We’ll outline what exactly cloud computing is, examine the pros and cons, and, ultimately, help you decide whether cloud computing is suitable for your needs.
What is cloud computing?
Put simply, cloud computing is a vast array of remotely available compute resources such as storage, processing power and networking.
The cloud can host and offer many services including databases, software, and even clusters of virtual machines. Having these types of resources reside in the cloud means they are available to administer from anywhere, on almost any device; making collaboration between teams easier. As long as you have an internet connection and a modern web browser, you can access the cloud and everything it hosts.
Think of how you backup your phone photos online. That’s cloud computing. For businesses, it is this same principle but on a larger scale.
When was cloud computing invented?
Cloud computing may sound like a ‘new’ thing but its origins began before smartphones, social media, and email. In fact, these familiar technologies actually rely on cloud computing to function.
It’s believed that cloud computing was invented by American psychologist and computer scientist Joseph Carl Robnett Licklider in the 1960s. This came from his work on the ARPANET - the network that became the technical foundation of the internet. It was designed to help connect people and data from anywhere at any time - the same principles it fulfills today.
In 1983, one of the first types of cloud storage was first used commercially. CompuServe offered its customers a small amount of remote storage space to expand the capacity of portable computer devices like the Tandy Model 100, as they could only store very small amounts of information. This storage was made available to the customers over the nascent internet by way of a dialup modem.
The cloud computing industry truly boomed in the late 1990s with the launch of Amazon’s web-based retail services and Google’s search engine, expanding its use beyond basic storage and data-sharing.
Today, we regularly use cloud computing without even realising. Whether it’s the household calendar shared on the whole family’s smartphones, or the live document that you and your colleagues are editing simultaneously, cloud computing is everywhere - both at home and at work. When businesses embrace this, the potential is huge.
What are the different uses of cloud computing?
You can use scalable cloud infrastructures to test and build apps. You can also use cloud-native technologies such as DevOps and microservices architecture to create web, mobile and API applications.
What tools do you use to communicate and collaborate? If it’s LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter or even simply emailing, you’ll be using a cloud infrastructure.
You can keep your data and assets safe online. Cloud storage offers security, aids collaboration and flexibility, with content easily accessible from any device in any location.
Cloud computing makes analysing data easier by storing everything in one place. Cloud-based services, such as machine learning, can then be used to study this data and make informed business decisions.
High-definition video and audio can be easily distributed globally thanks to cloud hosting.
Hosting your IP network in the cloud allows for simple global communication, managed load balancing and integration of on premise networks and the cloud.
The likes of Siri, Alexa and Google Assistant are all cloud-based artificial intelligence (AI) products. Machine learning models provide the building blocks to create AI and to allow technologies like voice assistants to provide context-relevant customer experiences.
What are the different types of cloud computing?
There are three different types of cloud computing:
These are owned and operated by third-party cloud service providers, such as Amazon Web Services (AWS), Google Cloud Platform and Microsoft Azure. You can access these when logging in via a web browser.
These are solely used by a single business or organisation. They may be physically located at the business’s data centre, or the business may pay third-party service providers to host their private cloud.
These combine public and private clouds. These offer more flexibility by allowing services in private data centers to access resources in public clouds.
For more information on these, read our guide explaining the different types of cloud computing.
What are the different types of cloud services?
There are also different types of cloud services. The main services are as follows:
Infrastructure as a service (IaaS)
This is the most simple set-up for cloud computing. IaaS allows you to rent IT infrastructure (such as virtual machines (VMs), storage, networks, etc.) from a cloud provider. It can be cost-efficient as it is provided on a pay-as-you-go basis, so you only pay for what you use. AWS Services EC2, Google Compute Engine (GCE), and Azure VMs are some examples of IaaS.
Platform as a service (PaaS)
These are cloud services that supply an on-demand environment for developing, testing, delivering and managing applications. With these, you can quickly create web or mobile apps without worrying about a wider infrastructure. Examples include AWS Elastic Beanstalk, Microsoft Azure Web Apps and Google Cloud SQL.
Software as a service (SaaS)
SaaS allows you to deliver software over the internet. Users can then connect to the application online, using whatever device they like. With SaaS, the cloud providers take care of all the infrastructure. The likes of Salesforce, Slack, DocuSign, MailChimp, and Dropbox all run using SaaS.
Serverless computing, or Functions as a service (FaaS), provides a mechanism for running code separately, but in addition to, all of the above. Why would you want to do that? Well it’s essentially a way to have essential application tasks run without having to code them in to your applications. The less monolithic code in your apps, the easier they are to maintain and develop.
What are the advantages and disadvantages of cloud computing?
Easy to implement
Cloud hosting means the physical infrastructure is already in place and is managed for you.
You can access the cloud wherever you are and with whatever device you’re using with just a browser. This is great for businesses where employees are working from various locations.
Some cloud resources have built in maintenance systems that actively avoid downtime (Google VM Instances, for example).
Compared to offline technologies, cloud based services often offer a lower TCO.
No longer in complete control
If there are issues beyond your rented resources, your administrators will not have access to the underlying platform to troubleshoot or fix it.
You’ll still need BCDR
Although the further towards SaaS you go with your resources, the more responsibility the vendor has over them, it is always a collaboration. You still need to think out BCDR (Business Continuity and Disaster Recovery).
Not all cloud providers are the same
Not all cloud vendors offer the same uptime guarantees. And some resources are only available from that one vendor.
Who provides cloud computing services?
Google Cloud Platform
Google offer a wide range of storage, application platforms and integrated data analytics services. Most products from the wider Google ecosystem such as Search, Maps, GSuite (with Active Directory sync) etc. integrate with the cloud seamlessly.
Microsoft’s public cloud computing system also offers a wide range of services, including Azure AD, analytics, storage and networking. One of Microsoft’s main advantages is that their back catalogue of on premise applications are tightly integrated with their cloud.
Amazon Web Services (AWS)
Once again, AWS offers tools to help with multiple functionalities such as compute power, database storage and content delivery. AWS was the first major player in the cloud market.
What is needed to be able to use cloud computing services within a business?
There are some practical things you’ll need for successful cloud computing, such as IT support, suitable software and appropriate hardware, but one of the most important things you’ll need is a fully-trained workforce. It’s easy to sign up to a cloud provider and start using resources. However, choosing the most cost effective solutions, securing your environment, and being able to administer your estate are all key components when it comes to maximising your potential.
That’s why at Jellyfish Training, we offer a broad curriculum of Google Cloud training delivered by certified industry experts. With courses designed to suit all levels of experience and covering a variety of Google Cloud Platform technologies, we can help you learn everything you need to know about cloud computing with GCP. If you’re starting your cloud learning journey, we recommend beginning with our Google Cloud Fundamentals: Core Infrastructure training course.
For more information about the training we offer, explore the full list of our online and classroom courses.