What is cloud computing and why businesses should use it

What Is Cloud Computing and Why Businesses Should Use It

What is cloud computing, what are the various types, implementations and what are the application advantages for companies
What is cloud computing, what are the various types, implementations and what are the application advantages for companies

To understand what cloud computing is, we need to start from the concept that the digital transformation of companies is now increasingly facilitated by methods and tools capable of making all processes related to computerized management ever simpler and more efficient. Cloud Computing certainly falls within this range of possibilities, which, thanks to the use of the internet , revolutionizes the logic linked to traditional IT infrastructures located in companies . Let’s see what is meant by Cloud Computing, what are the advantages deriving from its use and what are the possible implementations that its distribution paradigm is able to enable.

A global understanding of the potential offered by the “cloud” is in fact essential to form a shared strategic vision, capable of successfully facing the organizational challenge of migrating corporate IT systems to Cloud environments.

What is cloud computing

There are various definitions of Cloud Computing, based on a technical rather than a commercial declination. As regards the practical aspects, Cloud Computing can be summarized as the distribution, through the internet, of computing services related to data centers, physical and virtual servers, network infrastructures, databases and applications of various kinds, with a model of business based on the pay-as-you-go payment for the services used, leaving the service provider with all the burden of maintaining the efficiency of the hardware and software aspects necessary to guarantee them.

In other words, the company can renounce the internal hardware-software equipment, in addition to the related IT management, making use of external services, dynamically scalable on the basis of the actual computational needs it needs to carry out all the planned operations.

The benefits of cloud computing

In their various applications, Cloud logics make it possible to obtain a series of objective advantages, which must be appropriately evaluated in the context of the needs of each company. In general terms, Cloud Computing allows to obtain the following benefits:

COST CONTAINMENT – is based on the savings related to the investment in hardware and software, as well as the configuration and management of the IT infrastructure, with all that entails in terms of hiring and managing specialized personnel, rooms for server racks and consumption energetic.

SCALABILITY AND SPEED OF ACCESS TO SERVICES – the ability to access “on demand” the IT resources strictly necessary to support certain functions allows the company an extremely agile and dynamic approach. Thanks to the services offered remotely by Cloud providers, it is in fact possible to increase or decrease various aspects at any time, such as the computing power, the amount of data in the storage or the bandwidth required to reach all its users. These advantages are moreover obtainable immediately through a simple control panel via the web, with which to make requests that the provider can fulfill very often in real time. In addition to the economic and operational advantages, the scalability of Cloud servicesallows companies greater psychological peace of mind, which allows them to modify their processes by taking all the risks involved, without having to worry about the nature of their IT infrastructure.

PERFORMANCE AND PRODUCTIVITY – Relying on the services of Cloud providers allows you to always have the most advanced hardware and software platforms available, in their most efficient configuration from the point of view of speed and stability. The general increase in performance must be associated with considerable internal savings in IT management, since this task is almost completely absorbed by the Cloud provider. This particular allows companies to reduce IT staff, if not necessary, or place it on more strategic activities.

RELIABILITY AND SECURITY – To maintain a high level of credibility, Cloud providers make significant and continuous investments to guarantee the most advanced security standards. This allows you to protect data, applications and infrastructures from any threat deriving from the internet. Integrity is also guaranteed by backup systems capable of planning the mirroring of data in detail, offering the company various recovery solutions on previous versions even in the event of errors by the end user.

Cloud computing: 3 implementations

When considering the aspects related to Cloud Computing, for example in order to evaluate a migration, it is necessary to consider that we refer to an extremely varied ecosystem of models, types and services. It is therefore necessary to focus, first of all, on at least two fundamental aspects: what are the types of Cloud currently available and what are the main services that each of them is able to guarantee. Starting with what is meant by private cloud, public cloud, and hybrid cloud.

Private cloud

The private cloud is usually made up of a reserved Cloud Computing system, located on a data center inside the company or exclusively reserved in the event that one chooses to use one on the premises of an external provider. Unlike what happens in the public cloud, the private cloud is characterized by a private network, where the hardware and software systems are for the exclusive use of the company, which manages both the infrastructure and the services capable of delivering it at the IT level. .

