How Does Cloud Computing Work?

Whether you’re looking to become a cloud engineer or you’re a manager wanting to gain more knowledge, learn the basics of how cloud computing works.

Are you wondering about how cloud computing actually works? We can help explain the basic principles behind this technology. Cloud computing comprises a dynamic and vast industry that can be intimidating on first inspection. Let’s break down the basic tenets.

What Is Cloud Computing?

Cloud computing can be described as a virtual pool of shared resources offering compute, storage, database, and network services that can be rapidly deployed at scale.

There are two huge factors that have contributed to the success of cloud computing: 1) technological advancements, such as virtualization of compute instances and abundant high-speed internet access, and 2) widespread investment in constantly building and updating infrastructure, which results in economies of scale. Because of these factors, cloud computing can take all the ingredients that make up a traditional data center and makes all these resources available to consumers on an as-needed basis.

But what are the types of cloud computing and why is it becoming the new standard? To understand what makes cloud computing successful, you’ll need to clearly understand the ways in which companies must manage their IT needs and develop products, especially software.

The 3 Main Cloud Service Models

Enterprises and consumers can jump into cloud computing in various ways. From the least to the most complicated, the three main cloud service models are as follows:

Software as a Service (SaaS)

Think of something like Gmail, the ubiquitous free webmail service. With a SaaS product, the consumer simply accesses the product through their browser and doesn’t have to be concerned with installations or updates. When paid, these services usually are subscription-based.

Platform as a Service (PaaS)

You can think of PaaS offerings as a curated set of services that work together to solve a large business need. For example, a business may want to create a modern microservices-based product, use remote developers, and have the product readily accessible with no delays around the world. A PaaS company will offer a full development environment where the software can be built, tested, and deployed within their predetermined constraints. This frees the customer to focus on the business and creativity of the product, instead of additional concern over infrastructure.

Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS)

IaaS is the public cloud environment at its lowest commoditized levels. The big offerings such as AWS, Azure, and Google Cloud offer their infrastructure’s resources, network connectivity, and security compliance as a product that enterprises can use to customize how they see fit in order to build a cost-optimized software offering.

Characteristics of Cloud Technology

Once you are comfortable with the general resources and services that cloud computing offers and how they relate to legacy data centers, you can move on to understanding the three main cloud deployment models.

  1. Public: This the main type of model, with huge offerings such as Amazon Web Service, Microsoft Azure, Google Cloud Platform. These environments are offered to the consumers and are accessible by the public internet. Consumers don’t need to be concerned with any infrastructure ownership.
  2. Private: Private cloud is different than a standard on-premise data center. In both private cloud and legacy data centers, the owners need to purchase and manage the resources and employees. However, in a private cloud the environment is designed to have the same resource sharing and scalability as the public cloud, but with improved security because only the owners can access this particular environment.
  3. Hybrid: Hybrid is a combination of both, with a link over the public internet connecting the private and public clouds. This aids in disaster recovery or situations when the private cloud has reached its limit and needs to leverage the vast resources of a public cloud.

Benefits of Cloud Computing

A reduced need for on-site IT staff

No on-site data centers means no on-site IT staff for the data centers. Cloud service providers have simplified this part of the equation by providing 99.99% uptime Service Level Agreements. However, you will need to have staff that understands how to migrate to the cloud, manage its resources, and contribute to the new DevOps needs in your new deployment.

Cost-effectiveness

It is possible to buy only the cloud services you need and have the option to scale up later when necessary, such as during seasonal peaks. This means you don’t have to make huge investments in physical equipment that need maintenance or become obsolete.

Constant Innovation

Cloud offerings are constantly improving to be faster and cheaper. For example, AWS EC2 instances have had many generational changes over the years, and since usage is à la carte (whether fully on-demand or pre-paid for short amounts of time), users can always benefit by upgrading seamlessly to the newest instance types.

In addition, new services are constantly offered such as improved support for Machine Learning or working across different cloud providers. This provides easy access to the latest advancement without large amounts of initial expenditure.

Backup and disaster recovery

Cloud environments offer extensive ways to easily set up backup and disaster recovery which benefit from the user not needing to purchase new infrastructure. You can make your data redundant across several geographic areas, and you can leverage different speed and cost options for varying levels of backups to customize your disaster recovery plans.

Shared Responsibility Model

Cloud providers must meet stringent compliance needs in order to prove they are safe for use by billion-dollar enterprises or governments. Consumers benefit from this emphasis on security, but they must also be aware that they have a part as well. Companies such as AWS will secure the cloud itself, and the customers must secure what is in the cloud — namely their product, using their implementation of the cloud provider’s infrastructure.

Implement Your Understanding

Now that you have a general overview of how cloud computing works, the next step is to acquire a greater technical understanding of specific providers like AWS, Microsoft Azure, or Google Cloud Platform. Cloud Academy offers thoughtful, effective resources for a profitable cloud education. Our video courses focus on practical subjects that move students along quickly. We boast a considerable stable of experienced IT professionals who clearly communicate key concepts for quick advancement.

Cloud Academy will reinforce the video lectures with quizzes and then build skills and confidence with hands-on labs. For most, the easiest method of quickly learning a subject is following a Cloud Academy Learning Path. These pull students along a defined path towards an achievable goal. When ready, consider a Cloud Certification from Cloud Academy to join a community of learners who have evidence of their actionable skills in the cloud.

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Written by

Scott Huntington

Scott Huntington writes for Tech Cocktail, Business Insider, Forbes, and more. Follow him on Twitter at @SMHuntington.

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