At a Glance

  • Cloud computing helps people and organizations securely access data and applications anywhere, anytime; but what is ‘the cloud’?
  • Cloud can be deployed via public, private, hybrid or multi-cloud models, and organizations can opt for Infrastructure as a Service, Platform as a Service and Software as a Service.
  • Cloud computing was initially used to create cost efficiencies and ease of data storage, but today it is helping organizations become flexible, innovate and quickly respond to customer expectations.

What is Cloud?

Cloud computing helps people and organizations securely access data and applications anywhere, anytime; but what is ‘the cloud’?

Cloud is like one global, massive hard drive that everyone can connect to via the internet. It is always there; it is dependable, and it can be securely accessed anytime, anywhere by anyone. Most of us use cloud services every day in our personal lives to sync and share photos, listen to music and read our favorite books or magazines.

Thinking about cloud as a giant hard drive is easy to visualize, but cloud computing is a collection of servers, networks, tools, storage, services and applications powered by the internet. Instead of investing capital to build and own technology infrastructure to manage data, software and applications, cloud computing allows you to pay only for what you use; this reduces and optimizes operational costs. Cloud environments are also on-demand and elastic, so you can set up services quickly and scale up or down, depending on your organization’s needs.

Types of Cloud Computing and Cloud Service Providers

Cloud can be deployed via public, private, hybrid or multi-cloud models, and organizations can opt for different service models, including Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS), Platform as a Service (PaaS) and Software as a Service (SaaS).

Public cloud is a shared platform for storage or computational service, accessible to anyone, via the internet, and each customers information is secure and isolated; a private cloud offers computational and storage services too, but it is dedicated to a particular enterprise; a hybrid environment uses a combination of public and private cloud models; a multi-cloud strategy typically uses multiple public clouds and possibly multiple private clouds to eliminate the reliance on any single cloud provider.

Infrastructure-as-a-Service offers storage and network compute capabilities via the internet. Users don’t own these workloads, they pay only for what they use, and they can increase or decrease their usage based on current needs. So, it is cost efficient and flexible. IaaS has been around for more than a decade and is getting more sophisticated with new technologies and service models like containers, microservices and serverless models.

Platform-as-a-Service allows users to develop applications quickly, run and manage them, without the complexity and cost of owning these platforms. Users can choose how they manage and pay for these services. PaaS gives organizations the ability to build, test and deploy applications swiftly.

Software-as-a-Service is the use of application software, like Microsoft 365, Salesforce, Slack, Dropbox, etc. via the internet. In this cloud computing model, organizations don’t own the software, rather they pay for their use via a subscription model. This model allows organizations to use software without the complexity and cost of setting up the infrastructure or running and managing it.

Some of the largest cloud service providers, known as Hyperscalers, are Amazon Web Services (AWS), Google Cloud and Microsoft Azure.

  • Amazon Web Services: An early player and pioneer in cloud services, AWS offers a range of cloud computing solutions around computing, database, content delivery and storage, and networking. It is the world’s leading hyperscaler with serverless, containers, DevSecOps or AI/ML workloads.
  • Google Cloud: Google Cloud is known for its intuitive interface, low costs, flexible compute options, easy payment configurability, privacy and traffic security, cost-efficiency, and Machine Learning capabilities.
  • Microsoft Azure: The Microsoft Azure platform builds, deploys and manages a range of applications and services via its datacenters and offers compute, networking and data management abilities.

When and Why to Consider Cloud Computing

Cloud computing was initially used to create cost efficiencies and ease of data storage. Today, organizations are realizing its true benefits of flexibility and allowing organizations to innovate quickly to respond to rapid changes in customer expectations. Cloud also enables organizations to take advantage of data analytics, artificial intelligence, and other emerging innovations to improve experiences and drive strategic value.

When should you consider cloud computing?

  • You are looking to grow rapidly, but are constrained by slow and expensive infrastructure
  • Your resources and time are being diverted to maintaining on-prem infrastructure so you cannot innovate quickly enough to meet new customer or business expectations
  • You have large volumes of data or expect data growth, but lack storage or the ability to share that data efficiently or need to perform data analytics
  • Your users are highly distributed, and you need them to access data instantly
  • You’re less competitive because your organization is not able to quickly take advantage of emerging technologies

Benefits of Cloud Computing:

  • Flexible and efficient: Cloud can help organizations adapt to new and rapidly changing business demands quickly and can be securely accessed by employees, partners and stakeholders across geographies
  • Responsive to changing business demands: Since there is no capital expenditure with cloud, organizations can build, test and deploy applications much faster compared to the more iterative and slower development cycles
  • Inexpensive: Cloud storage can be cost effective for most organizations since the ownership and management lies with the cloud vendor or cloud service provider
  • Secure: Data stored in the Cloud is nearly always encrypted and secured by standard security tools, besides service providers must adhere to stringent regulatory processes and third-party audits
  • Green computing: Since the cloud is shared across multiple users, it minimizes energy consumption and is a more sustainable technology

Hear from Bill Martorelli on the True Value of the Cloud

Principal Analyst, Forrester Research

How Some Industries Are Using Cloud to Their Advantage

  • Financial Services and Insurance companies are using cloud computing to reduce costs of server maintenance, using SaaS programs to track and handle back-office tasks and using cloud-powered AI for new investment strategies
  • Manufacturers are using cloud computing to benefit from the latest technologies including, 3D printing, high-performance computing (HPC), industry robots and the Internet of Things (IoT) to enhance plant and production performance and efficiency and improve stakeholder experience. Smaller manufacturers are also gaining competitive advantages with lower capital investments using cloud computing.
  • Healthcare providers and plans are storing massive amounts of data in the cloud so they can securely share data across the care continuum to provide improved, personalized care and enhanced wellness services. Cloud computing is also helping healthcare organizations use machine learning and predictive analytics for better diagnostics and improving patient care and experiences.
  • Public Sector agencies are using cloud computing to store vast amounts of data for disaster recovery and effectively and easily share data amongst various stakeholders to improve citizen experiences.