According to Statista, the U.S. cloud computing industry generated about $206 billion in revenue in 2022. Expand that globally, and the industry has a value of $483.98 billion. Growth is on the horizon, too, with Grand View Research stating that the various types of cloud computing will achieve a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 14.1% between 2023 and 2030.
The simple message is that cloud computing applications are big business.
But that won’t mean much to you if you don’t understand the basics of cloud computing infrastructure and how it all works. This article digs into the cloud computing basics so you can better understand what it means to deliver services via the cloud.
The Cloud Computing Definition
Let’s answer the key question immediately – what is cloud computing?
Microsoft defines cloud computing as the delivery of any form of computing services, such as storage or software, over the internet. Taking software as an example, cloud computing allows you to use a company’s software online rather than having to buy it as a standalone package that you install locally on your computer.
For the super dry definition, cloud computing is a model of computing that provides shared computer processing resources and data to computers and other devices on demand over the internet.
Cloud Computing Meaning
Though the cloud computing basics are pretty easy to grasp – you get services over the internet – what it means in a practical context is less clear.
In the past, businesses and individuals needed to buy and install software locally on their computers or servers. This is the typical ownership model. You hand over your money for a physical product, which you can use as you see fit.
You don’t purchase a physical product when using software via the cloud. You also don’t install that product, whatever it may be, physically on your computer. Instead, you receive the services managed directly by the provider, be they storage, software, analytics, or networking, over the internet. You (and your team) usually install a client that connects to the vendor’s servers, which contain all the necessary computational, processing, and storage power.
What Is Cloud Computing With Examples?
Perhaps a better way to understand the concept is with some cloud computing examples. These should give you an idea of what cloud computing looks like in practice:
- Google Drive – By integrating the Google Docs suite and its collaborative tools, Google Drive lets you create, save, edit, and share files remotely via the internet.
- Dropbox – The biggest name in cloud storage offers a pay-as-you-use service that enables you to increase your available storage space (or decrease it) depending on your needs.
- Amazon Web Services (AWS) – Built specifically for coders and programmers, AWS offers access to off-site remote servers.
- Microsoft Azure – Microsoft markets Azure as the only “consistent hybrid cloud.” This means Azure allows a company to digitize and modernize their existing infrastructure and make it available over the cloud.
- IBM Cloud – This service incorporates over 170 services, ranging from simple databases to the cloud servers needed to run AI programs.
- Salesforce – As the biggest name in the customer relationship management space, Salesforce is one of the biggest cloud computing companies. At the most basic level, it lets you maintain databases filled with details about your customers.
Common Cloud Computing Applications
Knowing what cloud computing is won’t help you much if you don’t understand its use cases. Here are a few ways you could use the cloud to enhance your work or personal life:
- Host websites without needing to keep on-site servers.
- Store files and data remotely, as you would with Dropbox or Salesforce. Most of these providers also provide backup services for disaster recovery.
- Recover lost data with off-site storage facilities that update themselves in real-time.
- Manage a product’s entire development cycle across one workflow, leading to easier bug tracking and fixing alongside quality assurance testing.
- Collaborate easily using platforms like Google Drive and Dropbox, which allow workers to combine forces on projects as long as they maintain an internet connection.
- Stream media, especially high-definition video, with cloud setups that provide the resources that an individual may not have built into a single device.
The Basics of Cloud Computing
With the general introduction to cloud computing and its applications out of the way, let’s get down to the technical side. The basics of cloud computing are split into five categories:
The interesting thing about cloud infrastructure is that it simulates a physical build. You’re still using the same hardware and applications. Servers are in play, as is networking. But you don’t have the physical hardware at your location because it’s all off-site and stored, maintained, and updated by the cloud provider. You get access to the hardware, and the services it provides, via your internet connection.
So, you have no physical hardware to worry about besides the device you’ll use to access the cloud service.
Off-site servers handle storage, database management, and more. You’ll also have middleware in play, facilitating communication between your device and the cloud provider’s servers. That middleware checks your internet connection and access rights. Think of it like a bridge that connects seemingly disparate pieces of software so they can function seamlessly on a system.
Cloud services are split into three categories:
Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS)
In a traditional IT setup, you have computers, servers, data centers, and networking hardware all combined to keep the front-end systems (i.e., your computers) running. Buying and maintaining that hardware is a huge cost burden for a business.
IaaS offers access to IT infrastructure, with scalability being a critical component, without forcing an IT department to invest in costly hardware. Instead, you can access it all via an internet connection, allowing you to virtualize traditionally physical setups.
