10 Things to Know If You’re New to Cloud Computing

by Susanne Tedrick

Cloud computing has changed how people and organizations consume information technology products and services. Given the cloud’s flexibility and agility, organizations were able to use cloud services to continue mission critical operations and allow employees to work from home. According to Flexera’s 2021 State of The Cloud report, 36% of enterprise respondents said they expect to spend $12 million or more in cloud services, and 90% of enterprise respondents expected their cloud usage would exceed their prior plans because of the pandemic.

This sped-up cloud use and spending has caused some additional challenges, particularly around having skilled resources. According to a recent study by the information technology research firm Gartner, many IT leaders said they lack in-house skills to handle 60% of their current operational tasks (particularly in the areas of security, dev ops, networking and compliance), and more than 50% felt that in 2022 they won’t meet their company’s cloud adoption goals because of a lack of in-house skills and experience.

Now more than ever, having cloud computing knowledge and skills is important. If you’ve never heard of cloud computing or are not entirely familiar with the concept, here are 10 things you should know:

  1. Cloud computing is not a new concept. At a top level, cloud computing is the delivery of information technology resources over the internet. Rather than purchasing and maintaining computer hardware and software, you “rent” services from someone else.

While the term “cloud computing” is relatively recent, the underlying concept of cloud computing dates back all the way to the 1960s. It was then that computer scientist J.C.R. Licklider came up with an idea for an interconnected system of computers called ARPANET (Advanced Research Projects Agency Network) that laid the groundwork for what would eventually become what we know the internet to be today. In his article “The Computer as a Communication Device,” Licklider described what the internet is: a place where everyone can be connected and access specific programs or data from any location; a precursor to what we know as “cloud computing.”

  1. We’re already using cloud computing. Most modern applications and websites are using cloud services to run. If you’ve ever used online productivity software, like Office 365 or Google Suite, then you have 100% used cloud services.
  2. Self-service. With cloud service, no outside help is needed! Whenever a person needs a virtual machine, or needs to create a document or spreadsheet, they can create them on them on their own; resources are available automatically or near-instantly. No outside salesperson or other party is generally needed to get started with most cloud services.
  1. Accessible anywhere, anytime. If you have a connection to the internet and a device that can access the internet (e.g., tablet, smartphone, computer), then you can access cloud services any time.

The only caveat is that if the cloud service is down for maintenance, upgrades or an outage, you won’t be able to access the service.

  1. Scales to user’s needs. People can decide how much (or little) of a service they want to use, without making a long-term commitment. For example, if a user finds they need additional virtual machines to complete a short-term data science project, they can purchase those VMs and use them, and then at the end of the project shut the extra machines down at no additional cost or commitment.
  1. Pay only for what’s used. When people consume utilities, like electricity, they are charged only for what they used in each month. Cloud computing resources operate in the same way, with users charged only for when the cloud service is running.
  1. Deployment models. In most cases, when people are writing about cloud computing, they are usually talking about “public” cloud. On a public cloud platform, anyone can access the services, which helps to keep the costs of services down. The flip side is that, because many people can access these services, it can lead to services not performing optimally (often referred to as “noisy neighbors” or “nosy tenants”).

Enterprises often opt to develop their own cloud platforms, referred to as “private” cloud, where only those who belong to the organization can access the services on the platform. While this can help with performance and availability, it is very expensive to build and maintain.

A “hybrid” cloud is where public, private and perhaps physical (or on-premises) infrastructure is used. This may be ideal for cutting costs and addressing specialized security or industry compliance concerns. This is not to be confused with “multi” cloud, which is usually two or more public clouds being used.

  1. Service models and shared responsibility. There are three different service models, referred to as infrastructure, platform, and software as a service. Software as a service, or SaaS, is the most common deployment, where users purchase software on a recurring basis. The software provider handles just about everything — the software itself, the underlying platform it’s running, updates, security, etc.

As the names imply, providers of infrastructure and platform as a service ensure that there are resources to support computing, networking, storage and application development services. Whatever a user places on top of those resources is their responsibility.

  1. Multiple platforms. Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure and Google Cloud Platform are the major public cloud providers in the United States. That said, they are not the only ones. For example, Alibaba Cloud Services is the predominant provider in China. Not to mention that there is a growing market for “vertical clouds,” where the cloud platforms services are catered to a specific industry, like financial services and manufacturing.
  2. Careers galore. While there is a dearth of cloud professionals in security, networking and application development, there is just as much of a need for professionals that can help an organization with their costs and governance needs.

As cloud becomes a mainstay for businesses, there’s never been a better time to learn the fundamentals, especially if you’re a technologist looking to stay competitive in the IT industry.

Susanne Tedrick is an infrastructure specialist for Azure, Microsoft’s cloud computing platform. In her work, Susanne helps her clients address needs and challenges surrounding cloud adoption, migrating on premises workloads to the cloud, and cost optimization. Susanne previously worked as a technical specialist for IBM Cloud.

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