Welcome to the Cloud era
The phrase ‘Cloud Computing’ has recently become common due to companies’ increased reliance on the technology. Cloud Computing is the process of utilizing the internet to deliver essential services, including applications and processing capability, on a pay-as-you-go basis. The National Institute of Standards and Technology defines cloud computing as a technique of enabling access to shared on-demand resources without extra managerial effort (Mell & Grance, 2011). Simply put, it refers to the ease of accessing the internet anywhere and at any time to use it for whatever purpose you deem fit. While it may seem pretty straightforward, cloud computing underlies several complex and interconnected procedures.
Where did the term ‘Cloud’ come from?
You’ve probably heard of the cloud, but have you ever thought of how we came to coin this word? How it became such an essential component of the computing industry? It first came to be in the 1960s when clouds symbolized the internet in flowcharts. However, this was not attributed to cloud computing as we know it today, as it was merely a method of illustrating the internet in its early stages. We have Eric Shimdt to thank for the first reported use of the term cloud in the 21st century (Koba, 2013). It happened at a Search Engine Convention in California when Shmidt defined one data storage approach as cloud computing.
Essential Characteristics of the Cloud Computing Model
The National Institute of Standards and Research lists five key characteristics integral to the cloud model. They include:
· Self-Service- With cloud computing, there is no interaction between the user and the service provider. Everything is automated, and users can access utilities such as storage and applications without manually having to seek the provider
· Internet Access- Clients use mobile phones, tablets, and laptops to access the network where the resources are made available by the service provider.
· Resource Pooling- The cloud uses the Multi-tenancy model to serve clients, where a single application is shared among several users. The resources are assigned depending on the demand, and the user does not know the location.
· Rapid Elasticity- This means that the resources can be scaled up and down to meet the demand. Therefore, if you want to upgrade your resource, you can do it automatically. Thus, the user generally views the utilities as being unlimited.
· Measured Services- Cloud systems use a metering system to automatically control the consumer’s resources, which translates to the pay-as-you-go concept. Hence, you pay for the resource that you use depending on the system applicable to the service.
With the definition of cloud computing in mind, this paper seeks to analyze this technology in detail and explore critical issues such as benefits, security, and the way forward. The article’s key focus is to provide the reader with a comprehensive overview of the cloud era. Readers will understand why this technology has embedded itself into every aspect of life. Ultimately, the sentiments provided are intended to convince the reader of the criticality of this technology.
Why is Cloud Computing so Important?
The cloud is arguably the most important invention of the modern world. The speed at which this technology has set its roots and dependency in the market further cements this notion. What’s more, the average 21st-century individual heavily rely on mobile devices such as phones, laptops, and tablets, which in turn, adopt this technology.
It has Revolutionized the Commercial Sector
Perhaps, the most significant benefactors of the cloud are businesses. Before its inception, companies were forced to store their data on their equipment, which presented more problems than solutions (Cirrus, 2018). For instance, organizations had to incur the extra cost of maintaining their servers and hard drives. What’s more, upgrading or downgrading such facilities when the demand soared or plummeted was also a challenge. Therefore, when a company succeeded in marketing and became popular, its servers would most likely be overrun by the influx of clients. It is palpable that the biggest problem was the cost of running and maintaining computing utilities such as hard drives and servers.
However, the advent of cloud technology instantly solved these problems. Companies no longer had to worry about scaling their systems up or down since they could access such resources virtually over the cloud. The invention took the responsibility of server maintenance off their plate. All they had to do was access the cloud for any resource.
Cloud Computing has a Positive Effect on our Personal Lives
Worth noting is that the commercial sector is not the only beneficiary of cloud computing; it has also completely revolutionized our personal lives. If you think about it, you most probably use cloud technology every single day of your life. With such services, you can run an application on the internet without installing it on your computer or phone. That’s not even the best of it; you don’t have to store files physically on your mobile devices when you can have them hoisted on the cloud.
You might still be asking yourself the relevance of cloud computing technology. Do we need it? Truth be told, the cloud is a tech marvel of the 21st century? Why? This technology is applicable in every field and goes a long way in enhancing efficiency. It saves the extra cost of acquiring costly hardware and software to run programs. We need only incur a small fee when accessing such services over the internet. Overall, the cloud has a fundamental role in practically every aspect of our lives.
Types of Cloud Computing Technology
Cloud computing is a vast field that comprises various technologies differing in numerous aspects. Two fundamental models are used to classify the different cloud technologies we use today; they are the deployment and services models. The deployment model constitutes the public cloud, private cloud, multi-cloud, and hybrid cloud. In contrast, the service model includes SaaS (Software as a Service), PaaS (Platform as a Service), and IaaS (Infrastructure as a service).
SaaS (Software as a Service)
This is perhaps the most common cloud technology utilized by organizations today. According to Rani et al. (2015), SaaS is a service delivery model that uses the internet to access applications on a subscription basis. This model’s popularity can be attributed to its cost-effectiveness since the users do not have to incur maintenance costs. It has several advantages, such as the ability to be upgraded or downgraded depending on the demand. Examples include Google Apps, Oracle on Demand, and Sales Force.com
PaaS (Platform as a Service)
This platform is best suited to innovative startups that want to create applications without diving deep into their pockets. As Rani et al. (2015) put it, with Paas, the client is provided with a middle-level platform specifically tailored to simplify the software development process. Hence, companies can focus on software development’s creative aspect and avoid tedious and challenging tasks such as writing code. Notably, with Paas, the productivity of companies is significantly boosted.
IaaS (Infrastructure as a service).
