Cloud Computing 101

The rise of cloud computing has reshaped jobs and businesses for the past decade, yet Forbes reported that over 80% of American had no idea what it was, with nearly 30% thinking it had to do with the weather. My goal with this blog post is to hopefully give everyone a better understanding of what cloud computing is and how its used.

Cloud computing is the delivery of computing services — from servers and storage to software and analytics (and much more) — over the Internet (referred to as “the cloud” because the internet was often drawn as a fluffy cloud in network diagrams). Cloud computing has many advantages (as well as reasons for a company to stay away from it) and comes in various forms, all of which I’d like to discuss in this blog post.

Types of Cloud Services

Many of today’s cloud computing services fall into three different categories, often called the “cloud computing stack” because each category builds on top of the previous one.

Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS)

Infrastructure as a service refers to renting IT infrastructure, which includes servers and virtual machines, storage, networks, and operating systems.

Examples: Amazon EC2, Microsoft Azure, Google Compute Engine

ec2                          azure                     gce

Platform as a Service (PaaS)

Platform as a service refers to the services that supply an on-demand environment for developing, testing, deploying, and managing software. This service is especially important because it allows developers to create applications without having to worry about scaling and managing the underlying infrastructure.

Examples: Heroku,, AWS Elastic Beanstalk

heroku                           force                             bean

Software as a Service (SaaS)

Software as a service refers to the method of delivering software applications over the Internet, on demand and typically on a subscription basis. The cloud providers host and manage the software as well as handle any maintenance like software upgrades and security patches. Users of the software applications connect over the Internet.

Examples: Salesforce, G Suite, Cisco WebEx

salesforce                               gsuite                              cisco


Pros and Cons of Cloud Computing


Cloud computing has many advantages to it, changing the ways that many businesses have thought about their IT resources. To understand the “revolution” it is important to look at the many advantages it gives businesses.

Cost: Cloud computing saves companies a lot of money because it eliminates the expenses of: buying software, setting up and running data centers, electricity for power and cooling, and additional IT experts for managing these things.

Speed:  Cloud computing services are typically provided on demand and allow users to provision vast amounts of computing resources in minutes. This gives businesses a lot of flexibility and eliminates the pressure of capacity planning.

Productivity: With a vast majority of the IT management responsibilities being covered by the cloud, the IT teams can spend more time on more important responsibilities.

Performance: The largest and most popular cloud computing services have a worldwide network of data centers equipped with the latest generation hardware, allowing faster network latencies.

ReliabilityCloud computing provider’s data centers backup data and have disaster recovery because they have the ability to store mirrored data at multiple sites of their network.


While looking at the many advantages of cloud computing, it may seem like the logical next step for many businesses today. However it is believed that only about 7% of enterprises have moved to the cloud. To understand why it is important to understand the disadvantages of the cloud.

Downtime: Because cloud computing services are internet based, access is fully independent on the ability to connect to them via the Internet. As with any hardware, the cloud service can fail at any time, which can be detrimental to many businesses.

Security and Privacy: Using a cloud computing service adds additional risks to a business’s data being vulnerable to an attack, with not only the business having to make sure their side is secure, but also trusting that the cloud service is as well. Additional vulnerability is also added because of the ease of attacks through the internet. There have been many successful attacks on cloud services with the iCloud hack in 2014 being the most infamous. Lastly, many businesses are not particularly fond of sharing their proprietary information with companies like Amazon and Google.

Application of Cloud Computing

I thought I’d end this blog post with a really cool use of Google’s cloud computing service, Google Cloud Platform. The greatest and most recent benefit to cloud computing is the power of additional APIs included within the cloud computing service that can be utilized by users. Google Cloud Platform recently shared on their Twitter a “how to” for using their APIs to create a program that can identify and give biographies about actors in raw footage in just 200 lines of code. For reference, to create something like this from scratch would typically take someone tens of thousands of lines of code (and thats being generous) as well as them being an extremely talented programmer. Instead, a novice programmer can utilize very powerful APIs like the Google Video Intelligence API and the Google Vision API to create equally powerful programs of their own in a minuscule amount of the time.


