When you see the above icon on your phone or your desktop, you probably hear sales pitches which go something like, “Store your files in the cloud.” But, then this begs the question: what is the ‘Cloud’?
Now, there seems to be a lot of confusion about what exactly the Cloud is. Some people think that if they upload their pictures or files in the Cloud then they’ll literally kind of float around somewhere in cyberspace. If you think the same, then following is a simplified explanation of what the ‘Cloud’ is to clear your confusion and help you understand exactly how the cloud services can secure your future.
Understanding the ‘Cloud’
When you think about the Cloud, think of it as a computer, just like the computer you have on your desktop or your phone, the only difference being that it is a computer that’s somewhere else. Now, I know that may look odd or an extreme oversimplification of things but if you don’t know what the Cloud is or have no real conceptual understanding of what it is then you should really just think of the ‘Cloud’ as a computer that’s somewhere else that you are in some way utilizing. Whether it is for storage or processing power, you’re utilizing the ‘Cloud computer’ that is somewhere else in some way, obviously using an internet connection.
Now, in reality, the ‘Cloud’ isn’t one single computer, it’s more of something like this:
The above picture is of racks in a data center. You may have seen pictures like these in the past where there’s just rows and rows of server computers that you’re utilizing. So, you think of companies like iCloud, DropBox or Amazon Web Services (AWS), your files or pictures or documents or whatever you’re storing, aren’t just going up into the cloud into this magic mystery box rather they’re being stored on a server computer which is in one of the racks in the data center. Today, there are thousands, if not millions of data centers, around the world.
Generally, when people refer to Cloud services providers, they think about storage, computing power, databases but services such as AWS offer a lot more in terms of networking, analytics, developer tools, virtualization and security.
Now, you don’t need to understand or know what these terms are but it is important for you to get the picture that using Cloud computing platforms such as iCloud or DropBox or AWS to store the pictures, videos or documents that you may have is only a very small subset of what Cloud computing is and the list of things mentioned above, while certainly not all encompassing, is a much broader list of things that Cloud services providers provide.
How Enterprises are Using and Benefiting from Cloud Services
Let’s now see how enterprises are using and benefiting from cloud services. For this purpose, we going to use ZZ software, a hypothetical software company, as an example. Let suppose, ZZ software is using the Cloud Service provider AWS and has 1000 users. Currently, there are two servers that the users have provisioned and are using in the world. Suppose the company grow. Now, as the user base increases, say from a 1000 to 4000, Cloud service providers can automatically and instantly add additional servers.
So, ZZ software didn’t have to estimate growth, ensure that they have space in their on -premise data center, spend time researching the types of servers it needs to buy, order them, wait a few weeks for delivery, install the servers, install the operating systems, test them and load the software onto it. Quite literally, within minutes, using a Cloud service provides like AWS, the company can have two new servers up and running with their software installed and that can be done at any time. So, the process that used to take several weeks can now be done in matter of minutes using a Cloud Service provider like AWS.
Continuing with the example, let’s say the user-base increased to 4000 but then at some point, lowered to 3000. Now, as the use-base drops, one of the servers will automatically disappear from your ‘premise’. The reason for this is that when you use Cloud service providers, especially when you’re using servers, you’re only using them ‘when you need them.’ So, the second the user base dropped from 4000 to 3000, the Cloud services provider simply just de-commissioned that server and ZZ software was no longer being charged for it.
How Cloud Services are Helping Businesses to Lower Costs and Improve Efficiency
Unlike in the case of on -premise technology or servers, where the company has to buy physical hardware, install it in its office, and if it isn’t used, the company would still be stuck paying for that hardware, using a Cloud service provider, a company only leases hardware and that too on an on-demand basis, meaning that as your user base grows, you can add more, and as it shrinks, you can pair those down and no longer pay for them.
Using Cloud services, you can ensure that your files are highly available, meaning that your files are available all the time and from any device that you want. Also, if something was to go wrong like if your hard drive was to crash or your computer was to go down, you’d have backup. So, no matter what goes wrong, your files will never be deleted. Finally, a Cloud service such as AWS allows you to quickly grow and shrink on-demand based on your needs. The four reasons given above are why many personal users and enterprise users today love Cloud services and are using them.
by Bobby J Davidson
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