cloud computing

The basics of cloud computing

Even if you don’t work in technology, you’ve probably heard of cloud computing. Writers, accountants, and even landscapers use cloud computing. So do hugely popular services such as Netflix.

Here’s a look at the basics of cloud computing and how it can benefit your business.

How cloud computing got its name

Old telecommunication companies used a cloud symbol to represent the telephone network. Later, a cloud was used to represent a network or technology that was managed by someone else. Basically, the cloud symbolized a network or system you used but weren’t responsible for maintaining for running.

How cloud computing works

In a nutshell, cloud computing is the ability to store data at a remote location. In practice, it means that people are able to take advantage of on-demand computing services, apps, and processing power on a pay-as-you-go scheme over the internet. They can use devices such as smartphones, tablets, and even game consoles to access the cloud. However, when the internet is down, users cannot access the cloud.

With cloud computing, your business can:

  • Save money and space on an IT infrastructure
  • Get access to apps, file storage and more from a cloud provider
  • Tap into programs for word processing, design, marketing, sales, data analytics, and disaster recovery, among others
  • Scale operations up and down easily
  • Increase employee collaboration
  • Help more employees telecommute from home
  • Conduct distance training and seminars
  • Pay only for the resources it uses

Cloud computing examples

Many people use cloud computing and don’t even know it. For instance, you may have cloud storage set up for the pictures you take on your smartphone. Similarly, Gmail is a form of cloud computing, as are most of Google’s services. Netflix depends on cloud computing as well (through Amazon Web Services).

Microsoft Office 365 is a popular cloud service, and families and businesses can use apps such as Excel, Outlook, Word, PowerPoint, and OneNote for a monthly or yearly subscription fee.

How cloud computing developed

Cloud computing landed in 2006 with Amazon as a leading infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) provider. The companies to keep an eye on now include Amazon, Microsoft, IBM, Salesforce and SAP.

Cloud computing has developed to include the following common uses:

  • IaaS (for servers, storage, and networking, among other things)
  • SaaS (software as a service, for software and applications through the internet)
  • PaaS (platform as a service, for building and delivering applications)
  • File storage
  • Disaster recovery
  • Backup
  • Big data analytics
  • Testing and development

Many vendors now only sell cloud versions of their software (like Office 365 and Adobe Creative Cloud). Cloud software benefits the consumer because it has a cheaper, monthly cost and you always have the latest version of the software. It also benefits the vendor because all users are using the same version, which makes support and troubleshooting potential issues easier.

Public vs. private cloud

There are two main types of cloud computing available to businesses, public or private cloud. A hybrid cloud is a third option that combines a public and private cloud.

In a private cloud, your business uses cloud computing behind a firewall. The infrastructure for the cloud may be on site or off site. This type of cloud computing can be more secure, but it also costs more.

The public cloud is also secure, but may not have the same security measures required by some industry regulations. Public clouds are owned and operated by a third-party provider and are cheaper and easier to set up.

For more on cloud computing, check out this article that discusses cloud security myths and other cloud myths.