The pipeline for going from just raw footage to the final output of a picture and biography of all the people in the footage.

As you can see, cloud computing provides so many powerful resources so quickly and easily that the tech world will forever be changed for the better for it.


  • While visiting a company like Salesforce or Google – companies that have their own cloud computing services – it’d be interesting to ask, “What strategies do you use to attract customers to your service in a competitive cloud computing field?”
  • While visiting smaller companies / startups it’d be interesting to ask, “Which cloud computing services do you use, and why did you choose them over their competitors?”
  • Lastly, while visiting companies like Google and Amazon that allow their users access to these powerful APIs it’d be interesting to ask, “Do you feel that you may be being too generous with the APIs you make available, as these APIs can be the basis for companies of their own that could rival your company’s own interests?”

11 thoughts on “Cloud Computing 101

  1. Great post! One thing I was surprised to learn a few years back was that AWS was bigger than something like the next 30 competitors combined. I’d be interested to know if that’s still true, with all the investment in cloud recently.

    Liked by 1 person

    • It is surprisingly difficult to find up to data statistics on that information, but as of the end of 2015 they had over 30% of the market share (to put that into perspective, Microsoft which was second had just 10%)


  2. Alex, awesome work! The part of your post that really stood out to me was the disadvantages of using a cloud computing service, since I had researched this in the past but I only focused on the benefits. It really shocked me that only 7% of companies have moved to the cloud, my guess was a lot higher than that due to all the good that could come out of using this type of technology! Your point about security and privacy reminded me of @hanleyea‘s recent post about Malware and the risks of data security. This seems to be the classic outsourcing problem. Are companies willing to trade the decrease in cost and other benefits for the increase in risk of data security? Here, we see trust as a huge potential issue. Again, really enjoyed reading this post!

    Liked by 2 people

    • Good point! I helped Prof. Ransbotham with a research on management information security last semester, and surprisingly there are a lot of scholarly research on the best way to contract with cybersecurity service providers and ways a third party can mediate risk related to data outsourcing. This is definitely a topic that draws researchers’ attention.


  3. Great post Alex! You really clarified the concept of cloud computing for me. When I attended the SheHacks Boston hackathon last month, Google representatives were really encouraging us to use the Google Cloud Platform. Not only is it a great platform for storage, but the APIs you mention are extremely useful for coders to build off of.

    I think its admirable that Google provides users access their APIs. It definitely saves programmers a ton of time, allowing them to focus on more creative tasks. This is a great example of how collaboration in tech is critical. While it’s hard to overlook the competitive nature of the tech industry, collaboration can allow the tech community to solve bigger and better issues. I hope to see more companies follow Google’s lead!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Nice post. Really like how you briefly discussed the reliability side of cloud computing. I personally didn’t know that they were able mirror data like that.

    The only other downside of cloud computing is the complication it causes in terms of liability. Before, when everyone had to buy their own servers, it was easier to legally to go after your server provider if your data was lost, stolen, etc. Now, with almost two or three degrees of separation between you and your data, it seem like it would be harder to legal pursue an an entity like AWS if your data was lost.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Thanks for breaking down Cloud Computing for me! Of course, I use the Cloud but I’ll be honest, I really had no idea what it was. I’m happy to report that I did not fall into the 30% that thought it had to do with the weather, though! I especially loved the last part about the Google Cloud Platform. Great job!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Great and informative post! There are so many developments today that have reduced the friction and cost to starting a startup, cloud computing being one of them. Though Amazon is the clear leader today, this is such a massive growth opportunity that I think the race is just heating up with Microsoft, Google, and IBM doubling down on their cloud services. The cloud computing market has been forecasted to reach $342B by 2021 (@ a CAGR of 22%), so no major tech company will want to miss out on this opportunity to become a leader or even just a player in the space.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Great post Alex! Speaking of disadvantages, I had one CS professor last semester who used a flip phone and was the biggest skeptic of cloud computing, which made me kind of scared. Security issue is definitely something that many people find hesitant to use cloud computing. But more and more companies are moving toward moving to the cloud, so we’ll see! Thanks for the informative post!

    Liked by 1 person

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