What Is Cloud Computing And How Does It Work?

A quick intro to Cloud Computing, and the bits and pieces that make up it’s intangible whole.

“What’s the Cloud?”

“How does it work?”

“What existed before the Cloud?”

These are some of the questions that people frequently ask these days. I, too had similar questions a few days ago, then I read up on it. So here I am now, to answer them for you!

First, the ‘When’.

Cloud Computing isn’t something that just came up a few years ago. The rudimentary concept of Cloud Computing has been around since the 1950s, but it started to come into full force in the late 1990s when companies like Amazon realized it’s potential and took proper advantage of it.

Next, ‘What’ is Cloud computing, you ask?

In simple words, Cloud computing refers to the process of storing and accessing data and programs over the Internet instead of your PC’s hard drive.
 The Cloud is nothing but a metaphor for the Internet, as a whole.

Storing and accessing data/programs from the hard drive is termed as local storage and computing.
 Everything you need is close to you and it’s easily accessible from your PC, or from several other PCs connected to it via a local network. This kind of a system is what existed before the concept of Cloud emerged and changed the entire way the computer industry functions.

For it to be termed as Cloud computing, you need to access your data/programs over the Internet or have that data synchronized with other information over the Internet.

All that we’ve talked about thus far can be called as Cloud computing for individual consumers, like you and me. The Cloud used for business purposes by the biggies like Amazon, Google, NetFlix etc. is something a little more advanced and we won’t be getting into all of that in this article.

Now moving on to the major topic of discussion: How does the cloud work?

When talking about a Cloud computing environment, it’s generally divided into 2 sections: the front-end and the back-end, that are connected to each other through the Internet.

The Front-end is the side that the user (people like me and you) see. Whereas, the Back-end is the Cloud section of the system.
 The front-end includes the user’s computer and the application required to access the Cloud computing system. The Back-end generally involves various computers and data storage systems that create the ‘Cloud’ of computing services. Usually, each application (like data processing, video games etc.) will have it’s own dedicated server.

Finally, there’s a Central Server that administers the system and monitors traffic and client demands to ensure everything runs smoothly. It follows a set of rules called Protocols and uses a special kind of software called Middleware. Middleware basically allows networked computers to communicate with each other.

Cloud Computing has several advantages:

  • Clients/Users can access their data/programs from anywhere, anytime.
  • It is cost efficient, thereby eliminating the need to invest in expensive hardware.
  • Users get almost unlimited storage!
  • Backup and Restoration of data is fairly easy

Since there are two sides to any coin, the Cloud approach also has it’s fair share of cons.

  • Security reasons: Cloud computing isn’t the most secure forms of systems out there. If you don’t know which service provider to choose for yourself, you might end up in a rut.
  • Accessibility: Although data can be accessed very easily, availability of a data connection to do so poses a problem in some of the ‘backward’ countries, since you can’t get a stable WiFi connection everywhere.

All the cons aside, Cloud Computing has totally changed the way companies function. While it has it’s own set of pros and cons, it should be used with care and proper knowledge.

Hope this article made things a lot clearer!

Originally published at Chip-Monks.