So, what is cloud computing in simple terms? I mean, it’s no secret, the cloud is a big deal - a very big one - and has been increasingly so, literally and figuratively, for the greater half of the decade. If your job so much as grazes the tech industry, you’ve likely heard the words cloud or cloud computing spoken to a near nauseating degree in such a way that it sounds like the best thing to come around since sliced bread. Before you go passing off all this cloud hullabaloo as merely a passing phase though, do consider: the reason for all this cloud commotion is because real businesses are achieving some real hikes in productivity and drops in cost - in nearly every sector of their operation - as a direct result of the technology. To illustrate how that happens, I'll be explaining a lot more about various cloud-related services to help answer the question: what is cloud computing in simple terms? As it turns out, there are a lot of good reasons to adopt cloud services besides a fondness for those fluffy cumulonimbi…
The core of the cloud craze really comes down to what it offers businesses: Nearly all the same features and functionality of the traditional, locally installed software and hardware suites that businesses have been reliant on for decades, with enhanced ease of access, security, interoperability, integration, and ease of collaboration - all at a lower cost, and greener footprint to boot. Sure, we’re not saying it’s all unicorns and rainbows, and we’ll be covering some of the cons of cloud computing in our next article, but for now, let’s discuss some of the reasons that cloud computing exists at all, and why it’s quite clear that this whole cloud thing can be a good investment for a business of any size.
So “what is cloud computing in simple terms?”, and “what can it do for me?” Right, let’s get on to the good stuff:
The point of the cloud is to offload a portion of your businesses’ internal infrastructure to someone else, by way of the Internet, so that your business can focus more on doing business, and less on... everything else.
So...What is Cloud Computing in Simple Terms?
The types of services that you can offload to the cloud come in three major flavors:
Software as a Service (SaaS)
Software as a Service providers offer products in the form of web-based applications, generally designed to replace and improve upon locally installed ‘thick’ software such as the Microsoft Office suite, Photoshop, or just about every other commonly used business application. This alleviates the pain of worrying about deploying, configuring, and maintaining the software on every machine in the workplace, and allows more focus on actually using the application.
Platform as a Service (PaaS)
Platform as Service offerings can be seen as the next tier up from SaaS. Beyond utilizing software, PaaS providers allow businesses to resource entire hardware systems and operating systems from the cloud. The benefits are the same as SaaS, in that PaaS services make it so that administrative labor - such as resource management, capacity planning, update rollouts etc. - is taken care of by the service provider. This leaves organizations with computing resources that they can use just as though they owned them, while being able to focus on utilization rather than maintenance.
Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS)
Infrastructure as a Service, you might have guessed, is the ultimate when it comes to offloading your computing. IaaS is essentially your entire IT datacenter in the cloud. While PaaS offers computing resources and operating systems, IaaS providers allow you to utilize networking hardware, data storage hardware, and just about anything else you’d typically find in an IT closet.
So now that we’ve covered what the cloud is, and how you can use it, let’s get into where the rubber hits the road, and talk about the real reasons why you may want to use it.
Why You Might Choose Cloud Computing Over On Premises
One method to answer the question of what is cloud computing in simple terms is to approach it in terms of cost benefits. A datacenter of any size, is undoubtedly a costly thing to have. Server machines are expensive, as is the power to keep them running, and the power to keep them cool - not to mention the staff required for maintenance. They’re also significant time sinks. When the time comes to install, configure, and upgrade server hardware or operating systems - or when they experience failures - a large portion of time is spent taking care of those issues. Oftentimes, this maintenance is constrained to inconvenient off-hours in order to bring servers down for a non-emergency. In the case of an actual emergency, downtime can halt productivity for the entire business.
So what is cloud computing in simple terms? It's a resource-light solution to a variety of costly issues for on-premises solutions. When your infrastructure is hosted in the cloud, none of these scenarios are concerns, as it’s all taken care of by your service provider – whom also likely has superior hardware failure fallback systems, making it unlikely you’ll experience much (if any) emergency downtime. To further optimize costs,cloud pricing is typically pay-as-you-need-it, so you’ll never have any memory, storage, or processing power sitting idle or unused. Hardware scaling is often built into the system as well, so that if a time comes and there is a need for some extra oomph, it’s attainable within a few clicks on your service provider’s website.
You would be forgiven for thinking that it may sound strange to think that sending all of your data across the internet could be a more secure alternative than keeping it on-premises. The reality is, it’s likely that a cloud service provider has a security system in place that is far more sophisticated than yours. Provided they’re tasked with keeping a vast amount of sensitive data for all of their clients out of the wrong hands, cloud systems are designed from the ground up with attacks in mind. Thereby, cloud providers tend to employ highly advanced techniques like pattern matching and AI to ward off malicious attacks. Few businesses have the resources to match security efforts like that.
Another neat side-affect of storing data on the cloud is that it doesn’t have to be stored on a laptop. Laptops tend to be a dime-a-dozen at businesses, always being taken to public places, getting lost, or getting stolen. Having sensitive data centralized in one location, as opposed to fragmented across a series of machines that are hard to track, can only be a good thing - leading to an interesting (if somewhat unexpected) answer for what is cloud security in simple terms: a secure method of storing and protecting sensitive data.
Ease of Access and Version Control
Data in the cloud is instantly accessible to anyone with a device and the proper credentials. This means that your end-users can do their work on any laptop, tablet, or phone, from anywhere that they can access the Internet. This functionality makes working remotely and collaboratively with others totally painless. Cloud service providers also place emphasis on global accessibility too, utilizing geographic optimization to make access fast no matter where a user is. Furthermore, all updates to the data are instantly visible and accessible – all documents are stored in one central location, rather than having a number of different versions being passed around via email, or existing on different computers. Productivity is increased, and mistakes and miscommunications are reduced. So what is cloud computing in simple terms? Well, it’s nice when things just work, and cloud computing environments certainly make things simpler.
Hopefully, the case is made - despite being a tad controversial and misunderstood - the cloud is ultimately a good thing, even if it’s not for everyone. At the very least, it’s an exciting rethinking of how technology is distributed and used, from an economical standpoint, for service providers and their clients alike. As a final answer for the question 'What is Cloud Computing in Simple terms: a well utilized cloud system is a method to increase productivity across the board, reduce costs, and both organize and centralize data in a way that was not possible before.