What is Cloud Computing

The chapter covers all the basic information to ease understanding of Cloud Computing technology. It touches on what Cloud Computing is, the shift from computing to Cloud Computing, how IT has become a utility, and the advantages and drawbacks of this technology.

What is Cloud Computing

Cloud Computing is one of the latest technological innovations that make it possible to access resources from wherever you are (Techopedia, n.d.). With this technology, storage is offsite. Software programs can also be accessed from any given location provided you have a stable Internet connection. The word ‘Cloud’ may be mistaken for its ordinary meaning of obscure, blur or shade. This is not the case; it basically implies the Internet. Thus, in a layman’s language, Cloud Computing could be substituted with Internet Computing. You may also want to look at it as though they are large data centers that many users can access through the Internet (Amazon, 2018).

The operation of Cloud Computing is facilitated by resource sharing so that economies of scale and coherence can be achieved.

Cloud Computing is thus the best way to run organizational processes. With this technology, users no are longer troubled by factors such as how to store your data or the need to upgrade hardware and software. That is a task which has been taken over the Cloud provider. Given that there is a shared infrastructure, its working is from the perspective of a utility. That is, upgrades are automatic, you only pay for what is required, and you can easily scale up or down. You could leave the cloud-based apps to run 24 hours a day, 7 days of the week and still incur less cost. The apps are highly customizable from any device with Internet access.

Proponents of Cloud Computing are of the argument that the technology makes it possible for companies to save on costs incurred when setting up on-site IT infrastructure. These advocates are also of the idea that Cloud Computing facilitates efficiency in operations at the company, even as IT teams find it easier to adjust resources to cater for unpredictable and fluctuating demands.

There are different Cloud providers. These normally provide Cloud Computing services on a pay-as-you-go basis. Whereas such an approach could be seen as being flexible enough for smaller enterprises to hop on to the technology, it makes it hard to come up with an actual prediction of operating expenses (IBM, 2018).

A paradigm shift: from Computing to Cloud Computing

Internet and related services have taken the front position in Information Technology for the last two decades. As humans continuously rely on technology, our demand for access to computing resources and better storage options have been increasing at a rapid rate. Cloud Computing has emerged as the most viable solution to these demands. With Cloud Computing, you can access any resource from any location as long as you have a stable Internet connection (Agarwal & Srivastava, 2017).

But this is an evolution. Traditional computing had been the basis upon which companies ran their operations long before Cloud Computing came into use.

Traditional data centers are made up of a hardware pieces like desktop computer which are inter-connected to a network via a remote server. In most cases, this server can be found within the organization’s enclosures and all employees have access to data and applications using the hardware (Furht & Escalante, 2010).

Under traditional computing models, businesses are forced to buy additional hardware and perform regular updates if they need to scale up their services and have better data storage. Supporting more users is one tedious encounter. There is no way an organization can skip mandatory software upgrades because doing so would mean it is exposed to tremendous security threats and unexpected system failures. However, it must be noted that the security in traditional computing is impeccable since you have total control of the company’s local server and applications. The system can be customized to meet specific needs of the organization.

Even as traditional computing appears to have some strong points with regard to security, the need for a connected system in which one could access resources when they are far from the company’s premises led to the emergence of Cloud Computing. Cloud Computing is differentiated from traditional computing in that it introduces resilience and elasticity. There is even distribution of information and applications across the servers, which appears as being a single system. In the event that one server fails, there would still be no down-times and no information would be lost. The Cloud is also a source of increased storage space offering better computing power. Thus, software and applications run at their best.

Automation is also a key difference that exists between traditional computing and Cloud Computing. The Cloud provider manages all the hardware and security issues, making sure that everything runs smoothly. This is in opposition to traditional computing which needs a heavy in-house management which could be costly and also exposed to lot of errors. With Cloud Computing, upgrades, and maintenance of the servers are automatic and less task-intensive. As such a huge IT team is not needed, saving the organization costs which would have been incurred in terms of hiring labor (Harding, Isom, Skilton, & Group, 2011).

Fuelling the Web Economy

Web Economy refers to an economy whose performance is fueled by computing technologies. It is also referred to as Digital Economy, New Economy, or Internet Economy. Web Economy is increasingly inter-linked with traditional economy.

Web Economy is composed of three important elements, namely:

  • E-commerce – the selling of goods through the Internet
  • E-business – the manner in which it is conducted through computer-mediated networks
  • E-business infrastructure – human capital, telecom, software, hardware, and networks

Web Economy is a multi-trillion dollars economy. To be more exact, it is worth 3 trillion. This economy is more impressive due to its rapid growth within the last 20 years since the Internet was launched. As the Web Economy grows, the impact on the whole economy is undeniably massive. There are different experts who have attempted to categorize this impact on the basis of various sectors.

Energy use is a crucial subject when discussing digital economy. Statistics show that the economy is responsible for a tenth of the world’s total electricity consumption. As organizations continuously move to Cloud, the demand for electricity rises and carbon emissions increase. By average, a single data center takes up electricity which is enough to fuel 180,000 homes (Rouse, Digital economy, 2017). Digital economy section where Bitcoin mining happens consumes 70.69 TWh of electricity annually. The amount of electricity consumed by Bitcoin mining is large enough to power about 6.5 million homes in Canada (Rouse, Digital economy, 2017).

Away from high energy consumption, Web Economy has had a great impact on our lives. It is gradually shifting us towards a cashless system. Such a move has seen many banks come up with mobile application meant to facilitate transactions. The use of debit cards and credit cards could as well become a long-lost idea some few years to come. More interesting is the idea of digital currency and what it would do to central banks. As the Web Economy continues to grow, more people are beginning to see the need for cryptocurrencies to mature to a level that surpasses current monetary systems (Deloitte, n.d.).

