Home Cyber Talk Glossary What is Cloud Computing?

What is Cloud Computing?

Traditionally, organizations hosted data centers on-site, which contained servers and other computing architecture. An on-site technical team typically bore responsibility for the unit’s continuous operation. But, due to the complexity of data centers, when something in the stack didn’t function correctly, employees did not always know how to quickly resolve issues, leading to lost productivity or lost revenue.

Now, many organizations are choosing to host their data off-site, in the ‘cloud.’ In this model, computing resources are managed by expert teams that have only one job; to ensure that the compute processing is effective and working properly for everyone. There are numerous advantages to this model, from improved reliability to lower costs.

Modern organizations can purchase subscriptions to specific quantities of data processing within the cloud, enabling them to access just as much processing power, or more, as in the age of traditional data centers.

Is this shift to centralized and distributed services unprecedented?

No. In the late 1800s, an analogous shift took place. At that time, factories or other groups that wanted electrical power kept generators in their basements, and employed teams to operate them. But, due to the complexity of the machinery and the challenges of operating it, the power was unreliable. This meant that business production could cease at any moment, with an indefinite restoration time.

In 1882, Thomas Edison opened the Pearl Street Station, a power station in Manhattan, which could commercially offer a reliable, safe, efficient and low-cost supply electricity to local customers. No more unexpected productivity losses.

In computing, we’re seeing the same type of transition; from in-house services to higher-grade, reliable, commercially available services. As with electrical plants and grids, cloud computing represents a revolution in how data center resources are accessed, distributed to and used by organizations. It prevents technical snags and productivity losses.

What is the public cloud?

Organizations rely on different types of clouds in accordance with business needs. A public cloud operates with a “multi-tenancy” structure, where an organization can ‘rent’ a portion of the cloud. It’s similar to renting a storage unit within a larger storage facility.

What is the private cloud?

A private cloud is not shared with any other organizations. Think of it as renting the entire storage facility. For groups with high-value intellectual property, this type of cloud computing, which offers extensive operational controls, may be the best option.

What is a hybrid cloud?

The hybrid cloud is a combination of both the public cloud and the private cloud. This has utility for organizations that wish to keep some information private, but that also want to share certain information or applications with the public.

What are IaaS, PaaS and SaaS?

These three terms define how much of the computing management your organization takes on vs. how much of it is offloaded to a cloud service provider (CSP).

IaaS allows organizations to manage the application layer, the data, runtime, middleware and O/S. For a useful analogy, if you were planning a pizza dinner, this would represent ‘take and bake’ model, where the pizza is already made. Thus, some of the work is done, but you’ll still bake it yourself for freshness and greater control.

PaaS only requires for organizations to manage their applications and their data. This is similar to ordering pizza for delivery; it’s already made for you, and baked. Most of the work is done, and you’ll just need to pick up drinks.

SaaS means that the CSP will take care of all management processes. This is analogous to dining out at an Italian restaurant, where they’ll prepare the food, cook it, provide drinks, and more. No work is necessary on your part.

What about cloud security?

All in all, the cloud is “probably more secure than conventionally stored data,” says the former Deputy Technology Editor of the New York Times, Quentin Hardy. Most server breaches are not the fault of cloud storage companies, which are responsible for a significant portion of the cloud’s security, but rather the fault of the consumer. Consumers are responsible for a separate portion of the cloud’s security.

Whether with public, private or hybrid cloud environments, ensuring that you have strong cloud security in place and that your teams can manage it properly, can prevent a breach or limit the potential for one. Organizations should also ensure that their cloud resources are compliant with federal and state regulations, like HIPAA or PCI, as needed.

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