This post was inspired by a Facebook group where there was a question what we could teach the others and since my expertise is about Office 365 and Azure and suggested that I could write about that, but it was to technical so they asked me to make teach a higher over topic. One of the topics is explaining the benefits of using the cloud. To do that I need to start what the cloud is.
What is cloud?
Well it is nothing more than a set of datacenters where you can hire services to host processes and data. To make it a bit more concrete. The image below is a Lego version of a Microsoft datacenter that I have taken on a conference.
It is just a very large building up to multiple football fields big. This version has sea containers that contain the servers for compute power and storage and are connected to the building bij plugging in Power, Network and cooling. There are many varieties of a datacenter. On YouTube, there is a on tour of a Microsoft datacenter: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0uRR72b_qvc
There are three big players that are dominant in this industry
There are many more, but these are the biggest. They do not have the same options that they sell. The most complete one is Microsoft.
There are multiple versions of cloud, the most common one is the public cloud, this version is the one where you hear about in the news. Then we also have a private cloud, this is a private datacenter for a certain company. These are used by the bigger companies where they host their own hardware and is usually a section in a big datacenter. This post will focus on the public cloud.
When we talk about the public cloud we can have 3 service models
SaaS (Software as a Service)
This model can be referred to Office 365, Gmail for business, Photoshop, Salesforce, WordPress.com and many more. It is essentially a service where you get access to a certain product on a subscription base. In the case of Office 365 you get for instance a mail server, Office client and storage. There are many different providers that have a subscription based license where you pay a fee to use their product. The provider will manage the product completely and you as a customer does not have to worry about maintaining servers, patching the software or having to have the technical know-how of the infrastructure where it runs on.
A downside of this model is that you do not have any control on the installation of the product and whether you want the updates that they made or not. This takes a mindset update for some customers where they were in control over everything before and now they need to give that away.
PaaS (Platform as a Service)
In this model, you get a bit more control about the environment, you get a service like a webservice where you can build your own website on. This gives you a bit more control then a SaaS model. The downside of that is that you are responsible for a part of keeping it running and maintaining it. A good example of this is running your own instance of a WordPress site like by blog is doing. Here you are in control of all the settings of WordPress and the database attached to it. You need more knowledge of the product that you are using
IaaS (Infrastructure as a Service)
In this model, you have the most control of your solution and here you can control everything from networking, Virtual Machines and how they are connected. This is like a virtual datacenter, only everything is software based instead of hardware based. Here you need to have a full understanding about networking, security, firewalls and virtual machines. This model is usually used when a company wants to move their existing environment to the cloud as is or when there is no SaaS or PaaS solution for it.
There are a lot of choices to make when you want to use cloud and there are benefits of using cloud in your company but also outside your company. A lot of services can be used privately like Gmail, Outlook.com, Spotify, OneDrive, Dropbox and a few thousand more.
The biggest benefit of using cloud is that you only pay what you use and you do not necessarily need to have knowledge of maintaining the product that you use. You always have the latest version of the product. A drawback of this is that when you stop paying for the service you do not have access to it anymore. A few years ago, you bought and Office 2013 license, this license can be used many years because you paid it in full. When an updated version arrives you can upgrade, but you need to pay again. Now with Office 365 you pay a monthly fee and always get the latest version with the newest capabilities. So instead of paying once every few years a large amount you pay a monthly few and get more updates in the process.
There are also reasons for not using the cloud. These are usually compliance or security reasons. While security reasons are mostly also a feeling of that the on-premises environment is more secure than Windows Azure for instance. This is usually not the case because the big cloud providers have a lot more on stake when they have a security breach. This is not the case for every cloud provider.