The expected impact of Web Economy would be far-reaching. As a result of this expectation, traditional firms have found it necessary to be ready and anticipate for the changes that may come along. Corporations are developing websites that they can be used to provide goods and services online. Banks on the other hand are developing digital tools that support traditional businesses. Similarly, governments are increasing their investment in relevant infrastructure. Internet speeds are being improved as a part of the preparation to embrace Web Economy. Such responses have only aided in the growth of Cloud Computing (Wikipedia, n.d.).

Information Technology becoming a Utility

When viewed from a linguistic perspective, utility is a noun. It refers to the enterprise that is involved in providing the public with essentials like gas, water, or electricity. The three resources – gas, water, and electricity – are accepted as primary utilities. These are needed to support the daily operations of corporations. When access to any of these is limited, the organization would find it hard to continue operating effectively (Vella, 2017).

Computing and communication are undergoing a rapid revolution as evident during the past few decades. Every indication points towards the possibility of information technology continuing to accelerate as hardware and software improve (Vella, 2017). As such, it is almost undeniable that information technology has become (or is moving towards becoming) a utility. Many organizations would crumble if their IT systems were to be interfered with.

Information technology has brought about a new reality for companies. Hitherto, companies hardly thought of allocating funds for electrical and water expenses. It is ironical that the same companies now struggle when it comes to maintaining steady flow of Internet connection, cell phones, Wi-Fi availability, and network security (Kuney, 2017).

Organizations must face this new reality. That is, we live in an era where IT infrastructure is vital for normal functioning of the business. It is the basis upon which the organization can be competitive. Consequently, firms must begin adopting an intelligent approach in the manner in which they leverage the new utility and the associated costs. Such an approach should not just be focused on budgeting for monthly technology expenses. Rather, it also has to factor in security testing, hardware refresh and system upgrades (Jones, n.d.).

Advantages of Cloud Computing

The growing interest in Cloud Computing is not misplaced. There are a number of benefits that can be accrued from this technology:

Reduced costs: One of the many reasons making organizations now strive to move towards Cloud Computing is the guarantee of being able to save on expenses. With Cloud Computing, you do not incur the expenses involved in setting up on-site IT infrastructure. Hardware expenses are kept at a minimum to only the devices required for accessing the Cloud. Even if you subscribe to the model, the costs for doing so are minimal.

Security: Cloud Computing is assures immense security in cases where the organization is struck by a disaster and data is lost. Given that data storage happens in an off-site system, retrieving it is easy. In the event that a particular device is lost, one can remotely erase the data so that it does not fall into the hands of unauthorized persons.

Availability: Cloud Computing provides a 24/7 availability. The Cloud providers are putting all efforts to maintain a strong reputation for their business. As a result, they ensure that they offer an up-time of up to 99.9%. This high availability is based on the fact that there are different servers which are connected to function as though they are a single system. When one server fails, the others will keep on running, ensuring the organization does not suffer any downtime. There are some applications that may not even require you to have an Internet connection since they can function off-line.

Automation: Updates of software in Cloud Computing are automatic. The server suppliers are in full charge of the regular updates of security so that the organization does not have to agonize over maintenance of the system. Time gained may therfore be used to focus on other important factors such as improving on the business and sourcing for new customers.

Enhanced collaboration: Virtualization is a key characteristic of Cloud Computing. Thanks to Cloud Computing, teams are able to meet virtually and collaboratively work on a task from the comfort of their homes. This is a potential that enhances productivity.

Managing it is easy: You do not need highly technical knowledge for you to manage your Cloud. As a matter of fact, you may only have to put in place a small IT team that has basic knowledge to have everything running smoothly. Many Cloud providers have a user-friendly interface and are available 24/7 to provide support whenever you run into difficulties.

Strategic advantage: The increased reliance on computing resources places you at the best strategic position to overcome competition. Your company is able to deploy applications that are focused on its mission, yielding benefits while at the same time incurring zero upfront costs and reduced provisioning time. With Cloud Computing, you are able to use technology to your advantage. The only thing you have to worry about is the activities and objectives of your business. It may also lower the amount of time it takes to market new products and services.

Drawbacks of Cloud Computing

In as much as Cloud Computing is of great advantage to businesses, it also has its own set of disadvantages. The following are some of the drawbacks associated with this technology.

Vendor lock-in: One of the promises that Cloud service providers make is that the Cloud would be flexible enough for use, integration, and switching. However, that is far from being a reality as of now. As things currently stand, organizations are not able to freely move from one vendor to another. When you move your Cloud services to another platform, you are bound to face a series of interoperability and support difficulties. When you are displeased by the quality of service that Vendor A provides, you have no other option than to stick to the given vendor since moving to Vendor B would result into having to start all over again. There is a need to ensure that such a switch-over is facilitated.

Limited control: Given that the Cloud provider owns and controls the entire Cloud infrastructure, customers have very little control over their own Cloud. The only thing that organizations are allowed to do is make basic operations to applications from the front-end and not the infrastructure’s back-end. Vital administrative tasks like updates, shell access, and firm ware management are left with the Cloud provider.

Network connection dependence: In order to enjoy the numerous benefits that Cloud Computing offers, your business is required to have a steady Internet connection. There is no other way around this requirement. Network is needed when sending files to the Cloud or retrieving important documents. If your network connectivity is interfered with by occurrences like a storm or general outage, you will face downtime. A good hosted service provider understands this risk and should be able to provide a way to ensure business continuity.

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