We will discuss the fastest-growing and at the same time most misunderstood technology of modern web history. Clouds. What are they and how can you use them?
A cloud-based solution is any kind of service or software that is running on a network of computers based on servers around the world. Every server is a powerful computer where files of web applications are hosted. Cloud solutions make it possible for a business to create digital workplaces, store data and support analytics systems, etc.
And you can access them without installing any software on your PC. Just launch the browser and open the relevant website.
The chairman of Oracle, one of the largest cloud services distributors said:
"The interesting thing about cloud computing is that we've redefined cloud computing to include everything that we already do. I can't think of anything that isn't cloud computing with all of these announcements".
It depends on your individual or business requirements. You can (and probably do) already use cloud storage for your personal files. Companies that host fully-fledged web applications usually grow so quickly that classical hosting platforms are unable to make an app available to a large audience. So they need a solution for their projects which is scalable.
In general, cloud solutions are quietly transitioning from static file servers to an ever-growing family of office apps and complex systems for all kinds of digital work. Steve Jobs predicted this kind of development almost 25 years ago:
"I don't need a hard disk in my computer if I can get to the server faster… carrying around these non-connected computers is byzantine by comparison".
We should draw a distinction here because many users don’t understand how services they used to use such as iCloud and Dropbox are different from these much bigger cloud-based systems.
Cloud-based solutions are mostly meant to help large companies host their products. And Dropbox is available to anyone to store their files. The first one demands a lot more resources.
In other words, cloud storage might be defined as a virtual hard disk somewhere on the internet and a cloud-based solution is anything else that exists in an online format (apps, databases, websites, management system, analytics tools, etc.)
The idea of cloud computing is always the same — we have an astonishingly vast network of powerful computers around the world that together form a system that is used by millions of developers and entrepreneurs around the world to launch, test, modify and maintain their products.
Cloud systems integrate many software components like OS, virtualization technology stack, some management utilities, etc.
But there are some distinctions and they were divided into four groups that ended up being a generally accepted system of cloud-based solutions categorization.
Let's dive in further and understand how clouds are different from each other and why it is important to choose the correct type of cloud before deploying any applications or data.
In most cases, the term «Public cloud» describes a digital infrastructure that provides services for companies and developers around the world. So, it is any cloud that is not owned by its users.
Some users associate «public» with «free» but a public cloud can be a free or a paid product. It would be more correct to view the public cloud as infrastructure that is available for multiple users at the same time.
This kind of cloud is a digital environment that is used by a certain group of people (or even one person) and protected from access by third parties.
In the past, these types of systems would be conceived as private data centers with in-house hardware, software, and in-between solutions. But private clouds are now being built using vendor-owned hardware platforms. Security mechanisms in such products make it quite easy to provide developers with a safe place to test and deploy. And large companies may rely on these cloud-based solutions to store their sensitive data.
There are two subcategories of private clouds:
Managed — is when user gets a pre-configured service with everything already set up.
Dedicated — is a cloud inside a cloud that makes it possible to achieve a new level of security inside its own infrastructure.
This one is a type of infrastructure that ties together many components of one hypothetical platform using technologies like LAN, VPN, and API.
It is hard to explain what a Hybrid cloud is exactly. This term can mean almost any combination of more specific solutions. For example, if you have a system that combines 1 private and one public cloud it might already be called a hybrid. The same goes for a combination of 2 public or 2 private clouds.
Even if you use one type of cloud together with real hardware connected via VPN it also would be considered a hybrid cloud.
So, if you use a big stack of technologies that together form a complex system you now know how to describe it in two words.
Multiclouds are close to what hybrid clouds may offer. The main difference is that a hybrid cloud system implies that all the elements of the infrastructure are connected in some way and work together forming a seamless platform to develop, analyze, store, etc.
Multiple clouds are simply multiple clouds. They become a thing when a business feels the need to create additional virtual workspaces or another place to host analytic tools to separate every component of the larger product so they are fully independent and don’t interfere with each other.
Because companies like Google, Red Hat, Amazon and Microsoft have the best experts in the area of cybersecurity and can spend a lot of money on protecting their clouds.
