Nowadays, both private individuals and entrepreneurs regularly come into contact with the term cloud. But what is a cloud anyway? And what does cloud computing mean in this context?
In this article, we will explain the various terms in an understandable way.
In fact, the concept of the cloud is not as new as most people think. In information technology, the cloud has always been regarded as a symbol for a network of computers that distribute power among themselves. The term cloud has established itself in information technology parlance as a short form of cloud computing and stands as an umbrella term for the interaction of several servers.
The first ideas in this respect were already being developed in the 1950s. However, at that time the technical prerequisites for implementing cloud computing were still missing. At the end of the 90s, the technology was finally ready so that Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) was now possible. In this case, an IT service provider operates software that the user in question can use without prior installation on their own PC using a web browser. This had the advantage that the user no longer had to worry about licenses or software updates.
The cloud computing we know today established Internet giants like Amazon, Google and Yahoo. In the mid-2000s, these companies had to constantly expand their IT systems due to an immense increase in the number of users. At the same time, however, it was no longer possible to provide the capacities for peak workloads cost-effectively. The Christmas business, for example, required ten times the IT capacity for Amazon – in contrast to normal day-to-day business. As a result, Amazon converted its electronic services and service-oriented architecture into a product and sold it as Cloud Computing. In this way, the required server capacities could be used from the company’s own cloud at times of peak load.
It is therefore not surprising that Amazon is now the world’s largest provider of cloud computing. The development of Yahoo and Google was similar.
Only with increasing Internet speed and the beginning of the smartphone era did the cloud become a common word and gained increasing relevance even in everyday life.
A few years ago, most people still had a computer under their desk at home and that’s how it stayed. If you wanted to read or answer a simple e-mail or look something up on the Internet, you were forced to sit at your desk. Nowadays, we can network with a wide variety of devices in all conceivable places. All our devices are connected to each other, accompany us through our daily lives and offer us immense flexibility.
Above all – more precisely, in between – the cloud acts. It provides both relief and availability.
For example, the cloud network relieves the burden on smartphones and laptops by relieving them of work while they are constantly available and never switched off. So if your laptop goes on strike or your smartphone is lost, files or documents are always safe. The cloud also allows more storage space on the devices in question. This is especially helpful for large amounts of data.
Roughly speaking, cloud means uploading something once and then being able to access it on all connected devices.
Loading something into the cloud usually means storing data on a remote server.
Data is uploaded from a device via the Internet to the server of a cloud provider. The files can then be retrieved using either this or other devices.
The servers perform tasks such as data storage or complicated program sequences. In the meantime, however, the cloud user does not know how many servers are actually behind the cloud.
Even if one server should fail, this would not affect the entire system. Since the user himself does not need to have an overview of all the individual units – which are cloudy/unclear to the user – this independence of the individual servers is therefore referred to as the cloud. The cloud thus represents the large whole of these computing units.
Click here to learn more about the different types of cloud.
The US-American institute NIST has defined the term Cloud Computing as follows:
“Cloud computing is a model that allows convenient access to a shared pool of configurable computing resources (e.g. networks, servers, storage systems, applications and services) via a network, anytime, anywhere, that can be made available quickly and with minimal management effort or service provider interaction”.
According to the NIST definition, the following five characteristics characterize a cloud service:
1. use on demand (On demand Self Service): The user can access cloud capacities at any time without interaction with the service provider.
2. access with known technologies (Broad Network Access): Users can access the cloud via their Internet connection. Users can use their own devices such as their own computers, smartphones and tablets to access the cloud without being tied to a specific client.
3. pooling of resources (Resource Pooling): The server capacities are bundled and are available in a pool from which many users can draw. The users do not know where the resources are located, but can contractually define the storage location (e.g. region, country or data center).
4. adjustment of resources (Rapid Elasticity): The resources available to the individual user can be adjusted quickly and flexibly – in some cases even automatically. This gives the user the impression of infinitely expandable storage space.
5. monitoring of the service (Measured Services): Within the cloud, the resource usage of the individual servers can be automatically measured, monitored and optimized so that they are always optimally available to the cloud users.