The cloud. Since the term entered our lexicon in the ‘90s and the model became widely adopted in the mid ‘00s, cloud computing has become commonplace in our digital age. If you’ve ever owned a smartphone, had an email account or posted your holiday snaps on social media, chances are you’ve used it and heard of it.
However, there are many people out there who are either unfamiliar with the cloud or view it with concern, falsely assuming that their private information and files will be floating around in the digital cosmos where they are left exposed to hackers and cyber criminals. Or perhaps you simply want to learn more about how it all works.
In this blog post, we’ll explain what the cloud is exactly, how it works, the different models available, and why many users and businesses have flocked to cloud computing.
What is “the Cloud”?
The cloud refers to the servers that are accessed over the Internet, along with the software and data that are stored and run on those servers. Cloud servers are located in data centres all over the world. Storing files and applications in the cloud means that users and businesses don’t have to manage physical servers themselves or run software applications on their own machines.
Cloud computing allows users to access their files and applications on any Internet-enabled device. You don’t need to look far to find examples; Gmail stores emails and attachments in Google Drive cloud storage, which is why you can log in to your account on a new phone or laptop and still see all of your emails. Social media platforms like Instagram, Facebook and Twitter also work the same way.
How Does the Cloud Work?
Cloud computing relies on a process called virtualisation. This creates a simulated, digital-only virtual computer that behaves just like a regular physical computer, called a virtual machine. Several virtual machines can be hosted on the same physical machine, but they are sandboxed from one another so they don’t interact with each other at all. The files and applications on one virtual machine aren’t visible to another virtual machine.
Virtual machines are incredibly efficient and massively boost the capabilities of the hardware on which they’re hosted. By running many virtual machines at the same time, one server becomes many servers, and a single data centre becomes a host of data centres, which are then able to power multiple businesses at once. This is why cloud providers are able to offer their services to far more customers at the same time, and at a lower cost compared to doing it the old-fashioned way.
Cloud computing also offers more reliability and peace of mind for users. Many cloud providers back up their services on multiple machines across multiple locations, so if an individual server goes down, there will always be another cloud server online and available to pick up the slack.
What are the Different Service Models of Cloud Computing?
Although cloud computing services all follow the same principle—accessing data on a cloud server over the Internet, as opposed to on your own physical server—there are a number of different service models.
- Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) — Instead of installing applications directly on your device, the software is hosted in the cloud and you access it over the Internet. Think of it like renting an apartment. Examples include Slack and Mailchimp.
- Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) — Rather than paying for access to cloud-hosted applications by themselves, PaaS is where you pay for the things you need to build your own applications — such as development tools, infrastructure and operating systems — and access them via the Internet. If SaaS is Examples include Microsoft Azure and Heroku.
- Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) — The model that we specialise in here at Cloud Geeni. IaaS is where you “rent” the servers and storage that you need, then use that cloud-hosted infrastructure to build your applications and store your data. IaaS is like leasing a plot of land on which you can build whatever you need.
- Function-as-a-Service (FaaS) — Although SaaS, PaaS and IaaS were the three main models of cloud computing, a fourth model, FaaS, has emerged in recent years. Also known as serverless computing, FaaS breaks cloud applications down into even smaller parts, which only run when they’re being used. Instead of renting a property like you would with SaaS, FaaS allows you to rent an individual room only when you need it. For example, you only rent the kitchen when you need to cook or rent a bedroom when you need to sleep.
What are the Benefits of the Cloud?
Countless businesses and organisations have switched to the cloud over the last decade—and for good reason (many, in fact!). From better accessibility and improved agility to the ability to reduce overheads and boost productivity, cloud computing offers a bevy of benefits.
- Better accessibility — The cloud allows users to access their data, applications and files on any internet-connected device, whether they’re at home, on the road, or at an important meeting. No longer do your employees have to be in the office, at their computer, to get work done.
- Reduce costs — Because the storage and computing takes place on cloud servers located in your cloud provider’s data centres, you don’t need to manage your own physical servers. This means you can save money on purchasing, installing and upgrading servers, as well as freeing up physical space.
- Value for money — Cloud computing operates on a subscription basis, so you only pay for what you need. You aren’t weighed down by the costs of maintaining your own servers, which you may not even be using to their full capabilities in the first place.
- More nimble and agile — With a cloud service, you can easily scale up your service as your business grows and your needs increase, or scale back during quieter periods when demand dies down. The cloud adapts to your needs.
- Improved productivity and efficiency — Thanks to its improved accessibility, cloud computing allows your employees to work better, faster and smarter, supercharging their productivity. Plus, switching to the cloud frees up your IT team from constantly fixing server issues, allowing them to explore new technologies, improve systems, and add real value to your company.