Cloud computing technology is the term given to on-demand IT services that are delivered over the internet, on a subscription or pay-as-you-go basis. These services can range from applications to server space, and storage space to processing power.
Instead of owning their own personal data centers or computer infrastructures, organizations can rent access to applications or storage from a provider of cloud services. One of the benefits of this is that small-medium enterprises and start-ups can avoid the upfront cost of purchasing hardware and relinquish themselves from the complexity of maintaining their IT infrastructure. This can help with cash flow, as it allows businesses to simply pay for what they want to use when they want to use it.
Cloud providers can also benefit from economies of scale, by delivering the same essential services to a wide range of customers – from sole traders to large multinational corporations.
What is available in the cloud?
Cloud computing vendors cover a huge range of services now. Everything to the basics (networking, storage space, processing power, and office applications) through complex tasks like artificial intelligence and natural language processing can be accessed via the cloud. Any software service that does not require you to be physically nearby to the computer hardware you are running an app or process from can now be easily delivered from the cloud.
Examples of cloud computing
While you might be unfamiliar with the term “cloud computing”, chances are that you already use it in your personal life. Services like Gmail or the online backing up of photos on your smartphone are examples of cloud computing, as are media streaming services like Netflix, Amazon Prime, and Spotify.
In a business capacity, office applications like Microsoft’s Office 365 suite are increasingly switching to the cloud. Many vendors are keen to offer their services over the internet as opposed to providing standalone products with a one-time registration key. However, some companies feel strongly opposed to the cloud, as the concept can potentially introduce new costs and security risks for the companies that use it.
Where did the term “cloud computing” come from?
The fundamental concept surrounding cloud computing technology involves the location of the service – or the lack of relevance of the location, to be precise. The metaphor of the cloud comes from old telecoms schematics, where the public phone network was represented as a cloud to denote that it did not matter.
Of course, this is something of an oversimplification. For many organizations, the location of the services they use and the information they access/store is a huge issue – particularly where sensitive data is concerned.
The benefits of cloud computing
There are many services available in the cloud that would have a significant one-off cost, were an organization to purchase these services outright (such as a personal server, for example). Cloud-based apps, or Software-as-a-Service, can also help reduce IT maintenance downtime, as the apps update automatically and don’t require the installation of software patches and security updates across a series of individual computers within a workspace.