A study found that on average a user makes use of at least four cloud-based applications. At the same time, they are evaluating four other applications at any point in time. What’s more, 41% of commercial entities run a big proportion of their workload on public clouds. Despite its widespread use, companies often have an incomplete understanding of what cloud computing is and what it can do for their enterprise. Many believe that it prevents the company from having complete control of their information since it makes their data available outside their premises.
However, the cloud can provide enterprises with a significant edge. Not only does it provide them with enhanced computing power but it also helps them manage large pools of data efficiently. It is thanks to cloud that organizations have been able to effectively develop and deploy websites and applications more quickly, scale up or down IT infrastructure on-demand and finally, accelerate the rate of innovation. Hence, understanding what cloud is and its advantages is essential to be able to harness it effectively.
What is Cloud computing?
There are many definitions for cloud computing however, it is important to understand it is not a new type of technology. It is a unique combination of various pre-existing tools that were already used. Advancements in virtualization technology, disk storage, processors quick and inexpensive servers have given rise to improved capabilities.
A widely accepted definition of cloud computing is that it provides on-demand virtual access to computing resources such as networks, servers, storage, applications, and services. These are provided on demand and can rapidly which can be used with minimal effort.
Cloud consists of three elements:
1. Scalable resources on demand. Users of the cloud can grow and use as many resources as they need thanks to the interconnectivity between users and service providers.
2. Virtualization: all the computing resources are provided via the internet thereby increasing the accessibility to these resources.
3. Maintenance and management fee: resources in the cloud are maintained and managed by cloud vendors liberating the user from the burden of these time-consuming and expensive tasks.
Types of Cloud Computing
Cloud can be classified into deployment models which refer to where the infrastructure is located and who has control over it. There are three types of deployment models: Public, private, and hybrid.
In this deployment model, the service providers deliver cloud computing capabilities to a single or a set of organizations. Hence, this type of cloud is often secure and the business (user) influences the type of processes, tools, and architecture used. It is also very efficient and regulation compliant. Usually, billing is subscription-based.
This deployment model consists of self-service cloud computing capabilities via an online portal. It is less complex and resources are dynamic, highly scalable, and flexible. The advantage of this model is that since the volume of transactions and users is large there is a high degree of security. Multiple layers and comprehensive protocols protect the user’s data which results in lowered costs. Usually, users are charged on a pay-per-use basis.
It is a type of deployment in which a private cloud is linked to one or more public clouds. However, it is managed by a central entity, and users are provided with a flexible and custom solution. In this type of deployment model, security is custom-built. Their billing system varies since keeping this type of cloud is complex to manage.
Cloud computing can also be classified into delivery models or the combination of IT resources offered by a cloud provider. There are three types which include: Software-as-a-service (SaaS), Infrastructure-as-a-service (Iaas), and Platform-as-a-service (PaaS).
Provides a flexible type of cloud service that takes care of supplying the user with infrastructure. A completely virtualized environment is provided to the users so that they can build applications. Enterprises make use of this to customize the infrastructure to suit their needs. They also use it to develop their own IT infrastructure without worrying about the hardware costs associated with keeping and maintaining hardware physically.
In this type of model, providers are given the infrastructure and the framework needed for the development of applications through the internet. Users can take advantage of the servers and development tools available to support the whole web development lifecycle. PaaS is usually used by organizations to ensure that developers follow certain processes and maintain the underlying infrastructure.
In this type of model, the cloud service provider offers ready-to-use software via the internet. The cloud provider manages end-to-end resources such as licensing and network. Managing the infrastructure, middleware, and application data is the responsibility of the cloud provider. However, users can add their custom modifications and additions to the software.
Advantages of Cloud computing
The responsibility of maintaining the hardware, purchasing the equipment, or anything related to the physical infrastructure of the company falls on the shoulders of the cloud provider. Hence, it makes it significantly easier for businesses to access hardware resources without upfront capital investment. Users do not pay to set up IT infrastructure, license fees, or installing and maintaining local hardware for cloud computing. It can be treated as an operational expense which decreases the upfront costs.
One of the advantages of cloud is that information and applications can be accessed anywhere. This provides organizations flexibility which can be extended to employees. It allows employees to access information through multiple devices 24/7 from any location. Cloud computing makes collaboration much easier. Both for employees working in the area and dispersed geographical locations. They can easily meet virtually and share information. As a result, it helps employees managing multiple duties and those working from home to communicate with co-workers and clients on the go. It also allows for employees to have a better work-life balance.