The private nature of the Cloud allows the company itself to have total control of its environment, which in some cases can even prove to be an obligatory choice, due to specific regulations and / or contractual conditions that, regardless of the security guarantees that a public cloud however, it could guarantee that some types of data cannot be placed on third-party structures.

The main advantages in using a private cloud consist in total flexibility and control, guaranteed by total management exclusivity, as well as a higher scalability than that of a traditional infrastructure, even if on average lower than that obtainable on a public cloud. A further advantage is constituted by the elimination of the risks related to the possible lock-in with a specific external provider.

Public cloud

In the alternative condition with respect to the private cloud we find the public cloud, which coincides with the currently most widespread type of Cloud Computing distribution. In this condition, the company relies on an external provider who, through the internet, provides a series of services, guaranteed 24/7 thanks to hardware-software systems owned by the provider itself. In the recurring condition of public cloud, these resources are not for the exclusive use of a single company, as happens in the private cloud. For example, the data servers and network devices are physically shared for the provision of services to multiple client companies, each of which enjoys restricted access to its allocated resources. The connection between the company and the cloud services of the external provider usually takes place through a simple web browser, through a control panel that allows access and management of all the services that can be purchased and configured remotely.

The main advantages in using a public cloud must therefore be traced back to the generic benefits obtained by adopting a Cloud Computing distribution: reduction of hardware-software costs, zero maintenance / updates to be carried out, high standards of reliability and productivity, as well as scalability. almost unlimited and directly functional to the operational needs of the company, which pays only for the resources it actually uses.

Hybrid cloud

The hybrid cloud consists of the coordinated use of public and private cloud deployments, with the aim of combining their effects and exploiting their synergies in the context of a balanced strategy, with the aim of satisfying all the operational needs of the company.

The adoption of a model based on the hybrid cloud can also coincide, even in the timing of implementation, with a progressive migration plan from an IT system mainly based on a local infrastructure and / or private cloud to a structure that mainly uses services guaranteed by the public cloud. The migration strategy is in fact specific to each company and is usually implemented in phases characterized by a great variety of approaches. We are witnessing a transfer of existing applications to local systems (lift and shift) as well as the creation of new applications directly on the new infrastructure (start fresh), with all the hybridizations between these two extremes.

The hybrid cloud is often associated with multicloud, which consists in the simultaneous use of multiple public clouds, to take advantage of the services offered by different providers, as well as avoiding the risks of lock-in with a specific provider. Hybrid and multicloud should therefore not be confused . To simplify the distinction, multicloud can be interpreted as a natural extension of the possibilities of the hybrid cloud, which however does not change its basic logic.

Types of cloud services

In the Cloud Computing lexicon we find very frequently three acronyms, which describe the main types of services that can be used in the “cloud”: Iaas, Paas and Saas. Let’s see specifically what is meant by each of these terms.

IaaS (Infrastructure as a Service)

The infrastructure distributed as a service, as the term itself suggests, offers the user the resources on which to install and manage their applications in total autonomy. In the offer we find services such as space and functions for data storage, networking, physical and virtual machines as well as the computing power to be allocated to run particularly demanding applications from a computational point of view (big data, machine learning , rendering, etc.).

PaaS (Platform as a Service)

The platform distributed as a service, in addition to the infrastructural level, is natively conceived to support the entire life cycle of applications that can be delivered via the web: creation, testing, distribution and subsequent updates. To ensure this objective, the PaaS therefore has operating systems, security systems, database management systems (eg SQL and NoSQL) and in-depth data analysis, business process management (BPM) tools and software development environments / frameworks.

Compared to a pure IaaS, the recurrence of a PaaS platform is particularly relevant in the context in which the company chooses to migrate from a local infrastructure to the Cloud, despite the fact that the integration of the services offered by the online platform with existing systems. The PaaS are however equipped with many tools optimized to facilitate the various aspects of the integration itself, through Cloud and on-premise service connectors, Big Data integration and API management.

SaaS (Software as a Service)

In addition to infrastructures and platforms, the Cloud can also be used to distribute the software. In this case, Saas is placed at an even higher level of use than IaaS and PaaS, as the provider is able to offer real applications for the end user.

Unlike the traditional connotation, which sees the purchase of a permanent license and an installation always locally, the software distributed as a service is usually usable via the web, with any local app (desktop or mobile) with access usually from the ” purchase of a subscription, which allows you to use the software for a certain period. It is possible to articulate a pricing plan aimed at both individual users and large companies, which need up to thousands of different accounts to enable their employees.

