As we seen in the above cartoon there can be some confusion over what is ‘the cloud’ and how it works. Such as how Bob, the slightly balding manager in the cartoon, thought the data was up in an actual cloud. I’ve wrote up a basic description of what is ‘the cloud’. This explanation is one you might use to explain to your parents, grandparents or to your own slightly balding manager. If you’re looking for a deeper understanding of clouds, you’ll want to check another location such as Amazon AWS, Google, and Microsoft Azure sites.
First off let’s explain what is ‘the Cloud’; it’s not a white fluffy thing in the sky that sometimes looks like a bunny. The Cloud is basically a fancy word for services offered through the internet. These services have names such as SaaS (Software as a Service); IaaS (Infrastructure as a Service); PaaS (Platform as a Service), I’ll be referring to these collectively as the cloud, mostly because it sounds less scary. To simplify what those services are doing in ‘the cloud’ they are service you’re using such as: storage, processing, and apps that are housed on the service providers servers that you’re subscribing to.
As the IT guy shows in the cartoon with the cloud above the building, the term cloud comes from the data diagrams. Those diagrams are drawn up showing the data coming in or out from the company, such as the internet, as a cloud. It’s not a new version of the internet and it also has no bearing on the weather, your data in the cloud won’t fall when it rains and you can still access it even when there are no clouds in the sky.
You may already be storing your data in something that’s a light version of ‘the cloud’ through an online service such as: Drop Box, Google Drive or Microsoft’s One Drive. These allow you to save data up into their server that you can share or access through other devices, such as your desktop, laptop, mobile, etc. You can almost think of the cloud as a very largescale version of that but with a ton of added features such as database, software, and data processing features. The cloud is highly geared for large volumes of data and to be able to process that data quickly. There are several companies that have cloud services the big three, all names you’ve heard of and probable use is Amazon, Microsoft, and Google.
So why would somebody want or need to use a cloud service? Cloud services are mostly for those companies and those that need to store and/or process a large amount of data. These services are also great for small projects and startups, this because of costs. In most cases you only pay for what you use, so your costs would go up as you’re building revenue. A small store with a few customers and generally does cash-based business wouldn’t get much if any benefit from this. Now let’s say you have a you’re a company that sells toupees to slightly balding managers around the world and you need to keep track of inventory, sales, and marketing data; you would be more apt to benefit from the cloud services.
One of the main benefits of the cloud is saving money: you won’t need as many servers and other equipment on site. Since you only pay for the amount of processes you use and the amount of storage you have on there, the storage costs are usually low compared to keeping it in house. These services also allow you to upscale quickly when you have a large volume of processing work; you can quickly do that in the cloud. Example of this, your toupees have become the fashion trend in Europe and have to handle a huge amount of orders and coordinate with the stores, warehouses and production too keep the shelves stocked. To upscale without the cloud it could take months to order, setup and run the new servers; this would be a huge loss of income during this time and it will give your competitors a chance to take over some of your market share. Another benefit is the cloud is usually more secure than what you have on your own internal servers; due to the number of employees on their end to monitor and keep its network secure. The cloud services also have redundancies to their servers so if something goes down your data is backed up and their services are still running.
As with anything that has pros there of course some cons. Depending on your internet connection the service through the cloud can be a lot slower than using your own servers. If you lose internet connection you won’t be able to access your data or services at that time. If your business is a regulated service, such as healthcare, you may not be allowed to store certain types of data in the cloud; and with that some cloud services may store data in other countries. You’re also giving up a bit of internal control where in past you may have built your own applications; in the cloud you’ll be more limited to what you can build to connect to their services.
Overall cloud computing has been around for 10 or more years, and will continue growing. Many companies have found great benefits in moving some to all of their processes to the cloud.
Cartoon: hand drawn; scanned in; Photoshop to assemble the parts and added wording and balloons.