Easy to manage
A small IT team can effectively manage the organization’s cloud data centers. Moreover, cloud computing also provides transparency and the tools necessary for users to control the bandwidth used. As a result, costs are reduced significantly. For large corporations, this provides businesses with the opportunity to reduce costs related to IT whereas small to medium-sized companies can invest in their IT capabilities without stretching out their resources too thin.
The reason why it is so easy for companies to scale up their services because computing resources are handled through software. This means that scalability is not dependent on hardware, the business does not need to invest in increasing its physical hardware capabilities. As a result, the cloud can be deployed very quickly as demand goes up or down. It is also attractive because it allows enterprises to not commit and plan and obtain the necessary resources to implement the technology. Instead, organizations can start small and assess its usefulness and increase their resources accordingly. Hence, cloud computing is ideal for businesses that are growing or whose needs are constantly changing. Since cloud providers offer you to pay for use paying is cost-effective.
The process of setting up the infrastructure has become standardized; hence it is easy to set up a cloud-based system. Is it an adaptive infrastructure that is shared between users and each of them can use it differently without affecting each other. This is because all users are completely separated from each other. At the same time, the computing load can be balanced as more and more users are integrated into the system. Hence, even if a large number of users are using the cloud at the same time, there will be no lag or delay in the system.
The pay-for-use model which is used and the less resource-intensive ways to run applications has not only lowered the cost of innovation but it has also increased its speed. Cloud computing is simple, its architecture is automatically updated by the cloud service providers. It has made it possible to develop a new class of applications and services. For example, mobile applications now are interactive and are location, environment, and context-aware. They use real-time information given by environmental factors, independent information resources, or human users and respond to it. The biggest tech companies in the world have taken advantage of this to produce and launch their applications. For example, Gmail, Instagram, and Facebook are cloud-based applications.
Access to information
The old paradigm that “he who has more resources wins” no longer holds true. Over the past decade, the role of accurate information has played a tremendous role in helping many start-ups take over and become giants. Cloud computing has integrated business analytics capabilities that can use a vast amount of computer resources to analyze consumer behavior (like, shopping habits, time spent on websites, and so on) by crunching large pools of information. This provides enterprises with the opportunity to have access to even more sophisticated analytics. For small and medium-size businesses this represents an opportunity to use the same resources that large corporations use to stay ahead of the competition.
Focus on customers
Since cloud computing is cheaper, businesses no longer have to worry about investing heavily in their IT infrastructure, since the cloud is Instead, those resources can easily be redirected to improving the core competency of the business and as a result, they can provide even more value to their customers.
Almost infinite storage
Cloud computing has provided organizations with almost infinite virtual storage capacity. This makes it easier for an organization to not only store their voluminous data but they can also schedule frequent backups to prevent any loss of information. Moreover, it is not difficult to access the information stored. Data in the cloud appears as a single point of access for all the users and in a single format. Despite many users accessing, modifying, and sharing the same document managing information in silos makes it easy to keep this process smooth.
Security challenges with cloud
Despite the many advantages of cloud computing, security is where it faces significant scrutiny. One of the concerns with the implementation of cloud computing is data breach when the information moves from consumer to service provider there is a chance that there is an accidental or intentional breach. The second issue is service hijacking. Since cloud services are provided over the internet there is a risk of losing access to the company account. The third problem is that a user with insider access can also cause significant damage to the organization’s data. Finally, malicious entities can attack from a single point and cause a significant amount of damage to the cloud.
However, these problems can easily be solved by taking implementing certain countermeasures. For example, by using end-to-end encryption data can be protected even if it is shared across the internet from various geographical locations. Moreover, it is very easy for the company to screen employee contractors to prevent any internal attacks. Another method to prevent attacks is to prepare multiple validation steps so that the company can ensure that the user is valid. Finally, businesses should document their response to any incidents that occur to be able to analyze them and prepare countermeasures accordingly.
Cloud computing provides on-demand virtual access to computing resources on demand which can be used with minimal effort. By using cloud businesses can easily set-up up the cloud. It is cost-effective, easy to access, scalable, and easy to manage. Moreover, it helps them speed up innovation, access to sophisticated analytics, provides almost infinite storage, and finally, allows them to focus on customers. Despite the security concerns, it is easy to set up security measures to counter malicious attacks such as end-to-end-encryption, user screening, multiple validation procedures, and documenting responses to any previous incidents.
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