Understanding Cloud Services

September 29, 2017
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Think of the last time you bought a new phone or tablet or computer/laptop. You probably had to transfer all your files using pendrives, extendable drives, or even Bluetooth. Or, if you were smart, you probably backed up all your files on a cloud service, and can now access it from anywhere, at anytime, and on any device! All you need is to access your cloud account using the Internet.

So what does it mean, backing up all your files and applications on “the cloud”?

Let’s take Google Account as an example as it is widely used. If all your devices are connected/synchronized to a Google Account, when you change your mobile device all you have to do is sign in to that Google Account to access all your data. This includes images, phone contacts, and all app data, i.e. as long as you backed them up. When you install any app on your new device, such as Clash of Clans, you will find that using your Google Account lets you continue where you left off so that you don’t have to start anew.

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This is possible because of a space in the cloud that is allotted to you for your personal use on a public cloud, which roughly means, your personal space on a third party (i.e. Google in this case) owned network of servers and storage open to the public (i.e. anyone can make an account), to which you connect using an interface (i.e. web browser in this case) over the Internet. We have grown so accustomed to these services that we forget how incredible this actually is. If it were not for these cloud service providers, you would have to buy your own storage devices, and develop/buy software to run it on your local device, as opposed to merely using them by downloading the interface. Your device would have to have the capacity to run the application. Some innovative services would not even be possible without the cloud (e.g. Netflix)!

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Now, imagine what this meant for businesses before cloud computing existed. To obtain the services that is available at the individual level today, they would have to set up and maintain data centers, servers, hardware for storage, and software licence for employees. There would be a dedicated IT department to keep these resources up and running. For big companies with a wide product offering, large customer base, and employee base, owning these IT resources was necessary to enable the storage of all product and client data, and growing business meant more storage requirements, which meant increasing costs. Employees would use applications, such as file servers and email applications, which were hosted by the company and had to be installed onto their computers. These resources would require maintenance. The use of third party software would require the purchase of licence for each employee. Most small companies would make do with commonly available enterprise software (such as applications for client database and accounts) on computers with no private network (they simply could not afford it). These computers would only be accessible to authorized personnel.

Cloud computing radically changed the way companies now make use of IT resources.

Very few companies now possess their own servers and datacentres, and they mostly do so where the data is extremely sensitive. Most companies use a private network hosted by a third party cloud service, and avail their package of services. Service offerings range from email accounts, collaboration software, file storage, productivity software, time-tracker, and the list goes on. This means that not only is there no longer a need to have dedicated IT resources or their maintenance, the cloud also has useful applications installed so a suite of applications doesn’t have to be installed on employees’ computers.

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Since the cloud service is providing all these services, they must be pretty expensive, right?

Wrong. As you are sharing the cloud with others, the cost is actually pretty low. In fact, a lot of cloud services give away a free limited space (e.g. Dropbox gives 2GB of free space). Moreover, cloud applications usually don’t charge a fixed licence fee per person, rather you only pay for what you use, and can upgrade, downscale, or cancel subscription anytime you want.

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Now that we know the basics, let’s take a look at:

Types of Cloud Services

Cloud Services

Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS)
Through the use of this type of service, you can access remote computing infrastructure, such as data centers, servers and storage, backup, security, etc., and use them for a cost-effective fee. You can easily upscale or downscale in line with your business needs. IaaS is projected to be the fastest growing type of cloud from 2014 – 20181 as it enables small companies to leverage IT resources at a much lower cost than if it were in-house.

Platform as a Service (PaaS)
PaaS includes all the services available in IaaS, and additionally provides an environment for software development, deployment, testing, management, and update releases. It is aimed at software developers to host their projects. The use of PaaS results in a much faster application deployment, and at the same time costs less than investing in an in-house environment.

Software as a Service (SaaS)
SaaS includes complete software packages hosted online by the service provider which a company can rent for their organizational use. Google’s G Suite, consisting of applications such as Google Docs, Google Sheets, Google Drive, etc. are prime examples of this type of service. Using these apps can boost productivity due to their collaborative capacity, and make desktop applications unnecessary. As the applications are hosted in the cloud, the computers used to access them don’t need to have higher processing power. This means lower hardware costs as well.

Types of Cloud Deployment

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Image source: https://www.safaribooksonline.com/library/view/the-enterprise-cloud/9781491907832/ch01.html

Public Cloud
This type of cloud service is the one we most commonly use, i.e.your personal Google Account which I used as an example in the beginning. You are using a publicly available cloud with your personal space allotted to you.

Private Cloud
This is a cloud owned by a specific organization, and may either be hosted in-house or on a third-party cloud provider. Thus, all the resources on the cloud that the organization is using is hosted on a private network.

Hybrid Cloud
This type of deployment is a mix of both private and public clouds, i.e. the hybrid cloud allows passages for the two types of clouds to work together. This results in combinations that result in greater efficiency, and gives the organization a greater variety of deployment options.

Cloud service providers are booming due to the very high demand of these services. According to Forbes, the top 10 cloud service providers are as follows.

  1. Microsoft
  2. Amazon Web Services
  3. Salesforce
  4. SAP
  5. IBM
  6. Google
  7. Oracle
  8. Workday
  9. ServiceNow
  10. VMware

There are software companies that use these cloud services to build applications and deploy them for organizations. For example, there are organizations that hire Nascenia for DevOps services using Microsoft Azure, Amazon AWS, and Linode.

Now that you know more about cloud services, we hope that it will enable you to use these services to boost your organization’s productivity, or even help get your startup running at a sprint!

Here are some of my other articles if you have enjoyed this one.

Digital Transformation – The New Business Era
Facial Recognition (FR) – Its Progressive Uses
Android vs. iOS – A Comparison of the Platforms
Understanding Frontend and Backend Web Development
4 Steps to Outsource App Development

Contributor: Sawda AlviNascenia

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