Having a hard time grasping exactly what cloud technology is and the benefits of using the cloud?
Despite having been around for more than a decade, “the cloud” is still a nebulous and hard to understand term for even the savviest IT professionals. Everything from television advertisements to water-cooler conversations talk about the cloud in a way that assumes everyone knows what it is.
The truth is that the cloud is far too expansive, complicated, and nuanced to be boiled down to a one-sentence simplification.
Making sense of the cloud and how to best leverage it, however, is not a fool’s errand. Over the years, some very specific and common use cases for cloud technology have become illustrative of the greater power of the cloud itself.
By understanding how these different examples fit into the modern world (and sometimes work together), even the least technical person can understand the cloud’s broader impact and potential.
In this article, we will explain:
- What cloud technology is.
- Give examples of how cloud technology is commonly used.
- Show how to determine the right cloud technology.
What is Cloud Technology?
In its simplest and most easily understood form, cloud technology is infrastructure and applications that run via on-demand resources. Commonly called the “... as-a-Service” delivery model, processing power, storage, and other technologies are deployed and utilized as they are needed. When those resources are no longer required, they are no longer allocated to or paid for by the user.
Cloud technology came to be widely adopted in the early 21st century as well-known providers like Amazon (via AWS) and Google (Google Compute Engine) began offering access to their infrastructure. And while the functional origins of cloud technology trace back to the 1960s, it wasn’t until the introduction of Amazon Web Services in 2006 that wide-scale consideration and adoption began to happen. In 2010, Microsoft followed with its Azure offering, and the “big three” of public cloud computing was formed.
The earliest adopters of cloud technology tended to be companies and organizations that needed significant resources at varying times. For example, NASA quickly adopted cloud technology to test complex models without investing in infrastructure it might not need in a few days or weeks.
Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) offerings were also quick adopters of cloud technology. Salesforce, for example, deployed its application via the cloud in 1999, upending the traditional software delivery model of installing software on-premise.
The trend for software delivery to happen via the cloud continues to this day, with more and more applications no longer available for install on a user’s own servers.
This model of consuming digital resources is in stark contrast to more traditional hosting methods. In years past, servers and applications might sit idle, waiting to be utilized. In that model, the organization or user might still be billed for those resources even if they were not used.
In short, the cloud distributes both the resources and their associated costs to benefit the customer and user. Improved performance, scalability, availability, and reliability are inherent to the cloud. And in most cases, these added benefits are delivered more cost-effectively.
How is Cloud Technology Commonly Used?
There are several common cloud technologies that most people use every day without even thinking about them.
Perhaps the most common day-to-day use for individuals comes when they log into their email. Microsoft’s Office365 and Google’s Gmail are cloud-based applications used by millions of people every day. When logging into these accounts, the user isn’t accessing a specific place on a particular server but instead accessing a system in a massive network of servers and switches that guarantee the highest possible performance and uptime levels.
Similarly, when logging into a bank account or credit card online, the transaction history and balance information displayed on the screen is stored securely in a cloud database, not in a single server sitting in the bank’s closet.
In addition to banking and email applications, the cloud is used to provide streaming video services from providers like Netflix or Hulu. And as more users login to watch a movie or television show, the cloud seamlessly allocates more resources to support that demand.
GPS and Coordinate Services
Cloud technology also powers GPS and geolocation services where coordinates and locations of moving objects must be matched to stationary objects. Everything from traffic and weather maps to the location of a store or coffee shop is compiled, sorted, and displayed using high-performance cloud technology.
Online Order and Fulfillment
eCommerce isn’t just about clicking a button to buy something from an online store. Behind the scenes, cloud technology is powering the fulfillment of the order and the logistics and inventory tracking necessary for both customer and business to benefit. Without cloud technology, inventory levels couldn’t be updated in real-time, orders couldn’t be shipped as promised, and payments couldn’t be processed.
In essence, the cloud is the platform upon which digital evolution rests. Tasks that used to be done manually or on pad and paper now take place on computers in large part because the cloud exists to support them.
What is the Right Cloud Technology for You?
As an individual, the cloud already impacts your day-to-day life in a myriad of ways. From the email and banking applications mentioned above, to the coordination of stoplights to improve traffic flow during your rush hour commute, the cloud is all around you as you progress through the day.
When it comes to business, however, the cloud takes on a different role. Here are a few scenarios in which cloud technology may be helpful:
- Your business might need cloud-based email to deliver reliability and uptime.
- It’s also possible that your exact situation will call for a more private and manageable email system like Liquid Web’s Premium Business Email.
- Your website may need managed cloud server hosting to account for traffic spikes and high-uptime.
- Your ERP system or CRM might be provided on the cloud already by the software publisher, or you might need to secure a cloud server to host it.
It is important to recognize that cloud technology takes many forms and what your business needs is likely to be different from other businesses.
For example, cloud backups and firewalls can benefit any business, but how they are used is likely to differ depending on your use case. Additionally, the storage-area network (SAN) service can provide capacity and security for any business looking to protect and leverage data.
The Benefits of Cloud Technology for a Software Developer
If you are a software developer, then cloud technology provides massive benefits for your application. By hosting your application on the cloud, your users will benefit from increased reliability, performance, and stability.
Here are the five benefits of cloud technology:
The cloud will allow your application to work for users without issue, whether ten or ten million people log in and use it.
You’ll only pay for the resources in use, so during non-peak times, you aren’t spending a ton of money. This is perhaps the most appealing part of the cloud in that pricing/cost is directly related to actual use and not expected use. As a result, costs can be responsibly controlled by application and software developers as they build their user base.
3. Fully Managed
You’ll no longer have to worry about server updates and networking questions as the cloud handles all of those tasks (and more) on your behalf. The “... as-a-Service” delivery model of the cloud places the responsibilities of connectivity, electricity, networking, and uptime on the cloud provider, not on you or your IT team.
With the “... as-a-Service” delivery model, the cloud can be customized to fit your exact needs.
From dedicated cloud hosting or private cloud hosting for applications that require things like HIPAA or PCI compliance to a hybrid cloud environment that helps you get the most out of several different clouds, your specific software needs can find a home in the cloud.
In fact, while local development might be faster during the build phase, there are a decreasing number of use cases where an in-use application is better off somewhere other than the cloud.
Cloud technology mainly offers value to software developers by delivering applications more efficiently to users. Additionally, the infrastructure supporting the application is likely to be managed and serviced by the cloud provider, leaving the engineer to focus on their application.
The Possibilities With the Cloud
It should be evident by now that the cloud is not only already a part of our everyday lives but that its myriad uses provide new possibilities for businesses large and small around the world. From software developers to warehouse workers, corporate executives to cable repair workers, the cloud plays a significant and increasing role in business and industry.
From better connectivity between applications to new ways to leverage data, cloud technology transforms more and more businesses every day in new and meaningful ways. Whenever you and your business are on your cloud journey, there is near-endless potential to realize.
Public and Private Cloud Deployments With Liquid Web
If you’re interested in learning more about exactly how cloud technology can push your organization or application into the future, our team here at Liquid Web would be excited to lend a hand.
Contact us to learn more about private cloud instances and dedicated cloud deployments. Our team has the expertise and experience necessary to properly provision, manage, and support your cloud needs.
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Melanie Purkis is the Director of Liquid Web's Managed Hosting Products & Services. Melanie has more than 25 years of experience with professional leadership, project management, process development, and technical support experience in the IT industry.
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