What is Cloud Computing? Cloud Computing Definition
Cloud computing is very much like desktop computing. The only difference is software, data, or storage isn’t present in your computer. Instead, it’s all on a remote computer you can’t see. We call this ‘invisible’ computer cloud if you will.
You can’t see the computer but you can connect to it with your own computer. The way you connect to the remote computer is through the Internet.
So, with cloud computing, you’re essentially using your computer or any Internet-enabled device (smartphone, tablet, etc) to access another computer in a location you can’t see.
The ‘computer’ in the remote location must give you permission to access it.
Just like anyone can see the clouds in the sky, anyone from anywhere in the world can use a cloud service, subject to terms and conditions. It doesn’t matter whether you’re in China or the USA. You get the same level and speed of access.
Cloud computing’s backbone is the Internet. You can access a software program on your computer (stored in your hard drive) without an Internet connection. But you can’t access the remote (cloud) computer and its resources without one.
You may already be using cloud computing services without realizing it.
Day-to-Day Cloud Services in Regular Use
Do you have a Gmail, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Netflix, or an Instagram account?
If you do, you’re using cloud computing services. You’ve not installed Facebook, Instagram, or Gmail software on your computer. Still, you can still access these programs through an Internet connection.
All the data or content you enter isn’t stored in your computer, but in a remote ‘computer’, a part of which you’re allowed to access.
Cloud computing allows you to do almost anything you can do with desktop computing.
You can even run a software program with cloud computing. Examples are Google Docs, a cloud computing program that allows you to create documents and edit them, much like Microsoft Word.
You can store digital files much like you would store them on your hard drive or pen drive. An example of this is Dropbox, Google Drive, or Microsoft’s OneDrive.
The video below gives you a basic idea of what cloud computing is. The emphasis is on the safety of your data, ‘should a meteorite strike your computer’. You can walk away smiling as your data -photos, videos, and files – are safely stored in a cloud server.
NIIS Cloud Computing Definition
The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) laid down the Cloud computing definition in 2011.
According to the body, cloud computing is a “model for enabling ubiquitous, convenient, on-demand network access to a shared pool of configurable computing resources like networks, servers, storage, applications and storage, applications and services. It can be rapidly provisioned and released with minimal management effort or service provider interaction.”
That’s a lengthy, jargon-filled definition. Let’s break that down into understandable parts.
Ubiquitous – Available anywhere
Convenient – You can use it without much difficulty anywhere there’s an internet connection or through any device that can access the Internet
On-demand – You can use it at any time
Shared Pool of Configurable Computer Resources
Resources like networks, servers, storage, applications and storage, applications and services., can be shared among many. These resources can be configured according to the user’s needs.
For example, I can use only the portion of the services I need. If I need only 10GB of storage space, I just get that. I don’t have to get 500GB of storage space just because that’s the only option available, as in a physical storage space device like a hard disk.
Minimal Service Provider Interaction
A cloud computing service can be run with minimal involvement from the service provider.
Much of the processes are automated. Say, you want to open a Google Drive account, you don’t have to make an application or speak to a live person to create one.
Services can be ‘provisioned’ according to your needs. If you need a free account, you get it. If you need a premium account, you’ll get it, too. Even if you’re paying for the services, there’s very little interaction with the service provider that is needed. Almost all these processes are automated.
With cloud computing, in most instances, you can choose only what you need, compared to buying a software program in a box, where you have to take everything, irrespective of whether you’ll be using it or not.
NIST’s 5 Essential Characteristics of Cloud Computing
The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) laid down 5 important characteristics of cloud computing as explained below:
- On-demand self-service – the user can serve himself to the service without needing human assistance
- broad network access – access to the service isn’t limited to physical location or number of users – most services are available globally
- resource pooling – A single resource can be shared and used by big number of users (just like in car pooling – using the same car instead of each driving his own car)
- rapid elasticity and expansion – the resource used can be expanded or minimized depending on needs – new features can be added without user experience being affected
- measured service – service use can be tracked – the amount of use or the nature of using the same can be quanitfied – for example if you’re using Amazon to sell your products, you can see how many clicks you’ve got and an so on
The video below elaborates on the 5 essential characteristics of cloud computing to help you enhance your understanding of them.
NIST’s 3 Cloud Computing Service Models
The three cloud computing models are
- Software (Google Docs, )
- Platform (YouTube)
- Infrastructure (Amazon Web Services)
The video explains the NIST’s three cloud computing models. The emphasis is not to get confused by the so-called cloud computing ‘facts’ found in the marketing content of companies promoting these services.
Cloud Computing’s 4 Deployment Models
The 4 Cloud Computing Deployment Models listed by NIST are
- Public – resources developed and maintained entirely by 3rd party – opened to public usage -low cost – but security concerns may arise
- Private – for private corporate use – with mission-critical operations -costly – not for small companies with low budgets
- Community – private resources – but shared among organizations with similar needs
- Hybrid – a mix of the above three, based on needs
This video explains simply with examples and real-world analogies to help you grasp the idea beyond the 4 cloud computing deployment models.
Benefits of Cloud Computing
Here are some standout benefits of cloud computing.
You can access your data or program from anywhere in the world. From anywhere there’s an Internet connection, that is. This is the most powerful aspect of cloud computing.
If you run a WordPress blog, you can edit a post as you’re waiting to board a flight in Singapore and publish it when you reach Bangkok.