The price depends on what kind of cloud you choose and how massive the project you’re going to run on it is. Costs are normally calculated separately and vary based on what exactly you rent and how you use it.
If you want your project to scale up quickly, you should choose a public one to get more resources at any moment. If security is more important to you, create a private one.
There are four types of cloud services that are used to host infrastructures, software, storage, databases and many types of complex workload systems.
These types are:
IaaS — which stands for Infrastructure as a Service.
PaaS — Platform as a Service.
SaaS — Software as a Service.
And FaaS — Functions as a Service.
Let’s get a bit deeper into these terms to understand what each of them means and how they support business projects around the globe.
Infrastructure as a Service — is a kind of service provided by hosts like Amazon Web Services and its alternatives which help to manage low-level hardware structures.
When you order IaaS you get full control over applications, data, and the operating system of your choice. And providers get in their hands things like virtualization technologies, servers, online data storage, networking, etc.
It can be described as you putting a ready-to-work software platform on something that is managed by a third-party company. It gets all the backend stuff right while your development team can focus on the product itself without worrying about low-level technologies so everything runs smoothly.
Also, the service provider is responsible for any kind of outage, server malfunctions, etc.
Platform as a Service is a type of service that gives you a fully operative platform with an operating system on which you can install your own application and use at as you wish.
Mostly, PAAS’s looks like a DevOps component for teams that have no DevOps specialist. It simplifies the task allowing developers to create and test their projects without thinking about how to manage them on a server or deal with connectivity issues. It allows for greater focus on the more important tasks.
A PAAS usually gives businesses software to design, test, and deploy their applications. It is important because nobody in your company should worry about infrastructure, and you might spend more on professional developers instead of hiring administrators and DevOps specialists. It also comes with a proactive and competent technical support team. Altogether it saves time and money for businesses and makes it much easier to ship quality products.
Software as a Service is a compound of both IAAS and PAAS. In the case of SAAS, you have no access low-level fragments on the platform as a whole. You only get the application that you need.
You already use some of them in fact. Netflix can be described as SAAS, same for Gmail, JIRA, and many other products. Some professional CRMs and marketing automation systems also fall into this category.
SAAS is usually used by a business that feels the need for some tool that is too hard to implement, host, and maintain by itself. In this case, the company can rent a personal copy of the application running in the cloud and make it available to every team member.
It is useful because a lot of entrepreneurs have no money to spend on structuring hardware and software platforms. They can save a lot by just buying the tool they need straight away.
This one is quite young and not so popular with developers and entrepreneurs but it looks like a game-changing solution for a lot of specialists.
The idea of Function as a Service platform lies in the serverless computing methodology when a programmer has no access to the low-level components of their own product because it is actually managed by third-party applications.
Developers using FAAS can implement different functions and simply add business logic to their projects without worrying about hosting and the way servers work. It’s like writing code and launching it without any setup and configuration at all on the fully-fledged and scalable online platform.
It is close to PAAS but reduces the necessity of data manipulation and creating a virtual workplace in the first place.
For business, FAAS is a great way to spend less money on backend developers and put more resources into those working on the front-end side.
We already have plenty of cloud-based solutions for personal use that you may have incorporated into your basic routine. And that’s not only cloud storage but much more powerful applications like:
Google Drive — to create personal private workspaces where you can edit documents with your teammates. The same services create Dropbox (Paper) and Notion.
Trello and JIRA — to create online Kanban boards which will help your team stay on top of the plans and be aware of how the whole team is progressing.
These products may be considered cloud-based solutions for small businesses.
Businesses usually choose more specific solutions so they can host their proprietary applications or licensed professional products made by third parties to use through clouds.
What are the best cloud-based solutions for businesses? Here’s the list:
Amazon AWS — a popular platform helping large corporations to store and process their data.
Google Cloud — a modern solution that offers established types of services like IAAS and PAAS and FAAS which is still growing.
Microsoft Azure — one of the most used cloud systems in the world. Reliable and performant.
Hostman — scalable cloud servers to build, test, and grow your app from startup to scale. Flexible configurations, CPU-Optimized, or Memory-Optimized and pay-as-you-grow billing.
From now on you can explore cloud technologies with more confidence making it easier to understand how things work and what solution is the best choice for your particular project.