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What Is Cloud Computing? An Overview

By DeVry University

May 13, 2023

10 min read

What is cloud computing? At its most basic, cloud computing is a means of storing data needed to run various applications. Many businesses today are using cloud computing as an alternative to purchasing, operating and maintaining their own on-premises servers. In this article we will define cloud computing, discuss who uses this technology and for what purpose, describe different cloud service and deployment models and itemize some of the benefits of cloud computing. 

Definition of Cloud Computing

Cloudwards defines cloud computing as using  the internet to connect to online services that are hosted in the cloud, which can include everything from simple cloud storage to cloud infrastructure platforms like AWS and online streaming platforms. The term “cloud computing” was first used in 1996 by a group of executives at Compaq Computers, who according to MIT’s Technology Review, were “plotting the future of the internet business.” Today, Merriam Webster defines cloud computing as “the practice of storing regularly used computer data on multiple servers that can be accessed through the Internet.”

Who Uses Cloud Computing?

Cloud computing has made much of today's digital efficiency possible. You’ve likely already experienced cloud computing's impact on your day-to-day life, from streaming your favorite workout on your smart TV or playing your favorite game online, to your fraud detection subscription or your healthcare provider’s online check-in service.

Companies these days deal with a lot of data. From storing the data properly according to government regulations, to protecting it from various threats, data management is standard in today’s business operations. Many companies turn to cloud computing to meet these data management needs.

In this digital age, it’s likely that everyone uses the cloud. You can find cloud computing utilized across just about every industry, including:

  • Healthcare

  • Financial Services

  • Video Games

  • Manufacturing & Infrastructure

  • Fitness

  • Real Estate

  • Media & Entertainment

How Does Cloud Computing Work?

Cloud computing is an operational strategy that many companies choose for their IT infrastructure needs. It allows them to outsource IT infrastructure to a third-party cloud computing service provider, rather than investing in the hardware and resources needed to maintain their own cloud infrastructure. Once set up, companies can plug in to their chosen provider’s infrastructure and access resources from virtually any device with an internet connection.

Cloud Service Models

Cloud services are provided using a remote server versus an on-site server and are managed by a third-party provider. Cloud services are only accessible via the internet, and follow one of these three models:

Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS)
  • Provides servers, data storage and networking on a pay-as-you-go basis

  • Allows for maximum control in application development

  • Requires experienced in-house development operation specialists to manage

Platform as a Service (PaaS)
  • Provides middleware, database management, operating systems and development tools needed to build applications

  • Supplies an on-demand environment for developers to create, test, deliver and manage applications quickly

  • Eliminates time spent on development operations

Software as a Service (SaaS)
  • Most common and well-known service model on the market today

  • Covers hosting and management of applications, including future maintenance such as needed upgrades and security patches

  • Accessed from a user-friendly portal such as a web browser

  • Price structuring is typically on a per-user basis

Cloud Deployment Models

Cloud deployment models are defined by where the infrastructure for deployments lives, how it’s accessed and who has control over it.

Here are three ways that cloud services may be deployed:

Public
  • Cloud and its infrastructure are owned, operated and managed by a third-party provider

  • Accessed via the internet

Private
  • Cloud is operated exclusively for the benefit of a single business or organization

  • Infrastructure is either on-site or hosted with a third-party provider

  • Accessed via a closed, private network

Hybrid
  • Combines public and private cloud functionality

  • Uses technology to allow data and services to move between the two

  • Accessible via closed network or open internet depending on request

Why DeVry?

What Are the Benefits of Cloud Computing?

There are many benefits of cloud computing including:

1. On-Demand Availability

Consumers can access resources without administrator support.

2. Accessibility

Resources are available wherever there is an internet connection, using standard devices such as mobile phones, laptops and workstations.

3. Agility

Computing resources are pooled to serve multiple users at once, with capacity planning happening dynamically to assign and reassign resources as needed.

4. Scalability

Delivery models make data provisioning capabilities practically unlimited, allowing for any quantity of provisions to be provided at any time.

5. Analytic Capabilities

Resource utilization can be monitored, controlled and measured through an automated metering capability typically built into cloud-based systems.

6. Cost Efficiency

When considering the costs associated with buying, installing, housing and maintaining their own servers, some businesses  may find that it is more cost-efficient for them to outsource to a cloud services provider. Cost considerations here include:

  • Purchasing equipment
  • Installing equipment
  • Equipment maintenance
  • Software upgrades and licenses
  • Server room costs, such as building purchase or leasing, utilities, maintenance and security
7. Network Performance

According to Oracle, businesses using cloud computing can experience increases in input/output operations per second (IOPS). In its 2019 State of IT Infrastructure Management survey, global IT infrastructure solutions provider INAP reported just how important a network’s speed is to IT leaders and infrastructure managers. The managers surveyed cited data performance as one of their four major reasons for moving data operations off-premises, and 42% indicated improved network performance as their primary reason for migrating networking operations to the cloud.

8. Reliability

For businesses considering migrating data to the cloud, reliability factors often include disaster recovery, compliance with industry regulations and automatic software updates. Cloud-based services automatically update tools, which reduces interruption into a company’s workflow. When power, data or confidential customer information is lost, multiple redundancies make sure there’s a copy of the data required to continue operations. 

9.Security

Today’s businesses depend heavily upon data and its safeguarding against cyberattacks. Cloud providers are well-versed in security details like authentication, encryption and permissions. For this reason, it may be advantageous for businesses to outsource their data and data management processes to a more secure, off-site environment.

What Are the Disadvantages of Cloud Computing?

While there are many benefits to cloud computing, there are also challenges to consider. Specifically, the cost of migrating to the cloud could outweigh the potential return on investment.

