If you are not new to the world of the internet, chances are that you might have used cloud services or at least might have heard about it. Cloud computing is gaining more and more popularity with each passing day. The reason is that companies are now looking Cloud computing technology has made great progress and has become very popular among the masses, with leading companies like Amazon and Google investing in it and marketing it. Amazon entered the market first with its Amazon Web Services (AWS), companies like Google and Microsoft soon followed. So what is this fuss all about? What is cloud computing? What are the characteristics of cloud computing? We are about to answer all these questions in this article.
What is Cloud Computing?
The term ‘cloud’ in technical terms, was used to refer to distributed computing as early as 1993. Cloud computing is basically the on-demand provision of computing resources like storage, applications, networking capabilities, databases, software and services, development tools, processing capabilities, and more, by service providers (known as Cloud Service providers or CSP), to its users, via the internet. These services can be provided with minimum management effort or service provider interaction. Cloud computing is often referred to as internet-based computing. In simple terms, users can access data, applications, and services hosted in remote services, instead of accessing it from their computer’s hard drive.
Cloud service providers host these services at remote servers and charge their users on a monthly basis or by their usage of the facility. It provides a large amount of computing power (especially data storage) without direct active management of users. Users can access their data anywhere in the world, from the ‘cloud’, with advanced security provided by the service provider, all they need is a good internet connection. Cloud servers require not to be in one place, they are frequently distributed over multiple locations and are managed by the Cloud Service Providers. It is just like how internet services providers do not let their users worry about how the internet is provided to them.
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The ever-increasing demand for enormous storage by vast organizations as well as by users is making cloud computing more and more popular. Companies are also competing to provide more and more features along with storage services.
Cloud service providers offer their services based on the three most popular models-
- Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS): Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) refers to providing infrastructure services such as physical computing resources, scaling, security, storage, and networking to its users.
- Platform as a Service (PaaS): Platform as a Service (PaaS) refers to offering a development environment (typically like operating system, database, Integrated Development Environment, etc.).
- Software as a service (SaaS): In the Software as a Service (SaaS) model, users can gain access to applications and software from anywhere in the world.
The various clouds available in the market today are- Amazon Web Services (AWS), Microsoft Azure, Google Cloud, Alibaba Cloud, IBM Cloud, Salesforce, etc.
Why Use Cloud Computing?
Now that we know the basics of cloud computing, a question that crosses our mind is why should we use cloud computing? The following are some convincing points for why you should use cloud computing-
- Cloud computing reduces the costs of buying hardware and software considerably.
- Every resource is just a click away, you can access it anywhere from any device- all you need is just a good internet connection.
- It is highly scalable- you can easily increase the capacity according to the demand. Users can scale services to fit their needs, and they can customize them as well.
- Security- Cloud service providers spend plenty of resources to provide quality services to their clients, security being one of them.
- Reliable- Cloud is a reliable source of storage. Back up and recovery of data is easy, less expensive, and very fast.
- Efficient and productive in terms of cost and time- Enterprise users can access services and applications easily without having to worry about underlying structures and the cost of infrastructures. This increases the productivity of the firm.
Now let’s look at some of the important characteristics of cloud computing that make this so trending and popular.
Characteristics of Cloud Computing
Cloud Computing lets users access data or services using internet-enabled devices (such as smartphones and laptops). Whatever you want is instantly available on the cloud, just a click away. Sharing and working on data thus becomes easy and comfortable. Many organizations these days prefer to store their work on cloud systems, as it makes collaboration easy and saves them a lot of cost and resources. Its ever-increasing set of features and services is also accelerating its growth.
Scalability is the ability of the system to handle the growing amount of work by adding resources to the system. Continuous business expansion demands a rapid expansion of cloud services. One of the most versatile features of Cloud Computing is that it is scalable. Not only does it have the ability to expand the number of servers, or infrastructure, according to the demand, but it also offers a great number of features that cater to the needs of its users. Scalability also adds a cost-effective dimension and makes it suitable for business use. It can be scaled down when the demand is low and can be exponentially increased when the demand is at its peak. Services return to their original state when the demand subsides. It is just like when a restaurant can increase its tables during rush hours, except it is a cloud. This indeed requires a lot of resources, planning, and investment but cloud service providers take care of all these things.
Computing resources (like networks, servers, storage) that serve individual users can be securely pooled to make it look like a large infrastructure. This can be done by implementing a multiple-tenant model, just like a huge apartment where each individual has his own flat but at the same time every individual shares the apartment. A cloud service provider can share resources among clients, providing each client with services as per their requirements. In Public clouds, you share the same resources with other organizations and users as well, while in private clouds, the computing resources are used exclusively by one user or organization. A Hybrid cloud is a mixture of a public cloud and a private cloud. The customer does not have to know where their information is stored and how it is stored.
Broad network access
One of the most interesting features of cloud computing is that it knows no geographical boundaries. Cloud computing has a vast access area and is accessible via the internet. You can access your files and documents or upload your files from anywhere in the world, all you need is a good internet connection and a device, and you are set to go.
It is based on a self-service model where users can manage their services like- allotted storage, functionalities, server uptime, etc., making users their own boss. The users can monitor their consumption and can select and use the tools and resources they require right away from the cloud portal itself. This helps users make better decisions and makes them responsible for their consumption. Users can use resources on the basis of their needs and requirements. Cloud service providers do not tell users how to manage their services, they only charge them at the end of the billing cycle based on their usage of the services.
