Explaining “The Cloud”

Most meaning is lost when a technical terminology becomes mainstream. For example, the term bandwidth; which relates more to load, but is advertised as speed. For many, myself including, the term the cloud is sometimes used to explain just about anything in information technology.

So you have heard about the cloud, and you are pretty sure you have used it. But, what is the cloud? What does it offer? And what are some of the risks that come along with using this technology?

Some see the cloud as entertainment; like, the streaming of online content (music, videos, and gaming); while others view it as a platform for maximizing efficiency and increasing productivity.   


The Product

The cloud is mostly seen by its end products; whether it is being used for entertainment or for work. But layered under the products are computing services. These services usually come in one of many models and carry the captions of “as a service”. So, there is the “software as a service”, the “platform as a service” and the “infrastructure as service”. And each (service) gives access to different levels of computing; such as software (gmail, google docs) or hardware (the ability to install operating systems and applications).

But how can parceling out computing resources, and selling them, benefit anyone (especially the consumer)?

Believe it, or not, information technology can carry a large overhead when it comes to hardware and management; just sending and receiving emails requires an email server and some form of administration. With large companies (that do more than just sending emails), the cost of having an in-house infrastructure can be very expensive. But through the use of cloud computing, this overhead can be delegated to third parties (AWS, azure) that offer sustainable pricing plans. This outsourcing of hardware and management reduces wasteful spending and frees up companies to focus on their products, which leads to better ROIs and faster deployments.

Other than affordability, there are more reasons to use the cloud. Accessibility is a  big one; being able to connect remotely is usually viewed as a plus. Also, having remote backups can be a great insurance policy if faced with a disaster (man-made or natural). And without the cloud, there will be no internet-of-things (whether you consider that to be a good thing or a bad thing).


The Tech

Many may see the Internet as the hearth of the cloud; it is usually the path for accessing the cloud. But virtualization is the technology that truly makes the current infrastructure of cloud computing, possible. Through, virtualization, an abstract layer is created between the hardware and the operation system; this provides the ability to erect multiple virtual computers on a single machine. And the virtual layer is not only confined to a single system; through technologies like open-stack, the resources of multiple systems (hundreds, thousands even) can be combined into one large pool, which can then be provisioned out.


The Risk

But along with easy accessibility, also come real security concerns. Remember, if information is being stored on the internet, the actual location can be anywhere from another state or city to even a completely different country. For organizations, that handle private information, this lack of control might not be an acceptable risk. Also, the flipside to having remote connections, is, that anyone can try to access your data.

But despite these concerns, cloud computing is still seen as beneficial. Some companies have opted to build their own clouds, known as private clouds. And others went further and mixed things up by using both private and public clouds, forming hybrid clouds.


So despite how you may choose to use the technology and the views you may have about it, it is safe to say that the cloud has changed the way we work and play. There are concerns, but if the right measures are taken, the cloud can become an essential tool in our modern society.  



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