The Evolution of Information Technology
Before we dive deeper into the world of cloud computing, let’s first examine the evolution of information technology.
Information technology went through a series of changes on its way to cloud computing. To understand where we stand today, we must be informed about where we stood in the past. This brief history will enable you to appreciate everything that makes cloud computing better and different than traditional Informational Technology (IT).
The age of computing began in the 1970s when businesses focused on significant infrastructures, including:
- Big point-to-point networks
- Centralized databases
- Big batch jobs
By the end of the last decade, terminals were introduced into personal computers. During the same period, hierarchical systems were decentralized, with a broader, expansive collection of storage and computer servers dissipated throughout a company. Though batch jobs were still a norm, several programs became influential during this age, ultimately gaining better, more advanced, and user-friendly visual interfaces along the way. Infrastructure would, in general, be related to applications, and critical applications generally required costly infrastructure.
Additionally, this era also observed the ascent of databases, which were key to business growth, as they held critical data controlled by the applications in the implementation of business processes. This information was typically organized, graded, and firmly connected to the corresponding processes.
The excursion to cloud-based computing requires hefty investments throughout the company, with focus on all parts of the business, including the finances, compliance, legal obligations, internal policies, technological development, executive and corporate sponsors, risk mitigation, and strategy. Considering the large number of business components, it requires a generous amount of work and time to move everything to cloud computing.
Now that you’ve understood the background let’s explore the basics and general characteristics of cloud computing.
What’s Cloud Computing?
Cloud computing is a framework that enables businesses to have on-demand, pervasive, and convenient access to shared computing resources that can be quickly provisioned and disseminated with minimal efforts and interaction of the company’s management or service provider.
Understanding the basic characteristics of cloud computing is essential in picking the right cloud computing service for your business, or a cloud service could be fully utilized. Unless a solution or service aligns with the following essential characteristics, you can’t call it real cloud computing.
It refers to a process in which a user can access several computational properties, including communication networks, cloud services, and storage facilities. In cloud computing, the services are offered according to the performance of the infrastructure and the system responsible for the development and deployment of the cloud software. After the payment is made, the user can avail the following services:
- Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS)
- Platform as a Service (PaaS)
- Software as a Service (SaaS)
In simpler terms, cloud computing is the execution of all computing services needed on-demand, ranging from integrated applications to data storage and power processing. Cloud computing extends to the distribution of resources, software, and information via a single network. The data storage is performed on physical and virtual servers that are overseen by the service provider. For example, Amazon manages its cloud computing product, Amazon Web Services (AWS). Businesses can easily access the data stored on the cloud network using the internet, and they can utilize this information for making essential day-to-day decisions.
Essentially, cloud computing delivers countless benefits in the Information Technology landscape. It can decrease the IT expenses in an organization to a large extent, especially when it comes to maintenance of the systems and software. A cloud computing user can use the available resources in the cloud network, instead of worrying about purchasing costly IT systems.
Additionally, the operating costs of the IT department reduce significantly because of the following reasons:
- The cost of purchasing a new system and software upgrades decreases.
- You no longer need a large team of IT specialists to run the systems, resulting in reduces payroll expenses.
- A quicker system eliminates delays in the fulfilment other business processes.
- You require fewer IT employees and minimal use of personal computers, leading to a reduction in energy consumption and bills.
- It and cloud computing must be interrelated to reduce expenses.
Governance Risk Compliance (GRC) Framework and Cloud Computing
Cloud Computing Governance
Cloud computing governance is an innovation in the paradigm of governance that is focused on responsibility, adjusting benefits, alleviating risks, and allocating resources to make profitable decisions. It established internal policies that offer a direction for appropriate control and investment in cloud computing services. Governance frameworks integrated with cloud computing can significantly improve an organization’s governance on an industrial level. Additionally, cloud computing governance can be integrated with the current standards of governance in an organization, allowing for better growth and flexibility.
