How does the cloud work? – “The cloud” is a major buzzword in computing right now, but its meaning is rather, well, cloudy for most people. Nevertheless, chances are high that you’ve already used the cloud, even if you may not have known it at the time. Media sharing services like Flickr, Instagram and YouTube?
They use how does the cloud work. Webmail clients like Gmail and Hotmail? Banking apps? Those too. Read on and we’ll see if we can’t dispel the fog a little…
At its heart, cloud computing involves using the power of the internet to outsource tasks you might traditionally perform on a personal computer – anything from handling simple storage to complex development and processing – to a vast and powerful remote network of interconnected machines.
This outsourcing is handy for the casual user who is fed up of having to free up space on their hard drive or purchase new storage for all the cat/baby/food photos they can’t stop taking. It’s even better for businesses that want to use the cloud for processing and storage.
Because users only pay for what they use.Think about it. Back in the day, companies purchased computing infrastructure based on what they figured they might need now and in the next couple of years. Fearing what would happen if they underestimated demand, they tended to over-buy only to then have the equipment sit around idle.
Not only that; business software is expensive – Not to mention the servers, networks, bandwidth, power, cooling, office space, and the experts needed to install, configure and run the whole caboodle.
Cloud computing allows businesses to run essential programs and applications through the Internet, saving them time, space, hassle and lots and lots of money. Billing for cloud services works just like the way you pay for utilities like gas and electricity in your home; it’s pay-as-you- go.
The cloud is also extremely flexible. For heavy tasks, clients have instant access to scaled-up computing power on the fly. When they’re done with it they simply release it back to the cloud.
What is the cloud?
The first thing you need to know is that “the cloud” exists in far-flung data centres, which you access via the internet. It is a collection of networked computer hardware that works together to provide many aspects of computing in the form of online services. You can’t physically touch the hardware itself in the public cloud, but you control it remotely via web interfaces.
One of the central features of the cloud is virtualisation. Virtual machines are created with software that subdivides the computing power, memory and storage of a given machine into multiple smaller units, each running their own operating system. This virtualisation allows computing resources to be shared and allocated efficiently across the cloud.
Cloud computing is a general term that is better divided into three categories:
- Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) – where big players like Amazon and Google rent out immense computing infrastructure to other companies;
- Platform as a Service (PaaS) – online spaces where developers create online applications for specific sets of users;
- and Software as a Service (SaaS) – where clients use software over the internet.
Even the average web surfer at home has interacted with at least some of these.
Are all examples of SaaS cloud applications. One of the things that make it so powerful is the fact that – in the case of the former two – thousands, even millions, of people can interact with the same bit of information simultaneously.
The other giant boon for individual users is that services like Dropbox and Apple’s iCloud allow them to store their photos, email, music, calendars, contacts and other data in a central location, accessible from whatever device happens to be handy.
These can be set up to automatically sync with the cloud, ending an era of fumbling with USB cables and cursing yourself for bringing the wrong data stick to a meeting. Relax! That appointment you just noted in your phone will appear seamlessly in your desktop calendar, leaving you free to kick back and enjoy the music you’re streaming from your collection on distant servers.
Cloud storage vs cloud computing
Cloud storage involves stashing data on hardware in a remote physical location, which can be accessed from any device via the internet. Clients send files to a data server maintained by a cloud provider instead of (or as well as) storing it on their own hard drives. Dropbox, which lets users store and share files, is a good example. Cloud storage systems generally encompass hundreds of data servers linked together by a master control server, but the simplest system might involve just one.
Cloud computing also involves clients connecting to remote computing infrastructure via a network, but this time that infrastructure includes shared processing power, software and other resources. This frees users from having to constantly update and maintain their software and systems, while at the same time allowing them to harness the processing power of a vast network. Familiar everyday services powered by cloud computing include social networks like Facebook, webmail clients like Gmail, and online banking apps.
How does the cloud work?
The cloud may promise to lift the burden of our ever-increasing data storage needs, but how do we know our data is truly safe when we entrust it to a cloud provider? What measures do they take to address our two biggest concerns: reliability and security? How does the cloud work?
We’ve already learned that cloud providers store backups in multiple locations. Systems that detect smoke, suppress fires and provide emergency power are also standard features of data centres, and these secret locations are heavily reinforced, guarded and internally protected to prevent intruders or disgruntled employees from physically harming or stealing the storage hardware.
To secure your data so no one else can get at it, cloud systems use authentication processes like usernames and passwords to limit access, and data encryption to protect data that is stolen or intercepted en route. And yet, passwords can be hacked; often it’s the service provider who holds the encryption keys to your data, meaning that rogue employees could access it; and your data isn’t immune to search and seizure by government entities.
