Cloud computing has revolutionized computing, communications, and business. Read our complete guide to understand where it came from and how to use it.
Cloud Computing: From Its Roots to the Open Horizon of the Future
Cloud computing has burst onto the commercial scene in recent years and established itself as a transformative technology. In 2023, there’s no denying that it’s revolutionized the way businesses and individuals access, manage and deploy computing resources.
But what is cloud computing, and what does its future look like? Read on to find out.
What is cloud computing?
Cloud computing refers to the delivery of various computing services over the internet. Storage, processing power, networking, and software services can all be included in the definition of cloud computing.
Instead of owning and managing the physical hardware and software, users access services over the web thanks to providers of cloud services.
This approach has grown in popularity in recent years because it offers a flexible and scalable way for businesses to efficiently use computing resources on a pay-as-you-go basis.
A brief history of cloud computing
The concept of cloud computing can be traced back to the 1950s and 60s. That’s when late professor John McCarthy suggested that computing could one day be sold as a utility and highlighted the theoretical importance of cloud computing.
The underlying technologies required for the cloud came to a peak in the 90s, particularly with the release of the World Wide Web in 1991. These systems allowed multiple users to share computing resources for the first time. Since then, they’ve been used as the foundation for the centralized approach that’s the backbone of cloud computing today.
The term ‘cloud computing’ itself gained prominence in the early 2000s as a result of advancements in virtualization technology and the internet's increasing accessibility.
What do contemporary cloud computing services look like?
Today, cloud computing solutions are used by businesses across the globe. Third-party providers offer subscription contracts to users who pay a monthly or yearly fee to use their resources.
Cloud computing software allows businesses to provide powerful computing capabilities to their clients without needing to pay significant amounts for expensive hardware or software.
Common cloud computing services
Let’s now look at the three core types of cloud computing services.
Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS)
IaaS stands for Infrastructure as a Service and involves the supply of networks, complete with storage, servers, and virtualization, to subscribers. As these components are all supplied by a cloud provider, there’s no need for users to maintain on-premises data centers.
Although it offers considerable flexibility, IaaS users don’t have complete control over the various networking components. Some IaaS cloud computing examples are Amazon Web Services (AWS) and Microsoft Azure.
IaaS can also be used to refer to Integration as a Service. This is when services are provided that link on-premises data with cloud-based services. As it is required for more specialized situations, Integration as a Service is less commonly used compared to Infrastructure as a Service.
Platform as a service (PaaS)
PaaS (or platform as a service) offers users control over applications that they can load onto the cloud infrastructure they’re paying for with programming languages, services, and additional tools provided by the host.
Subscribers can access applications and data and even change some configuration settings to suit their business needs. Aspects such as the network and operating systems, however, are still managed by the provider.
Software as a service (SaaS)
This is where cloud providers offer subscribers the chance to access software through their program. This sort of service runs on cloud infrastructure, so is still reliant on external factors, such as a strong internet connection.
SaaS is widely used by businesses that need to access services such as POS systems or VoIP calling. It’s handy because the provider manages all the technical aspects of maintaining the software, such as the network, servers, data, and operating systems it runs on.
The different types of cloud computing
Now that we understand the most commonly used cloud computing services, we’ll look at cloud computing examples by type.
With public cloud computing, the cloud service is made available to the general public and can be accessed by anyone. Typically, third-party SaaS providers will offer public cloud computing services.
This type of cloud computing is normally run on a subscription or pay-as-you-go basis and can encompass storage, applications, and networking.
Public cloud computing platforms are popular because businesses don’t need to invest in any expensive hardware or infrastructure to use them.
A private cloud infrastructure, on the other hand, is dedicated to a single business. While it can be on-premise (e.g. located within the organization's data center), most businesses prefer to have it hosted by a third-party provider.
A private cloud offers enhanced control, security, and customization when compared to public cloud services. They’re a good choice for organizations with strict data privacy and compliance requirements.
A private cloud will often be more expensive to set up and manage than a public one.
A hybrid cloud is essentially a combination of public and private cloud environments. Businesses can use a public cloud for workloads that are less critical at the same time as using a private cloud for more sensitive ones.
Hybrid clouds offer flexibility and the power to optimize resources based on specific business needs. However, they require careful management to ensure efficient data integration and seamless operation between the two environments.
Multicloud (also known as community cloud) is another option. This refers to the use of multiple cloud providers to meet an organization's computing needs.
Unlike hybrid cloud, multicloud doesn't necessarily involve integrating public and private clouds. Instead, it may involve utilizing different providers for different services or applications.
The benefits of cloud computing
There are many advantages of cloud computing that make it an increasingly popular choice for business needs. Here are a few of them:
One of the main benefits of cloud-based applications is that they’re accessible from anywhere in the world. Unlike with hardware solutions, as long as you have an internet-connected device, you can log in to the system and access cloud computing services.
Scalability is vital for modern businesses. With cloud computing, you have the ability to scale resources up or down rapidly based on changing demand. For instance, if you need more staff members to be able to access your SaaS, you can amend your subscription to include more accounts.
