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Nihal Potdar
Nihal Potdar

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Cloud-Computing: an odyssey of immense possibilities?

In the modern arena, Cloud-Computing is growing to be an increasingly familiar word, but if you are struggling to find out what it truly is – then, read this blog to find out more! By the end of this blog, you will be able to answer questions such as what is Cloud-Computing, what are some of its very basic principles, its implications on our lives, and how to learn more.

What is Cloud Computing?

Microsoft Azure (Microsoft’s Cloud Service) defines Cloud computing as “the delivery of computing services servers, storage, databases, networking, software, analytics, intelligence and more over the Internet (“the cloud”) to offer faster innovation, flexible resources, and economies of scale.”

Essentially, Cloud Computing is the act of storing, retrieving or manipulating your data that does not exist on localized files on your computer, but rather on large data centers, and systems that exist elsewhere across the world – which you can access via the internet. In fact, this article is a by-product of Cloud Computing as it is developed using a mechanism which consistently stores and saves what I write, and is made available using a service which allows me to upload my data (on the internet) without having to store any of the data myself. On a macro-scale, the internet, itself, can be considered to be a means of cloud-storage as it allows us to access the information that we require without having to store any of this information, ourselves. However, this is only an analogy – primarily, since not all the data on the internet is ours.

A better example, would be Gmail through which we store our data (past emails) not on our own hard-drives but on those of the managing enterprise. If all our data on Gmail were to be stored on files on our computer, not only would we not be able to send any emails, we would not be able to access our files from other locations as our phones. Considering this from the perspective of businesses, this is very important as their employees must be able to access their files regardless of their location, and at their convenience. About Gmail, itself, every-time we send an email – it is transmitted to Google servers through fiber optic lines (the internet). The servers, then, duplicate the content of our email, ensuring that there is backup, check for spam, and viruses – finally, then, the email is on its way to its recipient.

As established, it is important for businesses to use cloud computing as a means to avoid locally storing their data. Hence, there are different types of support that a business may require and the different types of cloud computing.

Types of Cloud Computing

IaaS (Infrastructure as a Service)

This is the most rudimentary form of a Cloud-computing service where business are provided with the capability to store and access these files from a remote-server. Amazon Web Services defines IaaS as “the basic building blocks for cloud IT … provides access to networking features, computers (virtual or on dedicated hardware), and data storage space.” In essence, IaaS refers to a form of Cloud Computing where the user (most, often a business) can relegate all the tasks of maintaining a traditional database of information, as with servers and storage technology to the provider. In this way, the user does not have to expend as many resources on their storage requirements and still maintain a degree of control over their needs. This type of a model is most often used by medium enterprises which wish to avoid the hassles of maintaining their own database, but require a degree of control over their own analytics, and systems.

PaaS (Platform as a Service)

Platform as a Service is a cloud-computing service that provides infrastructural support for businesses as well as support with operating systems, and analytics. The primary difference between IaaS and PaaS, lies in their names – while IaaS offers support on the level of infrastructure, PaaS offers extended support with the platform, in itself. A good example would be sites which allow you to compute code – they allow you to build your own applications, but you don’t have to worry about the run-time, yourself (A great analogy for the google play store).

SaaS (Software as a Service)

Software as a Service is arguably, the most prevalent form of cloud computing that we see. The principle of SaaS is that the cloud provider manages all aspects related to the application (data, computation) with only the data being yours. A good example of this, would be web-based hosting, Gmail, Google Drive, and pretty much any service where you can upload, store, and manipulate your data (without worrying about how it will be computed).

Why would a business use Cloud Computing?

  1. Access Data Anywhere

For a business with researchers working across the world, it is important for the researchers to be able to access their data at any location, and at any time. For a business as a whole, it is very important to ensure that its data is not relevant to the location.

  1. Cost (no need of those bulky data servers)

For small and medium-sized businesses, it is often far cheaper to be able to store their data across a platform where they pay as per the requirement for their use than to manage a database themselves. Managing a local (on a physical location) requires a lot of physical space, manpower, and security – all of which is taken care of, through Cloud providers.

  1. Security (no need to manage your own database)

Quite simply, for smaller and medium-enterprises, Cloud solutions can be far more secure than those that require a physical presence – simply owing to the facet, that cloud providers often have a lot more resources than these enterprises, leading to a higher degree of virtual and physical security (Cloud providers also have a lot more data that they have to ensure the security of).

  1. Different Levels of Privacy

Often, enterprises have varying needs in terms of their requirement for privacy – with regards, to the extent to which they must rely on Cloud Providers to manage their data. These different layers of privacy/ interaction are denoted by the following terms: Public Cloud (services are managed by the cloud provider), Private Cloud (services are managed on local clouds, exclusively for organizations), and Hybrid (some services are managed by the cloud provider, and some locally).

Concerns over Cloud Computing

  1. Privacy (you are handing over your data to someone else)

A concern with Cloud Services is that the data is being stored by a company which is not your own, leading to concerns over privacy and the extent to your data will remain exclusive to your needs.

  1. Can the data servers be hacked?

One of the main concerns with Cloud Computing is that this data is being stored on large servers, possibly across the world – which the user has no control over – leading to the possibility of theft, and virtual hacking.

The future of Cloud Computing

With Cloud-Computing being such a vibrant field with ever-expanding possibilities, some have suggested that in the future – we may be looking at the possibility of Virtual Desktops where all our data is stored on a Cloud-scale, allowing for a complete integrating between computers and cloud-services. This would not only ensure that we are able to access our data anywhere, but also from any device in such a manner as to produce the maximum efficiency at the minimum expense. For an example: you could simply use any device to access your data without having to prolong the use of a hardware device, allowing for the implementation of such technology into driver-less car-systems, autonomous robots and much more!

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