Since users can monitor and control their usage, they can also control the cost factor. Cloud service providers do not charge any upfront cost and most of the time they provide some space for free. The billing is transparent and entirely based upon their usage of resources. Cloud computing reduces the expenditure of an organization considerably. We must also take into consideration other indirect ways in which cloud computing saves us some money like hardware and software set up costs (in the beginning), data maintenance costs, etc. For companies that have just started, cloud computing can save them fortunes by saving them the cost of purchasing physical storage devices and software products. They don’t even have to worry about extra costs such as power cost, maintenance, and repair. All these extra costs have to be taken care of by the vendors.
Data security in cloud computing is a major concern among users. Cloud service providers store encrypted data of users and provide additional security features such as user authentication and security against breaches and other threats. Authentication refers to identifying and confirming the user as an authorized user. If the user is not authorized, the access is denied. Cloud vendors provide several layers of abstraction to improve the security and speed of accessing data. A copy of data is often stored in a separate location to prevent data loss in case of a disaster (such as abrupt power loss, or server damage). Besides all these measures, data servers are secured physically as well. These servers are generally housed in an isolated location that is well guarded, preventing people from accessing or disrupting them. Creating a backup of data in the cloud is also easy. All these measures seem to have paid off as there are no reports of a cloud security breach to date.
Automation enables IT teams, and developers, to create modify and maintain cloud resources. Cloud infrastructure requires minimum human interaction. Everything, from configuration to maintenance and monitoring, is most of the time automated. Automation is a great characteristic of cloud computing and is very much responsible for the increase in demand and rapid expansion of cloud services.
Maintenance of the cloud is an easy and automated process with minimum or no extra cost requirements. With each upgrade in cloud infrastructure and software, maintenance is becoming more easy and economical.
Cloud resources and services such as storage, bandwidth, processing power, networking capabilities, intelligence, software and services, development tools, analytics, etc. used by the consumer are monitored and analyzed by the service providers. In other words, the services you use are measured. The users are then charged based on the resources used at the end of the month (or billing date). This model is called the pay-as-you-go subscription model. This is useful for both users and for the service provider, as users can monitor their consumption and the service providers can manage their resources efficiently.
Resilience in cloud computing means its ability to recover from any interruption. A Cloud service provider has to be prepared against any disasters or unexpected circumstances since a lot is at stake. Disaster management earlier used to pose problems for service providers but now due to a lot of investments and advancements in this field, clouds have become a lot more resilient. Like, for example, cloud service providers arrange many backup nodes (server). In case one server goes down, these emergency servers can manage the load till the main server is being repaired. Advanced backup and recovery methods make sure that your data is always safe.
Cloud computing is definitely one of the most popular and trending technologies of present times. Almost every IT company has shifted its operation to the cloud. Cloud computing has a lot to offer its users. Cloud services can be accessed from anywhere, they can be expanded according to the demand, and the pay-as-you-go subscription model of billing ensures that users are charged only for what they have consumed. As more and more companies are switching to cloud services, more and more providers are coming into play. Companies are investing a lot in this technology, which ultimately provides their users with a feature-rich cloud experience.
Both parties of cloud computing- the users and the providers, are winners. Organizational demand for cloud computing has increased exponentially. Cloud service providers, grasping the business opportunity, have continuously provided quality services to their clients. Cloud technology has performed up to its potential and still, it has a huge prospect for growth.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q. What are the benefits and features of cloud computing?
A. There are many benefits of cloud computing, some of them being –
- Easy data backup recovery
- Can be accessed from anywhere and from any device
- Low maintenance cost
- Unlimited storage capacity
- Only pay for what you have used
- Enhanced data security
Scalability, flexibility, resilience, security, pay-as-you-go subscription model are some of the features of cloud computing.
Q. What are the three basic components of cloud computing?
A. The three important components of cloud computing are-
- Client- These are the users of the cloud services.
- Datacenter- These contain sets of servers to support cloud structure.
- Distributed servers- These are the servers housed in locations different from physical servers.
Q. What are the models of Cloud computing?
A. These are the three models of cloud computing-
- Software as a Service (SaaS)
- Platform as a Service (PaaS)
- Infrastructure as a service (IaaS)
Q. Why is cloud computing the future?
A. Cloud computing is a promising and expanding technology that offers perks like access from anywhere, ease of maintenance, cost efficiency, and unlimited storage. Also, a lot of business organizations are already investing in it, so it is going to grow and become more popular in the near future.
Q. What cloud computing services are available?
A. There are many cloud computing services available famous of them are- Amazon Web Services (AWS), Google cloud platform, IBM Cloud, Microsoft Azure, etc.
Q. How does cloud computing work?
A. Cloud service providers host space and services remotely to their clients and charge them on a monthly basis, which can be accessed via the internet. Users can access their data anywhere in the world without having to carry physical storage devices.
Q. How does cloud computing benefit an organization?
A. Cloud services are designed to be fully automated and can be scaled according to demand. Cloud services improve collaborations among employees (since they can share documents and work on them together), save a lot of money for the company, and offer a lot of features and security. Many business organizations are, therefore, now switching their operations to the cloud.