Cloud computing has transformed the way we use technology and enabled new possibilities for innovation and growth.
The concept of ‘cloud’ goes back to 1963, when the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) gave the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) a $2 million grant for Project MAC. They asked MIT to create a way that two or more people can use a computer simultaneously, sharing its resources and processing power.
Fast forward to 2006 and the launch of Amazon Web Services (AWS)’s Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2) service – a move which laid the foundations for numerous cloud platforms that we are familiar with today.
Defining cloud computing
Microsoft offers a good definition of what cloud computing is: “The delivery of computing services - including servers, storage, databases, networking, software, analytics, and intelligence - over the internet ("the cloud") to offer faster innovation, flexible resources, and economies of scale”.
The core elements of cloud computing
There are three core elements: infrastructure, platform, and software.
Infrastructure as a service (IaaS) provides the basic computing resources, such as servers, storage, and networks. Users can rent these resources on demand and pay only for what they use.
Platform as a service (PaaS) provides the tools and frameworks for developing and deploying applications on the cloud. Users can focus on their business logic and leave the management of the infrastructure to the cloud provider.
Software as a service (SaaS) provides the applications that run on the cloud. Users can access these applications through a web browser, or a mobile app. SaaS eliminates the need for installing or updating software on the user's device.
The types of Cloud computing
Cloud environments fall into four broad categories:
This is a dedicated cloud environment used solely by one organisation. It can be hosted on-premises or in a third-party data centre. The organisation has complete control over resources and can tailor them to suit its unique requirements. Private clouds ensure strong security, privacy, and compliance with regulations. However, they entail substantial initial investment and ongoing maintenance expenses.
A shared cloud environment owned by a third-party provider (CSP) that offers cloud services to the public. It provides low cost, scalability, and flexibility, with access to a wide range of services. However, it has limited control, potential security risks, and compliance issues.
Hybrid cloud combines private and public clouds, allowing organisations to use private cloud for sensitive data and applications, while utilising public cloud for less sensitive or scalable ones. It offers security and control of private cloud along with the cost-effectiveness and flexibility of public cloud. However, challenges include complexity, compatibility issues, management overhead, and network latency.
A multi cloud is an environment using multiple public clouds from different CSPs. It allows organisations to select the optimal cloud service for their data and applications based on performance, functionality, cost, and location. Multi clouds offer redundancy, availability, and access to diverse services. However, they come with drawbacks like complexity in integration, governance, and optimisation.
Why businesses choose the Cloud
Cloud computing has become so important because it offers many benefits for businesses and individuals. Here are a few:
Scalability and flexibility - Cloud computing allows businesses to scale their resources up or down based on demand. It provides the flexibility to quickly adapt to changing business needs without the need for significant infrastructure investments.
Cost savings - Instead of investing in costly hardware, businesses can use cloud services on a pay-as-you-go basis, paying only for the resources they use. This eliminates the need for upfront capital expenditures and reduces maintenance costs.
Data storage and backup - Cloud storage enables businesses to securely store and access their data without relying on physical servers. It offers scalable storage options and automated backup, ensuring data availability and protection.
Application hosting and development - Cloud platforms provide infrastructure and tools for hosting and developing applications. Businesses can deploy their applications in the cloud, taking advantage of the platform's scalability, performance, and global reach.
Collaboration and remote work - Cloud-based collaboration tools, such as document sharing, project management, and video conferencing, enable teams to work together efficiently, regardless of their location. Cloud computing facilitates remote work by providing access to business applications and data from anywhere with an internet connection.
Disaster recovery and business continuity - Cloud services offer robust disaster recovery solutions, including data replication and backup across multiple geographically dispersed servers. In the event of a system failure or disaster, businesses can quickly restore their operations and minimize downtime.
Data analytics and machine learning - Cloud platforms provide powerful analytics and machine learning capabilities. Businesses can leverage these tools to gain insights from their data, make data-driven decisions, and develop predictive models for various applications, such as customer behaviour analysis and demand forecasting.
Testing and development environments - Cloud environments offer on-demand resources for testing and development purposes. Businesses can quickly provision and configure virtual machines and infrastructure, reducing setup time and costs associated with traditional testing and development environments.
Internet of Things (IoT) integration - Cloud computing supports the integration and management of IoT devices and data. Businesses can collect, analyse, and process data from connected devices, enabling them to derive insights and deliver value-added services.
Enhanced security and compliance - Cloud service providers invest heavily in security measures to protect data and infrastructure. They often offer advanced security features, such as encryption, identity management, and access controls. Additionally, many cloud providers comply with industry standards and regulations, assisting businesses in meeting their compliance requirements.
The challenges and risks - Not all that glitters is gold and this holds true for cloud as well. Cloud computing faces several challenges and risks that need to be addressed by both cloud providers and cloud users.
Data security and privacy - This is the biggest challenge, as users cannot view where their data is processed or stored, and risks of data loss, leakage, theft, breaches, and hijacking can happen. Cloud providers need to ensure that they have robust security measures and encryption mechanisms to protect their customers' data. Cloud users need to be aware of their data protection rights and responsibilities and choose cloud services that comply with relevant regulations and standards.
Cloud management and governance - This involves monitoring, controlling, and optimizing the performance, availability, and costs of cloud resources. Cloud management can be complex and challenging due to the dynamic and distributed nature of cloud environments. Cloud providers need to offer tools and services that enable cloud users to manage their cloud resources effectively. Cloud users need to define clear policies and procedures for cloud usage, allocation, and optimization.
Cloud integration and interoperability - This refers to the ability of cloud services to work seamlessly with other cloud or on-premises systems. Cloud integration can be difficult due to the heterogeneity and diversity of cloud platforms, architectures, and standards. Cloud providers need to ensure that their cloud services are compatible and interoperable with other cloud or on-premises systems. Cloud users need to evaluate their existing systems and requirements before choosing cloud services that can integrate with them.
Internet connectivity and bandwidth - This is a prerequisite for accessing cloud services. Lack of sufficient internet bandwidth is a common problem when transferring large volumes of information to and from cloud data servers. Internet connectivity can also be unreliable or unavailable in some areas or situations. Cloud providers need to ensure that their cloud services are resilient and responsive to network fluctuations. Cloud users need to consider their internet connectivity and bandwidth needs before adopting cloud services.
Moving to the cloud is a decision based on a clear strategy that looks at the long-term costs, data security, compliance, resilience, and business needs. Once the strategy is in place, a cloud environment could help a business achieve its goals and address its IT challenges.
Find the right IT partner is critical to a successful cloud deployment. Talk to our experts at BMIT who can advise you on the cloud environment that best meets your business requirements and setup.