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cloud computing guide

Cloud Computing: A Beginner’s Guide [2021]

Cloud computing is no longer a buzzword today in the IT industry. But, it’s still one of the trending topics over the internet for more than a decade. Viewed as a revolution, it has brought in a world of technology, which  has completely changed the way of doing business. 

Cloud computing offers businesses a powerful, easy, flexible, efficient, secure and cost effective IT solution to meet application and computing needs. It enables organisations to run and operate seamlessly from anywhere, anytime. 

Today, during the coronavirus pandemic, it has proven more vital than ever by enabling people to work from home without affecting business processes and productivity which otherwise have been brought to halt.

Here are some recent and interesting statistics that reveals the exponential growth of cloud computing:

  • The global cloud computing market size is expected to grow from USD 371.4 billion in 2020 to USD 832.1 billion by 2025, at a Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of 17.5% during the forecast period (Source: Report Linker)
  • Worldwide end-user spending on public cloud services is forecast to grow 18.4% in 2021 to total $304.9 billion, up from $257.5 billion in 2020, according to Gartner, Inc. (Source: Gartner)
  • In Q4 2020, Amazon, via Amazon Web Services (AWS) held around 33 percent of the cloud infrastructure services market. (Source: Statista)
  • Cloud data centers will process 94% of workloads in 2021 (Source: Cisco)
  • 92% of an organization’s IT environment is at least somewhat in the cloud today, as only 8% say their total IT environment is all on-premises. (Source: IDG)
  • Forrester now predicts that the global public cloud infrastructure market will grow 35% to $120 billion in 2021. (Source: Forrester)

What is Cloud Computing?

As per wikipedia, cloud computing is the “on-demand availability of computer systems resources, especially data storage and computing power, without direct active management by the user.”

Now, businesses don’t need to have their own computing infrastructure. They can easily rent applications, servers and storage resources, add on services etc as per their business requirements from a reliable cloud service provider. 

So, zero or less upfront investments, pay as per usage, no maintenance / upgrade costs with flexibility to scale up or down as per demand.

Benefits of Cloud Computing

cloud computing benefits

Below are the 10 key advantages of cloud computing that any business can benefit from:

  1. Get significant savings in the capital, operational and maintenance costs on IT infrastructure.
  2. Easy to scale up or scale down your IT infrastructure depending upon your business requirements.
  3. Get access to your business data, apps or hardware from anywhere, anytime, any devices based on user roles and permissions.
  4. Puts in place a far higher level of business continuity which is key for any business. 
  5. Based on several researches, businesses get advanced and improved security mechanisms when they switch to cloud.
  6. Enables remote workforce to collaborate effectively in a secured way.
  7. Get faster deployment of IT infrastructure with a provision of automated software updates.
  8. Get data backups and recovery much faster compared to on-premise.
  9. Offers a competitive edge over your competitors who are still using on-premise systems.
  10. Migrating to the cloud can be more environment friendly with comparatively lower carbon footprint.

Drawbacks of Cloud Computing

Cloud computing do have some disadvantages and risks that businesses needs to keep in mind:

  1. Downtime is quite rare in cloud computing. However, it can still happen due to some technical issues (despite high standards of operational / maintenance services) which can affect your business operations / services / revenues. Will you be your cloud providers highest priority if they do have problems?
  2. Although cloud service providers offer advanced security features in compliance to industry standards and best practises, there is still the possibility of data breaches, as hackers actively look to steal or get access to your corporate data held in cloud based systems. You put your trust with your providers ability to protect you. 
  3. Customisation of any Software as a Service (SaaS) / cloud apps can be limited or very costly. Moving your custom built in-house software to the cloud might not be possible or too expensive. Plus inbound / outbound transfer of large volumes of business data might attract the data transfer costs. 
  4. If you ever plan to switch from one cloud service provider to another cloud service provider or move back to on-premise systems, there are chances of data migration / compatibility issues you might face in the process. 
  5. Entire cloud infrastructure is owned, managed and monitored by a 3rd party cloud service provider. Minimal control and access to their backend infrastructure. However, you do get full control on your enterprise data, apps, services etc as per your purchase plan and SLAs.
  6. All your data is on the cloud and to access that you need reliable internet connectivity and bandwidth to work smoothly. Some cloud service providers limit bandwidth usage of their customers and charge additional costs once they surpass the allowance limit.