Cloud Computing Risk and Compliance
Cloud computing plays a significant role in risk mitigation and compliance with internal policies and state laws. Every business has a different type of risk, but they are mostly related to finances. However, as mentioned before, cloud computing allows for a significant reduction in IT expenses, especially IT operations costs. Cloud computing risk works on ten primary principles. A better understanding of these principles provides a direction for businesses to migrate further into cloud computing. The four main principles of cloud computing risk are:
When businesses abide by these principles, it becomes easier for the managers to devise strategies that can alleviate potential risks associated with cloud computing.
Characteristics of Cloud Computing
The five essential cloud computing characteristics are:
- On-Demand Self-Service
- Broad Network Access
- Resource Pooling
- Measured Service
- Rapid Elasticity
Let’s have a closer look at each of the characteristics:
On-demand self-service means that cloud computing allows for the delivery of resources wherever and whenever they are required. From the perspective of security, cloud computing has experienced some difficulties pertaining to the operation and delivery of cloud services. It may violate a company’s internal policies because you don’t need approval from the finance, purchase, or any other department in a company for an on-demand self-service. It implies that these services can be used by any individual who holds a credit card.
Self-service also suggests that a cloud computing user can manage, configure, or access the cloud services without the intervention of a cloud service provider after completing the user activities.
Access to a Broad Network
Cloud is continually operating and available, offering users broader and more flexible access to essential data and resources. Talk about feasibility! You can access whatever information, whenever you require it, and from any remote location if you have the applicable credentials. In principle, you will only require a stable internet connection and the accreditations to access any resource you require. Today’s digital landscape is highly dependent on smartphones, and other smart gadgets and organizations are shifting their infrastructures accordingly. Cloud computing is user-friendly for all such smart devices. However, non-standardization, device incompatibility, and failure to implement security controls can somewhat be a challenge in assessing some cloud services.
It is another benefit that cloud computing offers to businesses. We have been a period where we had to request the finance and procurement department to buy more computing capabilities to fulfil IT operations. On average, these computing systems could use 80 to 90 percent of the resources for limited hours and only once a week. Cloud computing allows for resource pooling on a broader landscape accessible to all the users and clients. These pooled resources are then modified and scaled according to the resource requirements of each user. Cloud service providers usually have a massive database of resources fetched from thousands of applications, network devices, servers, and other sources. An incredibly expansive resource base allows for efficient accommodation of a large number of clients and facilitating each client according to their resourcing needs.
Cloud computing offers an extraordinary benefit that conventional IT systems struggle with. It allows the users to monitor, measure, and report their resource usage, leading to countless advantages, and better transparency between the client and the cloud service provider. Cloud services also allow businesses to keep tabs on their costs and control them. Businesses are only required to pay for the services they avail, and they can even ask for the breakdown of resource usage or a detailed invoice for any service. In addition to this, it allows proactive companies to monitor the resource usage by each business unit or department so they can quantify the costs accordingly, allowing IT and finance to quantify the exact usage and costs by department or by business function — something incredibly challenging to accomplish in a conventional IT environment.
This refers to cloud computing’s ability to quickly provide users with additional storage, compute power, data, and other resources, according to their changing and growing needs. Users may not be able to realize this benefit because the resources are continually added to the cloud for a seamless experience.
Also, since cloud computing operates on a “pay-to-go” structure, users only have to pay for the resources they use. They can monitor the costs of their additional resource usage and limit them in case of a negative ROI. This is especially beneficial for businesses that need to expand their operations during certain seasons, occasions, or festivals. For instance, a clothing business can reap the benefits of rapid elasticity during the Christmas sale season, when the sales rise exponentially. On the other hand, if this clothing business were to use traditional IT systems, it would have to spend a massive sum in capital expenditures to cope with skyrocketing demand.
In a nutshell, cloud computing is an incredible revolution in the world of technological advancements. It has helped businesses transform the strategies they once used to manage their data and ensure good governance and profitability. The advantages offered by cloud services are enormous for cost reductions, business growth, and smoother and quicker operations. Though many organizations seem to be concerned about cybersecurity when it comes to managing data on a vast landscape, cloud computing eliminates the risk of a security breach with its advanced tools.