Platform as a Service (PaaS)
Imagine having access to an entire IT infrastructure without worrying about all the little tasks that come with it, such as maintenance and software patching. After all, those small tasks build up, which is why the average small business spends an average of 6.9% of its revenue on dealing with IT systems each year.
PaaS reduces those costs significantly by giving you access to cloud services that manage maintenance and patching via the internet. On the simplest level, this may involve automating software updates so you don’t have to manually check when software is out of date.
Software as a Service (SaaS)
If you have a rudimentary understanding of cloud computing, the SaaS model is the one you are likely to understand the most. A cloud provider builds software and makes it available over the internet, with the user paying for access to that software in the form of a subscription. As long as you keep paying your monthly dues, you get access to the software and any updates or patches the service provider implements.
It’s with SaaS that we see the most obvious evolution of the traditional IT model. In the past, you’d pay a one-time fee to buy a piece of software off the shelf, which you then install and maintain yourself. SaaS gives you constant access to the software, its updates, and any new versions as long as you keep paying your subscription. Compare the standalone versions of Microsoft Office with Microsoft Office 365, especially in their range of options, tools, and overall costs.
Benefits of Cloud Computing
The traditional model of buying a thing and owning it worked for years. So, you may wonder why cloud computing services have overtaken traditional models, particularly on the software side of things. The reason is that cloud computing offers several advantages over the old ways of doing things:
- Cost savings – Cloud models allow companies to spread their spending over the course of a year. It’s the difference between spending $100 on a piece of software versus spending $10 per month to access it. Sure, the one-off fee ends up being less, but paying $10 per month doesn’t sting your bank balance as much.
- Scalability – Linking directly to cost savings, you don’t need to buy every element of a software to access the features you need when using cloud services. You pay for what you use and increase the money you spend as your business scales and you need deeper access.
- Mobility – Cloud computing allows you to access documents and services anywhere. Where before, you were tied to your computer desk if you wanted to check or edit a document, you can now access that document on almost any device.
- Flexibility – Tied closely to mobility, the flexibility that comes from cloud computing is great for users. Employees can head out into the field, access the services they need to serve customers, and send information back to in-house workers or a customer relationship management (CRM) system.
- Reliability – Owning physical hardware means having to deal with the many problems that can affect that hardware. Malfunctions, viruses, and human error can all compromise a network. Cloud service providers offer reliability based on in-depth expertise and more resources dedicated to their hardware setups.
- Security – The done-for-you aspect of cloud computing, particularly concerning maintenance and updates, means one less thing for a business to worry about. It also absorbs some of the costs of hardware and IT maintenance personnel.
Types of Cloud Computing
The types of cloud computing are as follows:
- Public Cloud – The cloud provider manages all hardware and software related to the service it provides to users.
- Private Cloud – An organization develops its suite of services, all managed via the cloud but only accessible to group members.
- Hybrid Cloud – Combines a public cloud with on-premises infrastructure, allowing applications to move between each.
- Community Cloud – While the community cloud has many similarities to a public cloud, it’s restricted to only servicing a limited number of users. For example, a banking service may only get offered to the banking community.
Challenges of Cloud Computing
Many a detractor of cloud computing notes that it isn’t as issue-proof as it may seem. The challenges of cloud computing may outweigh its benefits for some:
- Security issues related to cloud computing include data privacy, with cloud providers obtaining access to any sensitive information you store on their servers.
- As more services switch over to the cloud, managing the costs related to every subscription you have can feel like trying to navigate a spider’s web of software.
- Just because you’re using a cloud-based service, that doesn’t mean said service handles compliance for you.
- If you don’t perfectly follow a vendor’s terms of service, they can restrict your access to their cloud services remotely. You don’t own anything.
- You can’t do anything if a service provider’s servers go down. You have to wait for them to fix the issue, leaving you stuck without access to the software for which you’re paying.
- You can’t call a third party to resolve an issue your systems encounter with the cloud service because the provider is the only one responsible for their product.
- Changing cloud providers and migrating data can be challenging, so even if one provider doesn’t work well, companies may hesitate to look for other options due to sunk costs.
Cloud Computing Is the Present and Future
For all of the challenges inherent in the cloud computing model, it’s clear that it isn’t going anywhere. Techjury tells us that about 57% of companies moved, or were in the process of moving, their workloads to cloud services in 2022.
That number will only increase as cloud computing grows and develops.
So, let’s leave you with a short note on cloud computing. It’s the latest step in the constant evolution of how tech companies offer their services to users. Questions of ownership aside, it’s a model that students, entrepreneurs, and everyday people must understand.
