So with that, here is my understanding of The Cloud:
The cloud is not your computer’s hard drive. It’s not an external hard drive. The cloud is a server or a computer or something that exists somewhere else that you have to use the Internet to access. You can store stuff on the cloud. You pay for space.
It’s sort of like having a storage unit. If you only need a small amount of space you can rent a locker and use it to store small items. If you have something large like a jet ski that you need to store, you need to rent a larger space. There are security issues with storing your stuff elsewhere. If someone breaks into your storage unit and steals your jet ski, the storage unit company is usually not liable. You need to have insurance on that jet ski. If someone hacks into the cloud and steals your information, the company hosting the cloud is not liable.
The problem is, sometimes you don’t even realize that you are using the cloud. Apple’s default iCloud settings automatically back up copies of any picture taken with an iPhone to remote servers. It’s not like you buy a jet ski and bring it home, meanwhile your storage unit automatically stores a copy of the jet ski to provide you with a backup.
Google Drive is an example of cloud computing. It allows you to create and store documents that you can access from anywhere via the Internet. Compare this to an MS Word doc that you have saved to your computer’s hard drive. It’s more easily accessible, you can share access with other people, but (in most cases) you compromise some level of security.
There are other issues too, like ownership of the materials you are storing on the cloud. When you upload a photo to Instagram, according to their Terms of Service, you retain ownership of that photo. This is different for every single service and in order to find out if you’re about to give away your rights to your content, you need to actually read the ToS instead of just clicking the checkbox that says you’ve read it.
So that’s my understanding of the cloud. Next on the list is SaaS or Software as a Service.
SaaS is software that is in the cloud, that you access via the Internet instead of installing it on your computer. Usually you buy a subscription to the software and that gives you access. As a user, you don’t need to worry about upgrading or maintaining the software, and as a developer you don’t need to worry about whether your customers are using an outdated version of your product.
It’s kind of like buying a subscription to Netflix (streaming not discs) instead of buying a bunch of DVDs. You pay a monthly fee for the ability to watch a movie and you don’t need to worry about owning a DVD or Blu-Ray player or storing all of the discs. The downside is that you rely on the SaaS provider to not disrupt service (and in the case of my Netflix example, you rely on your Internet provider to not throttle your bandwidth).
OK, last but not least, what the hell are AWS (Amazon Web Services)?
Amazon provides things like storage, databases, email clients, search clients and lots of other little pieces that you need to build software. Similar to how SaaS is convenient to your customers because they don’t have to install or maintain your software, using AWS for your databases means that you don’t have to build a server farm to host them (maintenance becomes somebody else’s problem) and you can scale up or down as needed. You can buy access to as many virtual servers (which are different from virtual machines) as needed, so you don’t actually have to own any of the hardware. I think I signed up for the free trial at some point? I’m not sure. I’ve never actually used it.
So that’s what I learned today. I also got a basic understanding of Elastic Search, but I need to do some more research before I can write a blog post on it.
- AWS – What is Cloud Computing?
- gcflearnfree.org – What is the cloud?
- Mashable – Beginner’s Guide to the Cloud
- Net for Beginners – What is SaaS?
- Wikipedia – Amazon Web Services’ List of Products
As always, if you see something that is inaccurate PLEASE let me know in the comment section! I’m still a beginner and I can’t continue to grow if no one ever corrects my mistakes. Thank you!