IaaS is the most elaborate cloud computing service. One might even argue that it forms the basis for technology. Rani et al. (2015) state that such services are the most popular since they bundle all the benefits of cloud computing into one package. With IaaS, the service provider becomes the company’s traditional data center since it migrates and rents hardware and software from the cloud. System administrators still retain their positions and manage the servers since the firm is granted full access. The most significant benefit of this platform is that the firm is at liberty of scaling up and down at any time without incurring delays in service delivery.
SMEs are known to benefit immensely from public clouds due to their efficiency. More specifically, this model is suited to low-budget companies with low privacy issues. As illustrated by Rani et al. (2015), the cloud is owned and exists on a third-party service provider’s premises. Users are then allocated the resources; hence there is no need to buy and maintain their software and hardware. Depending on the provider, the service can either be free of charge or on a pay-as-you-go basis. Furthermore, users are at liberty to scale up and down when depending on their demand. The largest service providers, known as Hyperscalers, include Google Cloud, Microsoft (Azure), and Amazon Web-Based Services.
· Place Independence
· Low-Security Levels
· Not Easily Customizable
There is a very slight difference between public and private clouds in terms of architecture. However, As Rani et al. (2015) put it, private clouds are designed solely for single organizations as opposed to public clouds that are free to use for all. They offer more robust security for companies wary about sharing their data on a public cloud. Most notably, private clouds only allow access to resources within the bounds of a specific organization. The firm may utilize the internet using a private internal network to actualize private clouds or use owned servers. State-of-the-art firewalls and constant surveillance from the company’s IT department ensure the cloud’s security. Therefore, to access such services, the company must permit you.
· Highly Robust Security: Due to the extra firewalls and monitoring, resource sharing on a private cloud is secured.
· Control Orientation: Since the organization’s boundaries are where the resources are available, users are offered more control.
· Poor Scalability: Since the company’s boundaries offer access to everything, scaling capabilities become limited
· Costly: The advanced security features that make private clouds stand apart come at an extra cost.
· Place Dependence: It is only accessed within the firm’s boundaries limiting its availability globally
Private clouds and community clouds bear a great deal of resemblance. The only notable difference is that while only single organizations implement private clouds, several related companies use community clouds, such as banks or other financial institutions. Overall, the mentioned cloud technologies use a multi-tenant approach for similar companies.
The community cloud is best suited for joint organizations. Such entities get to enjoy more security for their data while saving the extra costs that would have been incurred had each company decided to get a private cloud.
· Enhanced data sharing and collaboration capabilities
· Fixed bandwidth shared between multiple organizations
· Costly when compared to the public deployment model
· It is yet to be implemented by many organizations globally
Organizations have discovered the advantages of utilizing both public and private clouds as single entities. Companies can perform less essential tasks that do not require extra surveillance on a public cloud. In contrast, they use private clouds to implement processes involving sensitive organizational data. Therefore, companies get to realize the benefits of both public and private clouds. Accordingly, the hybrid cloud model secures corporate data in a cost-effective and resource-efficient manner.
· Highly Secure
· Sophisticated Security Architecture
Is the Cloud Secure?
The cloud has long been the tech industry’s buzzword due to its fast adoption into the mainstream. However, one fundamental question is still subject to debate to date: Is the cloud secure?
You may be new to the cloud computing industry, but despite the different technologies in the field, the methods used to promote security have always remained the same. According to Schroth (2019), companies implement various technologies and policies to achieve safety on the cloud. Most notably, third-party auditors are known to be responsible for analyzing and verifying service providers. Once the data on such cloud servers are found to be secure, a certificate is issued. Such audits are incredibly vital to customers since they provide assurance and confidence regarding the safety of their data on third-party cloud servers. With this in mind, it is evident that data stored in the cloud may be far much safer than on your laptop or hard drive.
Cloud Security varies with different Models
Regardless of the consensus, the data stored on the cloud is secure, organizations need to understand the security level will depend on the cloud model they choose to implement. For instance, a public cloud’s security will not be the same as that of a private cloud. As Michel and Alcock put it, the cloud’s security risk is dependent on the selected model (n.d). Overall, firms should be conscious of the model they choose to implement their processes.
Also, a company needs to understand several security issues concerning cloud computing. Firstly, processing sensitive organizational data outside the company’s data introduces a new risk level that is not governed by the firm’s in-house controls. Companies should thoroughly inquire about security issues and risks involved before seeking a cloud service provider. Accordingly, using such methods a level of consensus regarding security and control of data may be achieved.
Even though third-party providers protect data on cloud servers, corporations are responsible for the integrity of their information. Some cloud service providers may not be prepared to undergo audits from independent entities, which means that you are responsible for your data’s security.
When a company chooses the seek cloud services, it will remain in the dark about the location of its data and is not entitled to make decisions regarding the site of such information.
Finally, a company must draw up possible outcomes should a cloud provider’s services fail in the long term. Overall, companies should understand that the cloud is not entirely secure, and as such, it would be best if they had several layers of defense against security threats.
Future of the Cloud
Cloud computing is not a new player in the tech market. It has recently increased in usage and popularity due to the COVID 19 pandemic, which has forced companies to shift their services online. Firms that invested earlier in the technology had an easier time adapting to the pandemic’s change in protocols. Experts anticipate that worldwide spending on cloud services will have risen by 73 % by 2024. Companies are now realizing the usability of cloud technologies, contrary to their positions two decades ago when it was new. Those that made an early investment in the technology are now well ahead of their peers.
Cloud computing has proven to be the new norm for industries all over the globe. This technology’s potentials remain unexplored, and it is up to you and me to fully embrace such solutions for a better world.
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