Soon, we will be launching four new Degrees for AY24-25 at OPIT – Open Institute of Technology
I want to offer a behind-the-scenes look at the Product Definition process that has shaped these upcoming programs.
🚀 Phase 1: Discovery (Late May – End of July)
Our journey began with intensive brainstorming sessions with OPIT’s Academic Board (Francesco Profumo, Lorenzo Livi, Alexiei Dingli, Andrea Pescino, Rosario Maccarrone) . We also conducted 50+ interviews with tech and digital entrepreneurs (both from startups and established firms), academics and students. Finally, we deep-dived into the “Future of Jobs 2023” report by the World Economic Forum and other valuable research.
🔍 Phase 2: Selection – Crafting Our Roadmap (July – August)
Our focus? Introducing new degrees addressing critical workforce shortages and upskilling/reskilling needs for the next 5-10 years, promising significant societal impact and a broad market reach.
Our decision? To channel our energies on full BScs and MScs, and steer away from shorter courses or corporate-focused offerings. This aligns perfectly with our core mission.
💡 Focus Areas Unveiled!
We’re thrilled to concentrate on pivotal fields like:
- Advanced AI
- Digital Business
- Metaverse & Gaming
- Cloud Computing (less “glamorous”, but market demand is undeniable).
🎓 Phase 3: Definition – Shaping the Degrees (August – November)
With an expert in each of the above fields, and with the strong collaboration of our Academic Director, Prof. Lorenzo Livi , we embarked on a rigorous “drill-down process”. Our goal? To meld modern theoretical knowledge with cutting-edge competencies and skills. This phase included interviewing over 60+ top academics, industry professionals, and students and get valuable, program-specific, insights from our Marketing department.
🌟 Phase 4: Accreditation and Launch – The Final Stretch
We’re currently in the accreditation process, gearing up for the launch. The focus is now shifting towards marketing, working closely with Greta Maiocchi and her Marketing and Admissions team. Together, we’re translating our new academic offering into a compelling value proposition for the market.
Stay tuned for more updates!
Far from being a temporary educational measure that came into its own during the pandemic, online education is providing students from all over the world with new ways to learn. That’s proven by statistics from Oxford Learning College, which point out that over 100 million students are now enrolled in some form of online course.
The demand for these types of courses clearly exists.
In fact, the same organization indicates that educational facilities that introduce online learning see a 42% increase in income – on average – suggesting that the demand is there.
Enter the Open Institute of Technology (OPIT).
Delivering three online courses – a Bachelor’s degree in computer science and two Master’s degrees – with more to come, OPIT is positioning itself as a leader in the online education space. But why is that? After all, many institutions are making the jump to e-learning, so what separates OPIT from the pack?
Here, you’ll discover the answers as you delve into the five reasons why you should trust OPIT for your online education.
Reason 1 – A Practical Approach
OPIT focuses on computer science education – a field in which theory often dominates the educational landscape. The organization’s Rector, Professor Francesco Profumo, makes this clear in a press release from June 2023. He points to a misalignment between what educators are teaching computer science students and what the labor market actually needs from those students as a key problem.
“The starting point is the awareness of the misalignment,” he says when talking about how OPIT structures its online courses. “That so-called mismatch is generated by too much theory and too little practical approach.” In other words, students in many classes spend far too much time learning the “hows” and “whys” behind computerized systems without actually getting their hands dirty with real work that gives them practical experience in using those systems.
OPIT takes a different approach.
It has developed a didactic approach that focuses far more on the practical element than other courses. That approach is delivered through a combination of classroom sessions – such as live lessons and masterclasses – and practical work offered through quizzes and exercises that mimic real-world situations.
An OPIT student doesn’t simply learn how computers work. They put their skills into practice through direct programming and application, equipping them with skills that are extremely attractive to major employers in the tech field and beyond.
Reason 2 – Flexibility Combined With Support
Flexibility in how you study is one of the main benefits of any online course.
You control when you learn and how you do it, creating an environment that’s beneficial to your education rather than being forced into a classroom setting with which you may not feel comfortable. This is hardly new ground. Any online educational platform can claim that it offers “flexibility” simply because it provides courses via the web.
Where OPIT differs is that it combines that flexibility with unparalleled support bolstered by the experiences of teachers employed from all over the world. The founder and director of OPIT, Riccardo Ocleppo, sheds more light on this difference in approach when he says, “We believe that education, even if it takes place physically at a distance, must guarantee closeness on all other aspects.” That closeness starts with the support offered to students throughout their entire study period.
