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Cloud Computing - The Complete Guide

Cloud adoption has shown explosive growth over the last 5-10 years. In fact, 94% of enterprises already use a cloud service and the public cloud service market is expected to reach $623B by 2023 worldwide. With increased efficiency, scalability, and cost savings, it’s no wonder more organizations are adopting cloud, hybrid cloud, or multicloud technology. In this guide, we’ll cover what cloud computing is, how it works, pros and cons, types of cloud services, and how to choose a cloud provider.

What is Cloud Computing?

Cloud Computing is the on-demand delivery of data, computing services, or resources over the Internet. From software, intelligence, and analytics, to data storage and computing resources, everything can be hosted in a commercial cloud provider’s data center, readily available at any time, from anywhere.

How Cloud Computing Works

Cloud computing can be regarded as a kind of outsourcing of software, data storage, and processing you might traditionally perform on your computer's hard drive. The information is stored on physical or virtual servers maintained and controlled by a cloud computing provider such as Amazon Web Services or Google Cloud Platform.

Users access applications and files “on the cloud” by logging in from any device that has an internet connection. Companies are able to access the computing resources they require and only pay for what they need, being able to run their infrastructure more efficiently, and easily scale as their business needs change.

Cloud Examples and Use Cases

A few real-life examples of cloud computing include Netflix, Gmail, Facebook, Spotify, and Salesforce. All data is stored in the service provider's cloud infrastructure, easily accessible from any device, at any time, from anywhere, through the internet.

Popular cloud use cases include backup and recovery (like in Apple iCloud and Dropbox), social media (like Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram), video games (like Steam), and chat applications (like WhatsApp and Zoom).

Notice none of your profile data, photos, files, games, or media has to be downloaded or manually saved in order to save your preferences, continue where you left off, or access your information.

Why Cloud is Growing in Popularity

The popularity of cloud computing is principally down to its ease of use, flexibility, efficiency, and accessibility. Whether through your PC, smartphone, tablet, or even car, cloud computing allows you to access any files and use applications you have stored through your devices that have an internet connection.

As a business, you can access enterprise cloud resources as you go, allowing you to focus on building products and applications without the hassles of setting up, managing, or maintaining your own infrastructure. You save on extra equipment costs and time, avoid hardware failures, and avoid data loss while reducing IT costs.

Top Cloud Providers

Here are just 5 of today's top cloud services, providers, and products being used in 2020:

Google Cloud: This is a suite of public cloud services by Google. The platform enables users to create business solutions using Google-provided, modular web services. It offers a wide array of cloud based tools to ensure consistent performance and management. Google Cloud Hosting, and Compute Engine, are two of the many services the platform offers. They also offer their App Engine, Container Engine, Big Query, SDK, CDN, and many other services and products. For consumers, the most common examples of cloud computing are Gmail and Google Docs. These services are available from any device, at any time, and auto-backed up to the cloud, and not on your own hardward.

Amazon Web Services: It is a fast and reliable cloud-based program for building business solutions using integrated web services that features an almost limitless capacity. AWS includes high-tech services from operating systems, hosting, and databases to analytics, DevOps, and satellite.

Microsoft Azure: It is Microsoft’s public cloud computing platform. It provides a wide array of solutions like database storage, computing power, networking.suitable for all types of industries. Azure was built with a variety of use cases in mind; it is the best choice for those looking to get cloud computing or artificial intelligence (AI) and blockchain platforms alongside their web hosting.

IBM Cloud: It is a set of cloud computing services for businesses that you can acquire as PaaS, SaaS, and IaaS. The package includes Compute, Network, Storage, Cloud Packs, Management, Security, Database, Analytics, AI, IoT, Mobile, Dev Tools, Blockchain, Integration, Migration, Private Cloud, and VMware. Besides, it also offers things you can’t get anywhere else, such as IBM Watson.

Dropbox: Dropbox warrants being on the list as one of the first cloud service providers, many of us started out using. It is a reliable file-syncing and storage service with enhanced collaboration features.

Pros and Cons of Cloud Computing

 

Cloud Advantages:

There will always be pros and cons of digital technology. Here are some of the significant points that should be highlighted about cloud computing.

Reduced IT spending

You don’t have to spend significant money on hardware, facilities, utilities, and other aspects of operations. One of the main advantages of a hosted cloud solution is that your company can take advantage of the cloud service provider’s investments in the most secure, up-to-date technology and systems while avoiding the upfront infrastructure costs. 

Scalability

This is one of the key features of cloud computing, whether it’s for business or personal use. With cloud computing, you have the ability to quickly upscale or downscale, depending on your IT demands. Scalability enables you to accommodate larger workloads without disruption or completely transforming your existing infrastructure. Cloud-based solutions are ideal for businesses with expanding or fluctuating bandwidth requirements. For example, cloud computing proves to be advantageous to e-commerce businesses that are frequently impacted by the holiday season.

Automatic Updates

Many cloud computing providers include software updates in their package to make sure your system is running smoothly. This could include up-to-date versions of software, as well as upgrades to servers and computer processing power. 

Speed of Deployment 

A growing need for speed drives today’s economy. With the cloud, deployment is almost instantaneous. The physical infrastructure that runs your cloud solution is ready. So, once you choose this method of functioning, your entire system can be fully functional in minutes.

Storage and Recovery

Protecting your data and systems is an integral part of any business continuity plan. Cloud-based services provide quick data recovery for all types of emergency scenarios, from natural disasters to power outages. Being able to reaccess your data quickly allows you to conduct business as usual, reducing any downtime and loss of productivity.

