This decade’s buzzword phrase is the digital shift. Talks about how it’s upon us, ways to make the best of this change, and products to help adapt this lifestyle pervade the media. However, discussions on the tools used behind the scenes which further this change are, if none at all, at a minimal. For people not directly associated with information technology, there’s little reason to learn the nitty-gritty this end of the spectrum. How do these technologies relate to a layman, then? Let’s make it simple.
Netflix, Spotify, Instagram (pre-2012), and suchlike, are platforms used at least once everyday by individuals with a smartphone. These applications deal with data—user information, content, and etc—that come rushing in and out almost endlessly. Where are these data housed and how are users able to access them simultaneously and with no delay? These applications have something in common: they rely on the cloud to operate competently.
What is cloud computing?
By cloud, do you mean the fluffy white masses up above? No. However, the cloud we’re trying to shed light on here is somehow analogous to the former. Nature’s cloud holds water droplets in it, which when pushed out by air coming up gets converted to rain. We don’t see air rising, but when it is formed in the atmosphere, it’s
something to behold. Now, we are no scientists, but similar to the ever-expansive clouds covering the globe, the cloud also has an extensive scope. This is so in a sense that clients can access and manage digitally stored data in the cloud remotely as long as they have connectivity. Think of the water as files, it rises to the air as vapor without the need for another element to physically transport it to the atmosphere. The same goes for the cloud. Individuals and companies can migrate data, access files, and do processes through a software platform provided by a third party, just about anywhere. Cloud computing platforms aren’t all about storage, though. These platforms are structured to provide services that allow clients to create applications, deliver content, analyse data, network, and more.
How does this work?
“To see is to believe.” Humans are inclined to go for tangible things rather than what is hidden plain sight. With digitalization, the latter has become the new normal. We shop for goods online, pay for services digitally, even befriend people over the Internet. It’s no surprise that we’ve come around to begin storing basic and critical files, even, on a digital platform. Storing files in the cloud is without much complicacy. The process is usually how you would as let’s say saving files on a flash drive. With cloud storage, you just subscribe to a service and enjoy seamless uploading of data to the Internet along with accessing and sharing it with anyone on the fly, across devices.
On the business side of things, the amount of data dealt with increases a thousand fold. The normal service they’d go for are storage infrastructures; usually intimidating in scale and appearance, and would require careful handling of an IT expert. These systems are very reliable, yet still prone to errors especially when hackneyed. Time makes it susceptible to system errors, which affect business significantly. This lull spent on configuring and troubleshooting these data servers could have already been profit earned if operations ran more efficiently. This is where cloud computing makes its case. Different from costly IT infrastructure, the cloud offers speedy, agile, secure, and convenient data hosting at an economical rate. Cheap for the reason that these platforms usually are offered on-demand—Amazon Web Services, Google Cloud Platform—which better suits businesses with fluctuating demands. You only pay for what you use. This entails financial savings for the
company in the long run.
A testament to the benefit of the cloud is the success of Netflix. In a blog shared by the giant streaming service, they stated: “Moving to the cloud has brought Netflix a number of benefits. We have eight times as many streaming members than we did in 2008, and they are much more engaged, with overall viewing growing by three orders of magnitude in eight years.” Further revealed in the blog, “Elasticity of the cloud allows us to add thousands of virtual servers and petabytes of storage within minutes, making such an expansion possible. Leveraging multiple AWS cloud regions, spread all over the world, enables us to dynamically shift around and expand our global infrastructure capacity, creating a better and more enjoyable streaming experience for Netflix members wherever they are.”
Where do the files go?
The cloud is not an invincible, bottomless storage bin, though. Your files still have to go somewhere, and that is in the capable servers of your service provider. These standard hardware are typically located in multiple HQs across continents to serve as backup in the event one hub crashes; meaning there’s little to zero down time for clients subscribed to these services. Think farming out, you get the benefits of physical servers without the need to purchase and manage them, that is as long as you are connected to the Internet. The coming and going of your data is also taken care of highly-skilled professionals, enabling clients to focus on making their services better than having to wrestle with IT hardware intricacies.
How does cloud computing apply to the average consumer?
Without realizing it, you use at least a bit of cloud computing on the daily. You may not be a direct consumer, but you are a participant in this interconnectedness digitalization has brought upon us. For starters, you stream content from internet TV platforms such as Netflix. If you are employed, you send and check email remotely. There are also instances when you collaborate real-time with co-workers or schoolmates while on different locations through, say for example, Google Docs. And as someone with a smartphone always on their person, it’s impossible to not have social media accounts installed on them. The list goes and one thing we can draw from these is: the forecast is cloudy at best for the future. As we move towards a digital economy, more and more companies are going to be migrating to the cloud for its reliability and value.
Also published in GADGETS MAGAZINE September 2017 Issue
Words by Mia Carisse Barrientos