Tutors are accessible to students at all times. Plus, every participant benefits from weekly professor interactions, ensuring they aren’t left feeling stuck on an educational “island” and have to rely solely on themselves for their education. OPIT further counters the potential isolation that comes with online learning with a Student Support team to guide students through any difficulties they may have with their courses.
In this focus on support, OPIT showcases one of its main differences from other online platforms.
You don’t simply receive course material before being told to “get on with it.” You have the flexibility to learn at your own pace while also having a support structure that serves as a foundation for that learning.
Reason 3 – OPIT Can Adapt to Change Quickly
The field of computer science is constantly evolving.
In the 2020s alone, we’ve seen the rise of generative AI – spurred on by the explosive success of services like ChatGPT – and how those new technologies have changed the way that people use computers.
Riccardo Ocleppo has seen the impact that these constant evolutions have had on students. Before founding OPIT, he was an entrepreneur who received first-hand experience of the fact that many traditional educational institutions struggle to adapt to change.
“Traditional educational institutions are very slow to adapt to this wave of new technologies and trends within the educational sector,” he says. He points to computer science as a particular issue, highlighting the example of a board in Italy of which he is a member. That board – packed with some of the country’s most prestigious tech universities – spent three years eventually deciding to add just two modules on new and emerging technologies to their study programs.
That left Ocleppo feeling frustrated.
When he founded OPIT, he did so intending to make it an adaptable institution in which courses were informed by what the industry needs. Every member of its faculty is not only a superb teacher but also somebody with experience working in industry. Speaking of industry, OPIT collaborates with major companies in the tech field to ensure its courses deliver the skills that those organizations expect from new candidates.
This confronts frustration on both sides. For companies, an OPIT graduate is one for which they don’t need to bridge a “skill gap” between what they’ve learned and what the company needs. For you, as a student, it means that you’re developing skills that make you a more desirable prospect once you have your degree.
Reason 4 – OPIT Delivers Tier One Education
Despite their popularity, online courses can still carry a stigma of not being “legitimate” in the face of more traditional degrees. Ocleppo is acutely aware of this fact, which is why he’s quick to point out that OPIT always aims to deliver a Tier One education in the computer science field.
“That means putting together the best professors who create superb learning material, all brought together with a teaching methodology that leverages the advancements made in online teaching,” he says.
OPIT’s degrees are all accredited by the European Union to support this approach, ensuring they carry as much weight as any other European degree. It’s accredited by both the European Qualification Framework (EQF) and the Malta Qualification Framework (MQF), with all of its courses having full legal value throughout Europe.
It’s also here where we see OPIT’s approach to practicality come into play via its course structuring.
Take its Bachelor’s degree in computer science as an example.
Yes, that course starts with a focus on theoretical and foundational knowledge. Building a computer and understanding how the device processes instructions is vital information from a programming perspective. But once those foundations are in place, OPIT delivers on its promises of covering the most current topics in the field.
Machine learning, cloud computing, data science, artificial intelligence, and cybersecurity – all valuable to employers – are taught at the undergraduate level. Students benefit from a broader approach to computer science than most institutions are capable of, rather than bogging them down in theory that serves little practical purpose.
Reason 5 – The Learning Experience
Let’s wrap up by honing in on what it’s actually like for students to learn with OPIT.
After all, as Ocleppo points out, one of the main challenges with online education is that students rarely have defined checkpoints to follow. They can start feeling lost in the process, confronted with a metaphorical ocean of information they need to learn, all in service of one big exam at the end.
Alternatively, some students may feel the temptation to not work through the materials thoroughly, focusing instead on passing a final exam. The result is that those students may pass, but they do so without a full grasp of what they’ve learned – a nightmare for employers who already have skill gaps to handle.
OPIT confronts both challenges by focusing on a continuous learning methodology. Assessments – primarily practical – take place throughout the course, serving as much-needed checkpoints for evaluating progress. When combined with the previously mentioned support that OPIT offers, this approach has led to courses that are created from scratch in service of the student’s actual needs.
Choose OPIT for Your Computer Science Education
At OPIT, the focus lies as much on helping students to achieve their dream careers as it does on teaching them. All courses are built collaboratively. With a dedicated faculty combined with major industry players, such as Google and Microsoft, it delivers materials that bridge the skill gap seen in the computer science field today.
There’s also more to come.
Beyond the three degrees OPIT offers, the institution plans to add more. Game development, data science, and cloud computing, to name a few, will receive dedicated degrees in the coming months, accentuating OPIT’s dedication to adapting to the continuous evolution of the computer science industry. Discover OPIT today – your journey into computing starts with the best online education institution available.