While over 20% of cloud users claim disaster recovery in less than 4 hours, just 9% of non-cloud users have managed to achieve the same recovery time.

Data Governance and Security

Security is essential, and cloud computing enables secure data management. According to Gartner, “69% of enterprises with proper Cloud Governance this year will experience 33% fewer security lapses”. 

Productivity and Business Performance

When your entire team has access to the same information whenever needed, employees can do their jobs more efficiently. Communication is easier and there is no need to wait for others to send information or reply to your enquires. With better access to the latest technologies, your product can be far superior.

Efficient Collaboration

When working in a cloud environment, you no longer have to take the time to share your project with other team members. Your staff, contractors, investors, etc. can all access the same files. 

The flexibility of work practices

Cloud computing allows your company to implement more flexible work practices. For example, employees will be able to connect to your virtual office, quickly and easily while off-site. This convenient feature lets you move beyond time zone and geographic location issues as long as you have an internet connection.

According to a Cloud Data Management Report done in 2019 by SysGroup, 42% of all respondents said that providing access to data anytime, anywhere, is the main driver for cloud adoption.

Quality Control

By using a cloud-based system, you ensure that all documents are stored in one place and a single format. Since everyone will have access to the same information, you can maintain consistency in data, avoid human error, and keep track of any revisions or updates. 

Fewer IT employees

 A side consequence of choosing to invest in an internal IT infrastructure is that your company will need to hire dedicated IT staff that will focus on keeping that infrastructure running. However, opting for a cloud computing solution, you will be able to leverage the cloud service provider’s existing IT staff while reducing the number of IT employees and without impacting your organization’s IT capabilities.

Maintaining a Competitive Edge

Cloud adoption offers you access to world-class enterprise technology. To remain relevant and competitive, Cloud Services Providers are proactive, always offering the latest technologies. Therefore, you will no longer need to dedicate as much time or money in your IT installations and will be able to concentrate on more important business matters.

According to a recent Verizon study, 77% of businesses consider that cloud technology offers their businesses a competitive advantage, and 16% believe it is significant.

Expenses can be quickly reduced

A cloud computing solution offers a flexible cost structure, thereby limiting your company’s exposure in case of economic recession or business cut-backs 

Less environmental impact

Using a virtual environment for data storage and running web applications means less energy consumption, resulting in a diminished carbon footprint. Besides, cloud computing is environmentally friendly as it drastically diminishes your company’s physical hardware needs.

Cloud Disadvantages:

Reliance on Connectivity

To maximize the advantages of cloud computing, you need to have access to a fast and reliable internet connection with sufficient bandwidth. 

Potential Downtime

If your entire organization is depending on cloud computing, if there was ever a situation to cause the company to go offline (power cuts, data canters offline for maintenance), there might be some downtime. Even if this is short-term, it can still be costly.

Cloud Platform Compatibility

If you need to migrate from one cloud service provider to another, there could be support issues, configuration challenges, and maybe additional costs. During cloud migrations, there may also be security weaknesses.

Limited Control

Cloud services are entirely owned and controlled by the provider. Some companies struggle with the lack of control they have over back-end infrastructure. 

Types of Cloud Services:

Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS)

This type of service provides you with the highest level of flexibility and management control over your IT resource.

IaaS is a self-service for accessing and monitoring computers, networking, storage, and other services. The cloud provider also offers accompanying services such as monitoring, log access, security, load balancing, and clustering. Also, you can take advantage of the storage resiliency, such as backup, replication, and recovery. However, you will be purchasing, installing, configuring, and managing any software you need to use

Platform as a Service (PaaS)

Compared to the IaaS, the PaaS is a little more specialized. Rather than just offering the infrastructure, PaaS provides the framework you need to build, test, deploy, manage, and update software products. This is a prevalent choice for creating mobile apps.

Software as a Service (SaaS)

SaaS is the most common type of cloud computing. Rather than the development of software, SaaS is designed for the delivery, hosting, and management of apps over the Internet. This diminishes the installation and maintenance costs that are usually related to IT platforms or infrastructures.

Serverless

The cloud service provider runs the server and dynamically manages the allocation of machine resources. Prices depend on what is used instead of paying a fixed amount for a certain capacity.

Choosing the Right Cloud Service

 

There are several features to look for in a cloud provider, depending on your business needs; for example, if you have a large amount of sensitive information, security is going to be your top concern. If your business is running 24/7, you might need to focus on reliability and guaranteed uptime.

Here are top features to look for in a cloud provider:

 

  • Security: Do they have multi-layer security, data encryption, enterprise-grade firewalls, etc.

 

  • Backup: How long is the data backed up for? Is data backed up automatically.

 

  • Service Level Agreement: A document containing the service standards, terms, conditions, and compensation for any system failures.

 

  • Customer Support: While a major advantage of cloud services is you don’t need to hire additional expert staff, but if you aren’t tech-savvy, there should also be sufficient support available.

 

  • High-Performance Computing:  To ensure there are a few performance issues as possible, HPC enables robust, real-time performance for the use of heavy applications and even multiple users.

 

  • Pricing: As always, your budget will also have an impact on the choice you make. Nevertheless, there are many factors to consider, but keep in mind there is little point in sacrificing crucial features to save some money.

Migrating to the Cloud?

 

Don’t let a cloud migration hinder your business. Apache Kafka simplifies cloud deployments with a multi-cloud data pipeline, real-time data integration, and stream processing.

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