Types of Cloud Computing

Cloud computing is described by its cloud computing architecture (cloud deployment type) and types of services it offers. This section covers the 3 main types of deployment models that businesses pick depending upon the requirement.

  1. Public Cloud
    Organisations can rent and build their own IT infrastructure, applications and services within their account, on a system supporting multiple organisations. This is managed by cloud service providers. And quite often on their globally distributed and fully managed data centers. Examples of public cloud service providers are Google Cloud Platform (GCP), Amazon Web Services (AWS), Microsoft Azure and many more.

  2. Private Cloud
    It is similar to public cloud, except that it is used exclusively by a single business or organization. It can be fully owned and can be physically located at the business’s own data centre to get complete control on their IT infrastructure. This means it’s maintained on a private network giving more control on privacy and security related issues.

    Alternatively, businesses can rent it from any third party cloud service provider to host their private cloud on their data centers.

  3. Hybrid Cloud
    It is a combination of both private and public clouds. This deployment model has proved to be very cost-effective whereby businesses can make use of or allow data and applications sharing between public and private clouds depending upon the criticality of data and user roles. This means non-sensitive enterprise data / apps to be moved on the public cloud whereas sensitive enterprise data/apps to be hosted on private cloud.

Types of Cloud Services

IAAS vs PAAS vs SAAS vs FAAS

There are 4 different types of cloud computing services (also known as cloud computing stack as they are built on top of each other). Businesses need to clearly know what all it offers and understand the differences before selecting the right one.

    1. Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS)
      It’s the most basic cloud computing service that allows businesses to rent physical / logical IT infrastructure such as virtual machines, servers, storage and networks from a cloud service provider on a pay-as-you-go model. This service is preferred for tech companies or companies having an in-house highly experienced IT team.

      Examples: Google Cloud VM Instance (Google Compute Engine), Azure Virtual Machine, AWS EC2 Instance

    2. Platform as a Service (PaaS)
      It allows businesses to create their own custom web or mobile apps without worrying about the underlying infrastructures of servers, networks, storage and databases required for development. It provides developers on-demand environments to create, test, deploy and maintain software over the cloud.

      Examples: Microsoft Azure Web Apps, Google App Engine, AWS Elastic Beanstalk

    3. Software as a Service (SaaS)
      It allows delivery of on-demand software applications over the internet on a subscription or pay-per-use basis. Here, cloud service providers host and manage apps including maintenance. App users can access it over the internet anytime, anywhere and from any devices.

      Examples: Mailchimp, Dropbox, Canva, Google Workspace, Slack etc.

    4. Function as a Service (FaaS) / Serverless Computing
      This is relatively a new cloud computing service that’s gaining popularity these days. It adds another layer to PaaS that primarily focuses on building app functionalities without worrying about managing physical servers and underlying infrastructure required to do so. This model is event-driven and scalable that uses resources only when a specific function or trigger fires. Key benefits of this model are lower operational costs and reduce time to market.

      Examples: Google Cloud Functions, Amazon’s AWS Lambda, Microsoft Azure Functions (open source), IBM Cloud Functions

How Secure is Cloud Computing?

Cloud security is still a debatable question even in 2021. Despite using best-in-class security tools and practises by cloud service providers to safeguard your enterprise data, we hear news about data breaches & leakages globally. 

This is seen more frequent in public clouds these days. Many times it’s observed it primarily because of misconfiguration of cloud services. Secondly due to the coronavirus pandemic, businesses are forced to allow their employees to work from home which further raised more concerns related to security. Of course, some mid and large size organizations already had bring your own device (BYOD) policies in place for their remote workforce but majority of them didn’t – which further increased the potential threat of data breaches. Hackers are taking full advantage even during this crisis time by using social engineering and other advanced cyber attack techniques to gain unauthorized access or steal data. 

Hence, it’s so important today for cloud service providers, businesses and their workforce to work collaboratively, take active measures and report/escalate in a timely manner to minimise cyber attacks for good. 

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