For example, some applications that are critical to a business may not have been originally built for the cloud. The migration of these applications could end up requiring significant cost to rework the code and adapt the application to the cloud environment with full functionality, or risk compromising the application’s performance by retrofitting it to work with a cloud deployment model.

Additionally, remaining competitive in application performance becomes increasingly difficult as cloud computing becomes more pervasive.

With various businesses utilizing the same cloud computing providers and services, differentiating yourself from competitors becomes less about the speed of capabilities and more about what is produced. If your IT infrastructure is managed in-house/on-premises and your capabilities aren’t performing as quickly as your competitors, it’s going to be harder for you to compete online without migrating to the cloud.

Who Are the Big Cloud Computing Companies?

How big is the cloud computing market and who are the major players? In 2022, the global cloud computing market was valued at $483.98 billion, and it is estimated that by 2030 it will grow to more than $1,554.94 billion.

According to Dgtl Infra, the top 10 cloud providers are:

  • Amazon Web Services (AWS)

  • Microsoft Azure

  • Google Cloud Platform (GCP)

  • Alibaba Cloud

  • Oracle Cloud

  • IBM Cloud (Kyndryl)

  • Tencent Cloud

  • OVHcloud

  • DigitalOcean

  • Linode (Akamai)

What Kinds of Jobs Are Available in Cloud Computing?

There is a variety of job opportunities within the cloud computing space in areas such as customer support, development and engineering and architecture and administration. At DeVry, graduates of our online Undergraduate Certificate in Cloud Computing program and our  Bachelor’s Degree Specialization in Cloud-Based Networking and Virtualization may consider careers that include:

  • Cloud Computing Technologist

  • Cloud Support Specialist

  • Virtualization Specialist

  • Computer Network Support Specialist

  • Cloud & Workspace Administrator

  • Cloud Services Associate

How To Start a Cloud Computing Career

As the use of cloud computing continues to become more prevalent, the need for network and computer systems administrators will continue.

As you work to pursue a career in cloud computing, your journey should include a combination of education in information technology and networking, hands-on experience in the industry and, in many cases, the successful completion of industry-recognized certifications. Taking these steps can help prepare you to pursue career opportunities and position yourself favorably against other job candidates.

Cloud Computing Education

Your education in cloud computing may begin with an undergraduate certificate that you can use to pursue an entry-level role and gain work experience. Should you choose to continue your education, you might find that earning a bachelor’s or graduate degree can help you work toward higher level jobs, such as more senior or management-level roles.

Here is a breakdown of how our programs here at DeVry can help as you progress through your education and pursue a career in technology and cloud computing:

  • Entry Level

    To prepare to pursue roles like IT help support specialist, IoT (Internet of Things) technician, computer network support specialist or network technician, earn an undergraduate certificate or associate degree. Our 100% online Undergraduate Certificate in Cloud Computing or our Associate Degree in Information Technology can help teach you skills like wired, optical and wireless technologies, the basics of IoT technology, developing enterprise and cloud-based systems, executing data center operations and more. 

  • Moving Up

    If you’re looking to prepare to pursue higher level positions, consider earning a bachelor’s degree. We offer several technology-related bachelor’s degree programs that can all be earned online, including our Specialization in Cloud-Based Networking and Virtualization, which can be earned as part of our Bachelor’s Degree in Information Technology and Networking. This degree program can help prepare you to pursue careers like computer systems analyst, cloud and workspace administrator, cloud computing technologist, virtualization specialist and others.

  • Management Level

    Improve your managerial skills while further building your technical knowledge by earning a master’s degree. Our Master’s in Network and Communications Management or Information Systems Management can help you expand your IT and networking skillset and pursue senior-level management roles like network and computer systems administrator, data security analyst, IT project manager or information systems security analyst. 

Cloud Computing Certifications

Along with education and hands-on experience, another component of your career journey in cloud computing may be certifications. Two of the industry’s leading cloud service providers — Amazon Web Services (AWS) and Microsoft Azure — offer certifications that are specific to cloud computing:

  • AWS Certified Cloud Practitioner

    A foundational-level certification that helps you build an understanding of AWS Cloud concepts, services and terminology.

  • AWS Certified Solutions Architect-Associate

    Focused on the design of cost and performance-optimized solutions, this certification helps demonstrate a strong understanding of the AWS Well-Architected Framework.

  • AWS Certified Developer-Associate

    Demonstrates knowledge and understanding of core AWS services, uses basic AWS architecture best practices. This certification can help you build proficiency in developing, deploying and debugging cloud-based applications by utilizing AWS.

  • AWS SysOps Administrator-Associate

    Helps organizations identify and develop talent with essentials skills for putting cloud initiatives in place. This certification also helps demonstrate experience in deploying, managing and operating workloads on AWS.

  • Microsoft Certified Azure Fundamentals

    Confirms basic knowledge of cloud concepts and services and how those services are provided through Microsoft Azure.

  • Microsoft Certified Azure Administrator Associate

    Azure Administrators are often part of a larger team to implement a company’s cloud infrastructure. Candidates for this certification should be familiar with security, networking and application development.

  • Microsoft Certified Azure Developer Associate

    Candidates for this certification are cloud developers who partner with cloud administrators, database administrators and clients to implement solutions.

Interested in a Career in Cloud Computing?

As the global cloud computing market continues to grow, we can help you prepare to pursue career opportunities in cloud computing with an Online Undergraduate Certificate in Cloud Computing. As part of our cloud computing certificate program, you will receive hands-on experience with digital devices, sensors and cloud-based tools to build relevant IoT systems. You will also have the chance to develop skills in wired, optical and wireless technologies, cloud computing, data center virtualization, network design and more.

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