Cloud Computing 101: What’s It All About?

Back in the good old days, discussions about clouds were limited to those fluffy white things in the sky. School children discussed the difference between cumulus and cirrus and learned how clouds produced rain. And who hasn’t lain on the grass, looking at the cloud shapes and pointing out the dogs and angels we spy in the sky?

Enter 21st century technology and the word that was once associated with meteorology now means something totally different. As a matter of fact, when one Googles the word “cloud”, the term “cloud computing” appears at the top of the list, at least a few notches above the page that explains what experts describe as “that visible mass of minute liquid droplets, frozen crystals, or particles suspended in the atmosphere above the surface of a planetary body.”

We hear about keeping items and apps and photos in “the cloud”. We are offered the opportunity to back up our computers to “the cloud”. Indeed, we throw the term around as if everyone understands it. But how many truly get what cloud computing means?

A Simple Definition

Basically, the internet is “the cloud”. This means that “cloud computing” is the delivery of certain computing services over the internet. This could include storage, servers, databases, analytics, software, networking, and more; in general, it’s everything you need to store, manage, and process the data on your computer(s).

One uses these internet-based services instead of a local server. For example, instead of having all your financial information in an Excel spreadsheet on your PC, you might use a financial program like QuickBooks, which stores your info in “the cloud”. But more on that later.

Companies that offer cloud services are referred to as cloud providers. They generally charge you for their services based on your usage. Potential clients can browse a variety of cloud providers before choosing one, examining their technical prowess, business know-how, and financial health. Some top cloud providers include:

  • IBM Cloud
  • Amazon Web Service
  • Microsoft Azure
  • Google Cloud
  • Adobe
  • VMware
  • And many others!

Why Use Cloud Computing?

Cloud computing was introduced about 10 years ago and while only a handful of users caught onto the craze for the first few years, so many individuals, businesses, and organizations use it now for things such as:

  • Streaming audio and video
  • Hosting websites and blogs
  • Storing, backing up, and recovering data
  • Creating new apps
  • Delivering software in real time on-demand

Chances are that you might already use cloud computing services and haven’t even realized it!

Nonetheless, individuals and businesses enjoy many benefits with cloud computing, like these:

  • The cloud is never turned off – Have you ever used a flash drive that didn’t load properly or perhaps lost some emails you sent to yourself? It happens and then you’re sunk! That won’t happen if you’re saving things to the cloud. It’s always “on”, so with a simple internet connection, you can access whatever you need from literally anywhere in the world.
  • Security is top-notch – Security is minimal on local servers. Cloud providers do security audits on a regular basis, so you’ll spend less time worrying about whether any of your sensitive information is vulnerable to hackers. Some even back up their back-ups!! That makes this an ultra-reliable way to store your data.
  • You’re less vulnerable to disasters – Ever have a computer malfunction and lose all your stored data? It’s not only miserable. It’s heartbreaking too when you lose items such as treasured photos. Because your data is backed up offsite, you won’t lose it when your computer gives up the proverbial ghost or when a natural disaster causes other types of damage.
  • In business, the cloud allows employees to work from anywhere – More and more workers are telecommuting these days and, with cloud computing, it’s easier than ever to work from home or while on the road at conferences or workshops. That makes for more satisfied employees who are better able to balance home and work.
  • Companies can reduce their environmental impact – It used to be that large companies with massive IT departments had huge data centers, full of (physical) servers and lots of other equipment. With cloud computing, there’s no longer a need for those mega data centers and file sharing even means less of a need to constantly print paperwork.
  • It’s cheaper – For companies or organizations, this is paramount yet simple. The cloud will save you money! Gone (or reduced) is the tech support team, and cloud computing eliminates the need for expensive IT management chores, which are also time-consuming.
  • And it’s fast!! – Cloud computing services are provided on demand, so even if you’re dealing with vast amounts of data, you can do what you need to do quickly and with just a few clicks of your mouse.

Not All Clouds are Created Equal

Another thing you’ll need to know about cloud computing is that there are three different ways in which cloud resources can be deployed.

  • Public – This is the most common deployment method. With a public cloud, hardware, software, and other supporting infrastructure is owned and managed by the cloud provider, such as Microsoft Azure or IBM Cloud. You can easily access these services and manage your account simply by using your web browser.
  • Private – Some companies use private cloud computing, which means the resources are used exclusively by them. They can pay a third-party company to host their private cloud (as with public clouds) or they can have a private cloud physically located at their data center. All services will be maintained on a private network.
  • Hybrid – Hybrid deployment is a combination of the two above. When used by businesses, this sharing of data and applications between private and public clouds allows for more flexibility, users profess.

Still a little confused? It’s not as difficult as it sounds. In addition, cloud providers generally offer comprehensive training that helps IT professionals and others learn the ropes by providing personal service as well as user-friendly dashboards that explain each step of the process. Before long, exploring the cloud will be second nature!