Save on Computer Storage Space
If you’re having trouble saving all your files and data due to lack of space, cloud storage is an ideal solution.
You store all your files and data on a remote hard disk. The advantage of this is you don’t have to carry with you an external hard disk wherever you go.
Also, you don’t have to worry about a hard disk malfunction or a virus attack that could leave you with lost data.
There are many services that allow you free cloud storage like Google Drive and Microsoft OneDrive.
Pay What You Use
This pay-as-you-go lets you choose a flexible plan that suits your needs. Most cloud services let you end your subscription at short notice and pay only for what you use (Amazon web services).
You the cost of buying computers, storage devices, and hiring people to maintain them.
Basically, when you use a cloud computing service, you don’t have to install programs or any software on your computer.
For small businesses without a sizeable capital, cloud computing is a way to cut down on overheads.
Security and Support
Cloud services are run by companies backed by professional staff. You’ve peace of mind with your data. Security breaches are minimal and support is available 24/7.
One of the standout benefits of cloud computing is you don’t have to worry about software upgrades. It’s done for you automatically if your subscription plan supports it. It’s also easier to upgrade to a better plan. You don’t have to worry about going through the hassle of downloading upgrades.
Types of Cloud Computing Services
Cloud computing services cater to the different demands of users out there.
Here are 10 examples of cloud computing
GAAS (Gaming As A Service)
Gaming As A Service allows a gamer to access any game in a provider’s library and play not only on his computer but over mobile devices as well. If this service becomes popular in the future, the demand for gaming consoles may fall.
DAAS (Desktop As A Service)
This type of service allows you to access your Windows, Mac or Linux from anywhere in the world on any device.
You’ll have access to all your icon layouts and shortcuts, among others. In short, it’s a Virtual Desktop, accessible on any device.
DAAS companies claim that you minimize data security breaches by using a DAAS service, among other benefits.
CAAS (Communications As A Service)
CAAS covers cloud-operated telecommunications, video conferencing, and even messaging. Examples include WhatsApp, Twitter, Facebook, and Skype.
DBAAS (Database As A Service)
Such cloud service providers take over the management of a company’s database. This not only provides security but also cuts the cost of database administration if it’s done in-house.
This video from IBM Technology puts the benefits of a Database As A Service in a nutshell.
HAAS (Hardware As A Service)
In this instance, the service allows a business to rent all the computer hardware – computers, printers – modem, etc – required to run the business.
PAAS (Platform As A Service)
This is a combination of software and hardware solution. The service allows companies to develop software and then test it with different types of hardware and operating systems.
IDAAS (Identity As A Service)
This is an identity and user management service operated through the cloud. Examples are iris detection and thumbprint software.
SAAS (Software As A Service)
This is one of the most popular cloud computing services. You run cloud-based software programs just as you would with those installed on your computer. Examples are YouTube, Gmail, Invideo (cloud-based video editing). Companies choose from the different options available to suit their needs.
IAAS (Infrastructure As A Service)
This service offers server and networking facilities operated through the cloud. Different levels of access and resources can be allocated to different users.
STAAS (Storage As A Service)
This is another popular cloud-based service. Storage space for data is provided in the cloud. Google Drive, OneDrive, and Dropbox are among the services which allow you to store your files in their cloud storage space.
Now that you have learned about the ten examples of cloud computing, let’s move on to the advantages of cloud computing.
Advantages of Cloud Computing
Not sure whether you should embrace computing for your business? Consider the following advantages of cloud computing.
Cloud computing gives you the flexibility to choose the size of resources according to what your business needs. You can scale up when your business grows or scale down when there’s a business slowdown.
Cloud computer services always offer different packages to suit different types of users. Most offer free plans, too, to give you a taste of the service before you commit to a premium plan.
If you’re running your own data servers, you need to be constantly worrying about having the latest system updates.
With a cloud service, you don’t have to worry about the latest updated system. Updates are included in the service package and it will be run without any involvement or management on your part.
Time, labor charge, and cost are saved.
In the event of a problem with your data storage, you don’t have to worry about losing your data.
Cloud services have excellent data recovery systems in place. With a cloud service, data recovery is quick and easy with professionals handling the process.
Disadvantages of Cloud Computing
Despite the standout benefits of cloud computing, there are risks to contend with.
Data Security Concerns
The risks associated with storing your data on a cloud service include data loss or theft, not to mention leakage of data.
Your account could be hijacked by hackers and you could be open to DOS (Denial of Service) attacks, among others.
Different cloud service providers provide different levels of security. Research well and read reviews related to a service before signing up.
The smooth functioning of cloud services could be upset by upgrades that could affect the day-to-day use of the services.
While the technical team rectifies the situation, services could go offline for hours, affecting your business operations.
Internet Service Disruption
If you have a problem with your Internet connection, then you would not have access to the cloud services you paid for.
So, you’ve to be prepared for ‘going offline’ risk.
The cost of maintaining cloud services is ever on the rise. This would be passed on to customers. This service fee increase would not affect a large company with fat profits. However, smaller companies may feel the pinch.
Cloud Computing Has the Vote?
Despite these shortfalls, the odds are in cloud computing’s favor. As seen above the advantages of cloud computing outweigh its minor disadvantages.
Watch the video below to consider the advantages and disadvantages of cloud computing.