Cloud computing scalability is crucial for businesses that experience seasonal peaks or fluctuating workloads, as it helps ensure optimal performance without a risk of overprovisioning.
Cloud computing offers greater flexibility for businesses too. As well as choosing between public, private, or hybrid storage and the level of control you desire, you can select the specific tools that suit your business needs best.
Thanks to its pay-as-you-go model, cloud computing can also lead to cost savings. Paying a set amount each month to the service provider means you don’t have to invest considerable amounts upfront are only charged for the features and services you actually use.
Cloud providers will typically use advanced security protocols to protect client data. They’ll often have dedicated security teams, encryption protocols, API keys, and compliance certifications to ensure data confidentiality.
In fact, cloud services tend to offer a higher level of security than many organizations can achieve on their own.
Cloud computing disadvantages
Of course, every technology has its pitfalls to avoid. The challenges of cloud computing include:
Cloud computing relies on strong internet connectivity. Unfortunately, this means that service outages or other issues with your connection can lead to downtime and seriously affect your business.
Therefore, you need to ensure that you pick a provider with a proven track record, ideally with 99.9% plus uptime SLA.
As cloud computing exists solely online, you may be vulnerable to associated security risks and cyber-attacks. Because of this, it’s important to select cloud services that automate compliance controls.
Ensure all your platforms are up-to-date with the latest compliance regulations, and compare providers to check whether yours has the best possible security and compliance record.
The pay-as-you-go model of cloud computing can make it seem expensive, particularly if you’re only using the software for short-term projects.
To avoid investing in a service that you don’t feel is worth the money, look for products that offer a trial period, during which you can see if the service is a good fit for your company.
It helps to also remember that cloud services save you the cost of purchasing and maintaining hardware, which tends to be more expensive in the long term.
It’s service subscription based model can also make vendor lock-in a cloud computing challenge. Migration between cloud services can be difficult, and you can end up feeling dependent on the service you’ve chosen.
A cloud platform that has options for scaling can save you from feeling stuck. Building your services using cloud native architecture can also make it easier to move from one platform to another.
You want to be able to trust that your service provider offers top-notch security, but there’s always a risk, especially if data is kept in a public cloud.
That said, any reputable cloud computing service should manage and safeguard its hardware infrastructure to minimize the risk of data breaches and build customer confidence.
How to ensure cloud computing security
On that note, here’s some best practices for secure cloud computing.
If you have any fears surrounding security issues in cloud computing, MFA can provide an additional layer of protection by asking users for multiple forms of authentication before they are granted access. This could involve a password combined with a one-time code or biometric verification.
Implementing MFA for all user accounts significantly reduces the risk of unauthorized access.
It’s also a good idea to encrypt data, both at rest and during transit. You need to choose a cloud provider that offers strong encryption for all the data stored on their servers.
You can also use encryption protocols, like SSL/TLS, for data transferred between devices and the cloud.
Another method is client-side encryption, which involves encrypting data before it's uploaded to the cloud. This ensures that only you have the decryption keys to access the data.
Your cloud computing strategy should also include strict access controls. This could include anything from role-based access control, which assigns specific permissions based on user roles, to attribute-based, which is based on user attributes and conditions.
You must regularly review and update user access permissions, especially when staff join or leave your company, to make sure only authorized individuals can access your cloud resources.
Finally, perform regular security assessments to keep an eye out for vulnerabilities in your cloud computing infrastructure. This will help you uncover potential weaknesses and address them before they can be exploited.
Explore efficient hybrid cloud integration with OpenLegacy
The cloud has revolutionized the way we manage and utilize computing resources, but there are still some company’s that are relying on their legacy systems. If the move to cloud computing seems intimidating, OpenLegacy can help provide efficient and reliable hybrid cloud integration to support your migration to the cloud.
OpenLegacy Hub directly integrates with your on-premise systems and applications, giving you the ability to use your legacy resources in the target cloud environment of your choice.
Why not learn more with OpenLegacy’s free demo?
Cloud computing FAQs
What is “cloud computing architecture”?
Cloud architecture is part of cloud computing. It refers to the layout of the components and technologies that are necessary for cloud services. Cloud architecture also covers how components are integrated to allow the sharing and scaling of resources over an entire network.
How does cloud computing work?
There are three types of cloud computing deployment models: private cloud, public, and hybrid. Each provides something different for the user.
A private cloud is dedicated to a single business and may store physical machinery on the premises.
Public clouds are open to users who want to access cloud computing on a subscription basis.
Finally, a hybrid cloud is a mixture of the two, allowing organizations to benefit from shared resources while using their existing IT infrastructures.
What is elasticity in regard to cloud computing?
Elasticity refers to how a system can change and grow with a company according to its ever-changing workloads. The greater a cloud computing system’s elasticity, the easier it is to scale as you require for maximum cost-effectiveness.
We’d love to give you a demo.
Please leave us your details and we'll be in touch shortly