily life like AI does. And while you might have been surprised by some of our artificial intelligence examples, we’re sure we’ll teach you something new today.
Many streaming services like Netflix need to provide streaming options to millions of customers in every corner of the globe. It would be nearly impossible to do so with physical servers, as they’d need to have lots scattered worldwide; this is why Netflix uses Amazon Web Services and content delivery networks (CDNs) to ensure that users can quickly and easily access content whenever they want.
AWS handles Netflix’s storage, processing power, and data management requirements; Netflix has CDNs in various locations across the world to ensure all users have access.
Storing personal information in physical files was dangerous for a few reasons; on the one hand, accessing patient information was limited to those who had those files in-hand and two, this data could easily land in the wrong hands. By storing patient data in the cloud, healthcare professionals from different practices are capable of sharing patient history and ensuring that it’s safe from prying eyes.
Lots of companies opt for Slack for internal communications, using their user-friendly channels to break into groups, communicate to the entire company, or directly message another colleague. To ensure that communication is fast, even in the event of data center failure, Slack has multiple data centers and uses cloud computing for its scalability, reliability, and accessibility.
No matter where you are or how many users are on the network, Slack guarantees fast and efficient communication through cloud computing.
File sharing services
The vast majority of users no longer save files on their computers; instead, they use services like Google Drive, Dropbox, and OneDrive to save their files on the cloud, freeing up space on their computer and ensuring easy access from anywhere.
You’ve definitely heard of Airbnb, the home sharing application that allows users to both list their homes as available for rent and search for accommodation in the area of their choice. Airbnb has absolutely massive amounts of data from all the property listings, booking information, customer preferences, help desk, and communications between users and would need large physical services almost everywhere to function correctly without the cloud.
With the cloud, the application is capable of updating in real time, handling payments and providing customers with personalized recommendations.
Long gone are the days of phones storing SMS messages on the actual device; messaging services like WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger store your data and information on the cloud, allowing you to access it from pretty much anywhere. This is also highly beneficial in the case your phone or computer gets stolen; you can wipe your account information from your device remotely and then sign in on your new device and it’ll be like you never left.
Ride sharing services
Companies like Uber, Cabify, and Lyft also rely on cloud computing services to handle the immense amount of data they handle. From location tracking, payment processing, driver availability, rider requests, and fare calculations, they must work fast and efficiently to provide users--both drivers and riders--with what they need.
One of the most beneficial uses of cloud computing here is its scalability; depending on how many users are requesting services at a certain time, the cloud is able to meet that demand.
There are 500 million tweets per day--do you think Twitter has a giant data storage server where all those tweets are kept (and all those from the past?!). Of course not; all social media networks use the cloud and through this, are able to provide users with the ability to keep posting, creating, and accessing previous posts.
The cloud is an incredible tool that’s helped us advance incredibly; there’s no need for large servers that can be unplugged or physically damaged. With the cloud, all our data is right there for us, exactly when we need it. Companies will continue to invest in cloud computing over the years, discovering everything they can achieve with increased cloud usage. Are you going to be there?