What is the cloud and how does it work?

Have you ever wondered what the cloud is and how it works?

The ‘cloud’ simply refers to servers that are accessed over the Internet, as opposed to a local server you may find in your nearest IT room. The ‘cloud’ also refers to the software and databases located on those servers. Cloud servers are located in data centres all over the world.

A notable advantage of using cloud computing is that companies don’t have to maintain physical servers themselves or run software applications on their own machines. You typically pay only for cloud services you use, helping lower operating costs, run infrastructure more efficiently, and scale as the business requires change.

Why do we need the cloud?

The cloud allows users to access their own files and applications with any compatible device. This is because the computing and storage happens on servers in a data centre, instead of locally on the user device.

For example, if you buy a new phone and log into your Instagram account on it, you will still find your account in place, along with your photos, videos, and conversation history – all of this data is stored in the cloud. Examples of cloud providers include Gmail, Google Drive, and Dropbox.

For businesses, switching to cloud computing removes some IT costs: for instance, they no longer need to update and maintain their own servers, as the chosen cloud vendor will do that.

This especially makes a difference for small businesses that may not have been able to afford their own internal infrastructure but can instead affordably outsource their infrastructure needs via the cloud.

The cloud can also make it easier for companies to operate internationally, because employees and customers can access the same files and applications from any location.

Simply put, cloud computing is a big shift from the traditional way businesses think about IT resources. Here are seven notable advantages of cloud computing:

Cost: Does the cloud help saving cost?

  • Yes. Cloud computing eliminates the capital expense of buying hardware and software and setting up and running on-site data centres. This includes the racks of servers, the round-the-clock electricity for power and cooling, and the IT experts for managing the infrastructure. These expenses quickly add up.

Flexibility: Does the cloud make companies more flexible?

  • Yes. Most cloud computing services are provided self service and on demand, so even vast amounts of computing resources can be provisioned in minutes, typically with just a few mouse clicks, giving businesses a lot of flexibility and taking the pressure off capacity planning.

Scalability: Does the cloud help companies scale?

  • Yes. The benefits of cloud computing services include the ability to scale elastically. In cloud speak, that means delivering the right amount of IT resources – for example, more or less computing power, storage, bandwidth – right when they’re needed, and from the right geographic location.

Productivity: Does the cloud improve productivity?

  • Yes. On-site data centres typically require a lot of “racking and stacking” – hardware setup, software patching, and other time-consuming IT management tasks. Cloud computing removes the need for many of these tasks, so IT teams can spend more time on achieving more important business goals.

Performance: Is the cloud efficient?

  • Yes. The biggest cloud computing services run on a worldwide network of secure data centres, which are regularly upgraded to the latest generation of fast and efficient computing hardware. This offers several benefits over a single corporate data centre, including reduced network latency for applications and greater economies of scale.

Reliability: Is the cloud reliable?

  • Generally yes. Cloud computing makes data backup, disaster recovery, and business continuity easier and less expensive because data can be mirrored at multiple redundant sites on the cloud provider’s network.

Security: Is the cloud secure?

  • Generally yes. Many cloud providers offer a broad set of policies, technologies, and controls that strengthen your security posture overall, helping protect your data, apps, and infrastructure from potential threats.

 

Origin of the term “the cloud”

Why are we calling “the cloud” the cloud? You may be wondering where the name “the cloud” came from. It started as a tech industry slang term. In the early days of the internet, technical diagrams often represented the servers and networking infrastructure that make up the Internet as a cloud.

As more computing processes moved to this servers-and-infrastructure part of the Internet, people began to talk about moving to “the cloud” as a quick way of expressing where the computing processes were taking place. Today, “the cloud” is a widely accepted term for this style of computing.

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