What is Cloud Computing?
Since the rise of digital media, data-centers are high in demand. These data-centers contain a lot of data. A data center essentially holds a lot of computers called servers. A server is just a computer with less graphical interface running a special operating system. They serve the purpose of controlling different functions. For example, a database server is necessary to store user data. Similarly, a mail server is necessary to send a mail.
The servers that these data centers provide are popularly known as the cloud. The fact that you are reading this right now on your own device using internet connectivity means you are accessing this web page from the cloud. How cool is that? The processes performed on a bunch of servers in some distant data-center is known as cloud computing.
An analogy to understand cloud computing
A very famous analogy to understand Cloud Computing is to think of your typical power supply grid. Technically, you could have people build a generator at your house to power it up, just like you could have a data center built. But it is very cost-inefficient and unsafe. So instead, a larger company builds the network and you get power to your house according to your needs. They take care of every safety measure like voltage fluctuations and backup power. That is what a cloud computing company does. It has a server farm where data is stored, processes are executed and users get what they want.
Did you know, Facebook’s Messenger and WhatsApp process 60 billion messages daily? And these are just two of the many more popular messaging services. If we were to include all the data that is processed daily then that number would be unimaginable.
Why do we need a cloud to store data?
It’s just more efficient. The idea is simple, with your data stored in the cloud, you can use any device with internet connectivity to access it.
The advancements in technology and the Economies of Scale has greatly impacted the cost of operating a data center. It’s more affordable. But for companies which don’t require terabytes of storage and don’t handle huge traffics, setting up their own servers is still a huge one-time investment. They don’t really need to invest in that much server space. Renting some storage space from the cloud is an ideal solution. There are many data companies that provide the service of renting flexible storage. This simplifies the tasks of startups and small data companies. It’s so much simpler than setting up an entire data-center from scratch.
How is Cloud Computing helpful?
1. Cloud computing offers flexibility
In terms of traffic, there are peak times and low times. If a company was to invest in their own server instead of the cloud, they would have to configure it to handle the traffic they receive at peak times. This means when there is low traffic, resources keep getting wasted. If it is configured to handle average traffic then it would just crash during peak times.
The cloud offers a good solution for this. When there is a large influx of traffic towards the company servers, more resources are automatically allocated so the network doesn’t crash. When there’s low traffic, fewer resources are allocated.
Two great technologies that allow you to work from anywhere are Hosted Cloud Desktop (that allows you to use Virtual Desktops) and SharePoint Cloud Hosting (that allows you to use SharePoint technology which is basically an excellent collaboration tool for teams).
2. Cloud computing is more reliable than personal servers
This is a very important advantage. Cloud computing removes the dependency on a single hardware and distributes it across a bunch of servers. So in case of any unfortunate event, you will still get your data, maybe a bit slower than usual though. Hence, most of the cloud providers promise a 99.99% up time. They are extremely reliable. Moreover, software updates can be rolled out easily and more regularly via the cloud.
Cloud computing also allows larger processes to be completed in short periods of time. It also reduces the strain on your own personal device. It basically transfers tough calculations and processing tasks to the cloud, divides it among a bunch of computer, and sends you the results. Efficient!
The thefts of devices like laptops and mobiles has only increased. But now with how the cloud is structured, you can schedule regular backups of your photos and other sensitive data.
So even if your mobile gets stolen or laptop gets damaged, you still have all your data, safely backed up in the cloud and you can access it using the new device you buy. #DisasterAverted
With regards to the question of how secure cloud storage is, the question is a hotly debated one. Essentially cloud storage doesn’t add any extra layers of security beside the general secure communication protocols that ensures no one can sniff your data as it gets transferred. However, a lot of cloud storage companies offer extra layers of security at additional costs. These services include proper encryption, continuous monitoring of data flow, event logs for proper reporting and forensic evidence etc.
4. Cloud computing enable users to work from anywhere
Now because you can access your files from anywhere, you don’t need to take your work laptop to your hometown during vacations. You can use a family members laptop to access YOUR work files by connecting to the server where your files are located. Think Dropbox or Google Drive.
5. The cloud is very cost effective
Using the cloud to operate a company has a lot of benefits. There is no capital investment on buying a server and the cost of operating it. With that in mind the company can focus on its mission, rather than hiring a group of IT guys to set up the server first.
This frees up the funds to buy servers, hire a bunch of guys to maintain servers and the constant need of keeping the servers online.
6. Newer designs of data center architectures are very environment friendly
Powering up a data center is quite a load on the electricity grid lines. If each company were to maintain their own servers then more resources would be required to power up the office.
Commercial data-centers are turning more towards renewable energy resources. Facebook’s data center in Sweden is good, architecturally speaking, as it relies on the cold weather up there to cool down the servers, eliminating the need of Air Conditioners. Plus using the cloud also helps with the company’s image of moving towards greener technologies.
There are many more advantages of cloud servers like application and desktop virtualization (VDI), easily installed dedicated enterprise solutions etc. but since this is an introductory article, we are covering the bare essentials.
What do companies do with your data?
Over 40% of the population has internet now and these numbers are only going up year after year.
Big data companies have so much information, that they operate their own data farms. According to a three year old study, by 2020 there will be 40 zettabyte of data in the cloud. That is a lot of data. A LOT of data.
BTW 1 ZB = 1 trillion GB. I’ll just leave it here. You can do the math.
It’s quite common knowledge now that data is the new oil. There are many job openings for people specializing in Big Data. The question is, what do the companies do by collecting so much data. A little part of you already knows the answer, but I’ll still say it.
Companies use this data to give you a more personalized feeling of the internet. It’s so that you feel at home. Companies have a database for each individual, in which they store information according to the individuals browsing history. I’m not up for a lot of conspiracy theories, but they still know what you are talking about with your friends, no matter how much encryption they claim they do. Based on this they are able to show you recommended items to buy, personalized ads and a news-feed that you’ll like. While some may think that this is a terrific idea, there are always some that feel this is terrible.
Other than user data, most of the data space on the internet is utilized in storing your images, all those YouTube videos playlists, and the many movies and shows available on Netflix and so on.