So, to entrust or not to entrust? In any case, you can rest assured that – since cloud storage companies live and die by their reputation – they take great pains to employ the most advanced security techniques and provide the most reliable service possible. But the bottom line is that we live in an age where national governments have been exposed for tapping into supposedly private cloud data. Savvy surfers would be wise to keep anything truly sensitive stored on their personal computer or private cloud behind a firewall, and never upload it to the public cloud.
How does the cloud work?
According to a study conducted in 2016 by KPMG in cooperation with the research department of BitKom Research, 74% of the interviewed German companies confirmed that the use of a public cloud has resulted in better availability and performance of their IT services. None of the respondents reported a deterioration. Nevertheless, only 26% of German companies have such a solution.
Basically, the cloud is said to be worth it if the company’s data has to be saved on more than one computer. This is particularly true in cases where mobile devices, such as smartphones and tablets, are also used in the everyday work in addition to computers and laptops.
In times of modern and distributed work environments, the data are often not just needed at a central location in a company.
This is mostly the case when…
- … a company has several branches with a common database (decentralised data storage).
- … the company is growing quickly and must expand and/or relocate its capacities (need for scaling).
- … certain employees are expected to have access to the data while on the move (ubiquity).
- … home office should also be accommodated, especially in the ever-increasing competition for talented specialists (talent wars).
The use of a private cloud does not just offer many advantages over conventional server-based data storage within the company. It also makes it possible to save costs and time through the immediate availability.
For instance, this enables a company to scale its operations flexibly depending on the computing and storage capacities needed at that particular time.
The data are simply in the cloud and access is secure, i.e. can only be accessed by authorised users. According to a study by the US market research firm, IDC, investment in a secure cloud solution usually pays off after just over one year thanks to the high savings potential.
Where’s my stuff (how does the could work)?
Two words: data centres.
Anything you’ve uploaded to the cloud, or that you run from the cloud, exists on dedicated servers and storage volumes housed in vast warehouses, often situated on campuses full of such warehouses. Data centres are owned by cloud service providers, who are responsible for keeping the servers up and running.
The job of all data centres, however big or small – and yes, some of them can be tiny – is to keep your data physically safe from theft and destruction, and to make sure it’s available whenever you want to access it.
They run extensive cooling systems to keep the electronics from overheating and have at least one backup generator in case of power outages.
Once you’ve put your data in the cloud, it may be physically stored in many different places, countries or even continents, depending on where the service provider’s data centres are located. In fact, cloud providers actually make multiple copies of the data you upload and purposely store these in disparate locales to ensure that it won’t get destroyed or be inaccessible in the event that a natural disaster takes out one of the centres.
The physical location of their stored data is irrelevant to the majority of people, since it can be called together over the internet almost instantly.
But for organisations using the cloud for certain sensitive types of data – government documents or health records, for example – understanding where the data is headed and which data-protection and privacy laws apply in those places becomes critical.
What should be saved on the cloud, and what not (how does the could work)?
According to IDC, over 60% of companies around the world already use cloud services and learn how does the cloud work and approximately 26% deal extensively with the topic.1 In most cases, these are the so-called public clouds such as Microsoft OneDrive, Google Drive, and Dropbox.
These services are accessible to anyone and allow for a whole range of access options.
However, it is not always clear who has which type of access to the data and, for crucial corporate information, responsible administrators should not allow third parties access to a public cloud unheedingly.When companies provide their employees with typical cloud computing and how does the cloud work services for more efficiency but opt to use their own infrastructure, they have a so-called private cloud.
The advantage in this case is that the data remain on the company’s computers.
However, this has the disadvantage of the somewhat complex infrastructure and possible high maintenance costs. Such a solution also requires a stable and fast Internet connection. As in the case of cloudplan, a third-party provider purchases a private cloud and then develops it continuously.
This makes it possible to combine the advantages of a maintenance-free operation with a secure, company-owned solution.
A hybrid cloud combines both approaches:
Some non-sensitive data and volatile information are stored in a public cloud whereas more confidential information are saved on a private cloud. This is more of a compromise between both approaches. In addition, cloudplan offers the possibility to connect independent locations with a cloud thus allowing them to work on the same database around the clock. This only requires the Private Cloud Node add-on, with which the data are encrypted to additionally guarantee decentralised maximum security (e.g. in the case of different time zones of the locations).
It is up to you to decide which data you transfer to the cloud. If in doubt, we will be glad to advise you accordingly.
- Publicly available so-called public clouds have a reputation of not dealing with customer data cautiously
- A private cloud ensures that critical files remain in the company while at the same time ensuring that they can always be accessed from anywhere
- A third-party solution saves the company significant maintenance costs
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