What is cloud computing?

Cloud computing, simply put, is the offloading of technical infrastructure to a third party, to make your data accessible anywhere on the internet. This is both much more complicated than that, yet much easier to understand than the average person might think. Today, it has become essential for every business large and small to understand the basics of cloud computing and use these services to their full potential to maximize the efficiency of their business. While the concept of ‘clouds’ to represent the internet have been around since the beginning of the internet itself, there were a number of conditions that allowed ‘cloud computing’ solutions for the average business to become an affordable and feasible option, around the early 2000s. The most notable of factors leading to this includes the increasing availability of internet bandwidth, especially following the breakup of telephone and internet monopolies throughout the 90s, and the continuation of Moore’s Law, allowing powerful data centers and server space to be purchased and rented for competitive prices, rivaling those of a business’s own infrastructure and maintenance, and be capable of easily virtualizing services for many users from a single machine. In 2006, Amazon revolutionized the industry when they launched Amazon Web Services (AWS) and the Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2). While this wasn’t the first cloud service business model at the time, and prior solutions had existed involving mainframe time-sharing, virtual private networks (VPNs), and virtual environment languages like Telescript, AWS caught on fast in the business sector and beyond.

The cloud today

Now, cloud computing is the backbone of much of the front-end of the internet, including social media, online stores and catalogs, news, forums, blogs, and even advertisement. As moving to the cloud has become almost undisputedly cheaper than setting up infrastructure and hosting on site, the primary basis for drawbacks and limitations stems from control over the data. While data security and redundancies are improved from an on site solution, questions and disputes still arise about data privacy, especially over national boundaries. Specifically, in recent events, the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) has had major effects on cloud services and international data storage worldwide. Part of this law called for every end user to be required to provide explicit, expressed consent to allow their usage or analytical data to be shared with any third party, which caused immediate changes from well known businesses who utilize cloud services like Google, Amazon, Twitter, Facebook, and many more. Whenever any country changes international, or even local policies regarding telecommunications, privacy, or data sharing laws, they can have drastic effects on cloud services hosted within their borders, or their end user citizens ability to access data elsewhere. Decisions limiting the availability of data made by countries large enough may cover enough users that even a foreign hosted cloud service may have to rethink its data storage methods to be compliant with new standards. For these reasons, cloud computing is still a rapidly changing and growing industry.

Popular cloud service providers

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