What is Cloud Computing? A Comprehensive Overview

Avi Meir
Cloud Computing
24 May 2021
Benefits of Distributed Computing

We can’t really imagine the world today without cloud computing: it is one of the cornerstones of our modern life. Below we will explain what is cloud computing and how it works.

The broadest meaning of cloud computing is a collection of on-demand resources, primarily compute and data storage, that are accessed via the Internet and don’t require direct ownership and oversight by the user. The concept is not entirely new: as early as the 1960s, computer bureaus offered options for renting time on a mainframe. One can think of that as the earliest form of Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS).

Today, cloud computing services are based on a nearly identical premise: remote network servers store, manage, and process data, in lieu of an on-premise local server. All of the components required — virtual pools of servers, storage, load balancers, and network services — are handled off-site by an outsourced entity called a “cloud provider” which offers the services to any business. When applications are hosted in the cloud, customers are using data that is not stored locally, but instead in a cloud computing facility owned and operated by third party providers.

Modern Cloud Computing

Through virtualization technology, cloud providers are able to offer compute resources to businesses who want to deploy applications on shared hardware. The business pays only for the services they utilize to deploy applications or store data. Although cloud providers charge for their services, the typical upfront costs of paying for a cloud computing solution are significantly lower than the costs of building and maintaining their own infrastructure.

As access to high-speed Internet has increased dramatically, the cloud resources provided by these cloud providers, as well as by other smaller scale providers, have become incredibly valuable. Enterprises of all sizes can now grow their business regardless of their ability to purchase and maintain the underlying infrastructure. The ubiquity of the cloud strips away many of the challenges associated with traditional IT and enables businesses to achieve flexibility at any scale.

Benefits to Cloud Computing

Cloud computing offers enterprises a way to shift away from investment in traditional IT resources (i.e., servers, storage media, maintenance, and IT staff), and instead to focus their efforts on application development and deployment. Below are a few of the leading benefits of cloud computing for enterprises from this shift:

  • Flexibility: Cloud computing platforms allow businesses to start small and scale-up. Resource flexibility is one of the cloud’s most attractive features.
  • Improved performance: Enhancements offered by cloud computing, such as greater control of data security, increased data compliance, and regular hardware updates, dramatically reduce the number of outages and privacy threats that many corporations deal with on a daily basis.
  • Increased reliability: Cloud providers typically mirror the data they store at multiple sites. This built-in redundancy offers and provides enterprises with automatic data back-up and seamless business continuity in the event of a power outage or other disaster.
  • Growing the business: For many enterprises, the shift to cloud computing opens a new world of opportunities to grow their businesses globally. They are now able to massively increase their flexibility and scalability for application deployments without any investment in infrastructure.
  • Better collaboration: Even for the workforce, there are benefits to cloud computing. Application updates and global storage caches make project collaboration painless. No more hunting for lost files and dealing with shadow IT challenges. With the cloud, businesses can communicate, share, and collaborate anywhere, anytime.

Types of Cloud Computing Models

Cloud computing services can be provided under a number of deployment and ownership types.  Each customer can decide which type of cloud computing model fits best, depending on the needs of their business.

Public Cloud

When most people hear the word “cloud,” they usually think of public cloud computing in which all the resources, such as servers and storage, are housed and operated in data centers owned by third-party cloud service providers. The public cloud big data centers can be located at a great distance from the customers and are accessed by anyone with an Internet connection. Customers typically pay only for the services they consume (i.e., CPU cycles, storage).

While the underlying resources are used to provide services to many different application owners (known as multi-tenancy), providers ensure that each customers’ data and applications are fully sandboxed from all other customers.

Public cloud offerings can include Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS)Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS), and Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) solutions.

Private Cloud

Private cloud (sometimes called a Corporate Cloud or Virtual Data Center) varies from the public cloud in that the resources are dedicated to a single user and are not shared with other organizations. Many organizations, such as government agencies and banks, follow external regulations that do not allow data to be accessible to third parties. For them, the private cloud may be the best fit, even though it will be more expensive than the public cloud.

The private cloud can be physically located in a company’s on-site data center or can be hosted at a third-party facility.

Hybrid Cloud

Hybrid Cloud Computing is a mix of private and public cloud solutions. It enables organizations to run critical workloads in their private environment for improved control, as well as to comply with regulatory and data sovereignty requirements. At the same time, other workloads can be migrated to the public cloud to take advantage of its agility and scalability.

In the hybrid cloud model, users with private clouds can always turn to a public cloud for specific use cases – for example, the handling of peak loads or the hosting of standardized functionalities – while maintaining core applications and sensitive data in their local infrastructure.

If you want to learn more, we have a great article on Multi-Cloud vs. Hybrid Cloud.

Cloud Computing Architectures

Centralized Cloud

As discussed above, third party cloud providers offer computing services and storage housed in data centers that they operate and maintain. The demand for this service has increased dramatically in parallel with the meteoric rise in data generation and the corresponding need for storage. As a result, the data centers have metastasized into huge complexes with large numbers of servers.

These large data centers, such as those provided by Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure, or the Google Cloud Platform, are often called the centralized cloud. Due to the heavy operational costs of providing the service, the providers achieve economies of scale by centralizing the servers in a limited number of locations.

