What is Cloud Computing?

At its most basic, cloud computing is a means of storing data needed to run various applications. Cloud computing is how many businesses today defer the cost of operating and maintaining owned, on-premises servers.

Definition of Cloud Computing

Cloud computing as a term was first coined in 1996 by a group of executives at Compaq Computers as they “plotted the future of the internet,” according to MIT’s Technology Review. Today, the term is defined as, “the practice of storing regularly used computer data on multiple servers that can be accessed through the internet” according to Merriam-Webster.

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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 today choose for their IT infrastructure needs. It allows companies to outsource IT infrastructure to a third-party provider, rather than investing in the hardware and resources needed to maintain their own. 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

What are the Advantages of Cloud Computing?

There are many advantages to using 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, workstations, etc.

  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 systems

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?

Today, there are a lot of well-known companies in the cloud computing space, including:

  • Microsoft Azure
  • Amazon Web Services (AWS)
  • Google Cloud
  • IBM Cloud
  • Oracle Cloud

What Kinds of Jobs are Available in Cloud Computing?

There are a variety of job opportunities within the cloud computing space in areas such as customer support, development and engineering and architecture and administration.

Cloud computing job titles include:

  • Cloud Support Specialist
  • Cloud Services Associate
  • Computer Network Support Specialist
  • Entry-Level Network System Administrator
  • Network Technician

Interested in a Career in Cloud Computing?

Learn how an Online Undergraduate Certificate in Cloud Computing from DeVry University can prepare you to pursue this path.