Unlike what happens in the case of IaaS and PaaS platforms, the user who uses a SaaS does not have to worry about anything, except for the use of the software in its commercial version, since it will always be developed and updated by the provider. itself, which distributes it on the network thanks to the connection with its own data centers.

The case of SaaS probably the most widespread and used by billions of users, many of whom are certainly unaware of the fact that it is based on the Cloud, is related to e-mail services. In this case it is sufficient to connect to the internet, open the web page of the mail provider in a browser and access it with your personal account. The environment for creating, editing and managing emails is carried out entirely on the web page. Even if the user decides to use a mail client installed locally, to automate and have a more in-depth control of the functions, he would only connect to the mail servers in the Cloud, with which he establishes a synchronization relationship to make consistent information locally with that shared on the network.

Regardless of customer preferences, most distributors have begun to favor a pay-as-you-go business model, based on SaaS, over the traditional sale of perpetual licenses for a given version of the software. For a vendor, the advantages of SaaS are evident both from the point of view of customer loyalty, and as regards the measures to combat computer piracy, thanks to the perpetual control that the server is able to carry out online.

Cloud computing: application examples

Cloud services and applications accompany us in many activities that we are called upon to perform on the internet every day. On the user side it is in fact sufficient to log in on a web browser rather than on other local applications to access an extremely wide range of possibilities, including:

SMART WORKING OPERATIONS – The Covid-19 pandemic has sharply accelerated the spread of smart working. When access to hardware and software resources is based on Cloud platforms, the geographical location from which this occurs has a relative impact. Therefore, both at home and in the office, a business user can log in via the internet using their account, to have access at least to the most common work tools, including e-mail, office applications and all data storage services. .

REMOTE STREAMING AND MEETINGS – The main videoconferencing software allows for multi-presence online meetings and are based on Cloud platforms, which allow access to virtual rooms through a simple login via web browser or a proprietary app for desktop or mobile. Their use has become extremely popular after the Covid-19 pandemic and allows you to solve many collaborative needs, from simple personal calls, to business meetings, up to distance learning.

REMOTE SHARING AND COLLABORATION OF WORK PROJECTS – The use of a shared data storage in the Cloud allows multiple users to connect remotely to operate simultaneously on projects, thanks to the management of shared resources. This approach allows project managers to have real-time control over progress and the team to collaborate on work files, which are also useful in project reviews.

APPLICATION TESTING – Developers can test their applications in the cloud, in total safety, thanks to the execution of virtual machines capable of simulating all operating conditions, as well as offering the development tools and resources necessary for the compilation of the builds .

MANAGEMENTAL FOR THE COMPANY – The multi-user nature of the management systems has facilitated the diffusion on the Cloud of SasS applications for a wide type of software, such as ERP (enterprise resource planning) and CRM (customer relationship manager), in turn characterized by a large variety of submodules.

ELECTRONIC BILLING – Among the most used ERPs we undoubtedly find the applications for electronic invoicing, especially after the entry into force of the legislation that makes this system mandatory in many areas. In the simpler versions it is possible to access the service through a web page, to always have under control all the data for the creation and archiving of invoices, as well as the detailed management of the supplier and customer address books. The assisted invoice creation systems are constantly updated both at a functional level and in the implementation of current regulations, in order to avoid errors or obsolete references during compilation.

RENDERING AND MACHINE LEARNING – One of the advantages of Cloud platforms is to be able to guarantee theoretically unlimited computational power, thanks to CPU / GPU farms capable of reaching a very high number of TeraFlops. This allows you to perform high-volume calculation processes with times as short as the resources allocated. Among the privileged fields of action of remote computing on the Cloud there is certainly rendering in computer graphics: think of the production of animated videos, which often involves the calculation of millions of very high resolution frames. Before the advent of Cloud rendering, few companies could afford an internal renderfarm, given the very high initial hardware-software cost of use and management / updating.

Rachel Maga
Rachel Maga is a technology journalist currently working at Globe Live Media agency. She has been in the Technology Journalism field for over 5 years now. Her life's biggest milestone is the inside tour of Tesla Industries, which was gifted to her by the legend Elon Musk himself.