Edge Cloud

Although the centralized cloud is a good match for many computing needs, a growing number of applications require low latency and/or high throughput to the servers on which they run.  They cannot rely on a centralized cloud located miles away to guarantee consistent performance and response times.

To address this challenge, a new cloud computing model has emerged, sometimes known as Edge Cloud Computing, that allows for offloading computational tasks to servers located at network edges, closer to end-users and end-devices. While latency and performance are improved, edge computing does not provide the scalability, flexibility, and ease-of-use of the public cloud.

Distributed Cloud

A new public cloud model has emerged in which even the most resource-intensive applications can be seamlessly deployed and scaled anywhere in the world. This cloud model enables organizations to deliver modern workloads locally from a global network of distributed data centers. Ridge is a market leader in the emerging, distributed cloud space.

Using Ridge’s distributed cloud, enterprises can easily deploy and scale their workloads anywhere and significantly improve the end-user experience. The underlying infrastructure is created by federating data centers and local cloud providers all over the world: there is no need for any additional infrastructure. A single API enables application developers to access each data center on the Ridge global network and to provide a seamless cloud experience in any location.

This local delivery of compute resources is essential for application owners who want to offer cloud-native services that require hyper-low latency. Furthermore, by running workloads through Ridge’s distributed cloud, enterprises maintain full compliance with country-specific regulations and data sovereignty laws.

Uses of Cloud Computing in Business

There are a number of industries that directly benefit from using cloud platforms, including gaming, software development, travel, video streaming, and many more. With cloud computing, many common problems faced by IT can be solved directly with minimal investment. Below are a few common examples of cloud computing:

  • Disaster Recovery: As discussed above, data loss can devastate a company, and having a solid backup plan in the event of an outage is essential for business continuity – but can also be very expensive. Cloud computing offers a much more cost-effective option for backing up data from physical locations without needing to invest in new physical assets.
  • Data Analysis: Many modern businesses rely on cloud computing to analyze data produced from remote devices, such as drone fleets, security cameras, game consoles, and Internet of Things devices. With cloud computing, businesses can analyze large quantities of data in a manner without needing to utilize their local network.
  • Application Testing: Cloud and multi-cloud environments provide fantastic options for businesses to host test environments for application development. Once applications are approved for deployment, updates can be easily deployed to individual workstations via the cloud with minimal impact on application performance and local network bandwidth.

Examples of Cloud Computing Applications

Whether users are individuals, small businesses or giant corporations, there are cloud computing implementation options for everyone. We’ll list a few below:

  • Cloud StorageDropbox and Google Drive are well-known tools for storing files via cloud storage. Users access files from anywhere on any device, as long as they log in to their account. Other services, like Gmail, aren’t strictly storage-based, but they provide the ability to access information from any device via the cloud..
  • Cloud Computing for Marketing: A number of platforms are used worldwide for marketing initiatives. Some well-known ones are Marketo, Hubspot, and Adobe Marketing Cloud. Each one provides different services, but all share the same benefits of accessing real-time marketing data from any device with insights into global performance.
  • Cloud Computing for Education: Tools like Sliderocket, Ratatype, and Google Classroom enable teachers to connect with students and share assignments via a cloud platform. Students access and see files from their devices from the safety of their homes. The utility of these platforms has skyrocketed during the Covid-19 pandemic.
  • Cloud Computing for HealthcarePatients can access appointment information, take telehealth visits, and schedule screenings from the comfort of their homes. Platforms like Dell’s Secure Healthcare Cloud and GE Healthcare simplify the provision of medical services to patients across the world.
  • Cloud Computing for GamingGamers can run video games from remote servers and stream them directly to their device. With cloud gaming, users can play with other players across the world. Since all of the hardware is hosted within the server, the only requirement for the user is a stable Internet connection.

Cloud Computing with Ridge

With the Ridge distributed cloud, businesses can take advantage of the flexibility of the cloud and the power of local data centers for cloud computing. Ridge Cloud uses a network of thoroughly-vetted data centers located across the world to provide businesses with a fast, flexible cloud platform. Whether it’s data compliance, low-latency, or a large network of devices, Ridge Cloud is built to address each use case for your business.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is geography relevant to cloud computing?

Geography is relevant in that it impacts major issues like latency, throughput, and compliance with regulations: Latency is affected by the distance between the data center and the end-user. Throughput is affected by how far, and through how many bottlenecks, the data needs to travel. Many countries enforce regulations relating to data privacy and data sovereignty, which can be a factor in determining where data is hosted.

‍What is elastic cloud computing?

Elastic cloud computing is a service designed for businesses that need to scale their compute capacity on demand. It allows developers to scale their cloud capacity up and down as needed, rather than pay for a set allotment via a contract.

How secure is the cloud?

Cloud infrastructure is generally considered more secure than private data centers as they employ dedicated staff whose sole function is to protect data. Cloud providers employ advanced hardware and software to isolate workloads and detect potential threats.

What are cloud computing prices?

Providers charge on a per-use basis, and costs are variable, depending on the provider, the amount of data, services consumed, data center location, and other factors. For a company with existing on-premises IT infrastructure, they will need to consider the cost of transitioning their data to the cloud.

What is the future of cloud computing?

Unlike the previous shift towards centralized cloud computing management, modern cloud computing technology is beginning to make a shift back towards decentralization. By investing in distributed cloud computing, businesses can leverage local infrastructure and still reap the benefits of the cloud.

Avi Meir, |