Scene 1 – Introduction
Clouds. They’re all around us. In the sky and on the web. In fact, if you’re watching or reading this, you’re in the cloud right now! Clouds are no longer just a place for airplanes and birds.
Scene 2 – Learning Objectives
In this lesson, we will discuss cloud services, build an understanding of what the cloud is, how you interact with it on a daily basis, the benefits and risks is creates for businesses, and tips for using cloud services in a safe and responsible way.
Scene 3 – What is The Cloud
In the 1960’s as the US Government was developing what would one day be known as the internet, a cloud symbol was used to represent this new kind of communications network. More than half a century later, the term cloud is now synonymous with almost every aspect of the internet.
To put it simply, the cloud is just another word for the internet. When we mention the term cloud services, we are referring to the systems and programs that other companies are hosting on the internet which we can access and use without the need to have large or expensive systems locally.
Scene 4 – Types of Clouds
The term cloud is generic, but there are actually different types of clouds. You may have heard the terms Software as a Service (Saas), Platform as a Service (PaaS), or Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS). All of these are examples of different types of clouds that provide something different to the users who access them. Salesforce, for example, is an example of a customer relationship management system delivered as a Software as a Service. This means that your organization doesn’t need to install Salesforce software on any servers or workstations locally, but instead, the entire application is hosted online and accessed through your web browser.
There are many examples of cloud services that you probably use every single day. Do you store your files in Dropbox, Google Drive, or Microsoft One Drive? If so, you are using cloud storage services. Do you use Google Docs and Sheets or Microsoft Office 365 to run web version of office tools to process data? These are examples of cloud productivity tools. Amazon Web Services and Rackspace are examples of both Platform and Infrastructure as a Service providers because they offer the hardware and software needed by developers to create other cloud based solutions that millions of businesses use every day.
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Why is “the cloud” such a big deal? There are a number of reasons that cloud services have become so popular. Perhaps one of the largest reasons is cost. Take Amazon Web Services (AWS) for example. AWS gives users access to a wide range of extremely powerful computing resources and functionality at a very low cost, sometimes for a few cents an hour. If a company were to create these same resources in-house, it could cost millions and require a very specialized and expensive staff to support them. Since cloud services can offer one system to so many people, the cost to the individual is drastically reduced because the total cost associated with providing the service can be shared among all of the users.
In addition to cost, redundancy, scalability, and the ability to access the services from anywhere on almost any device, also make cloud services so attractive to both individuals and organizations.
While cloud services offer many benefits to its users, there are also risks that need to be taken into consideration. Security, for example, can be a challenge to manage with cloud applications. Special care need to be taken when evaluating a cloud service provider in regards to security, availability, and the impact to business if the service is unavailable. With cloud service, if your internet goes down, do does your ability to access the hosted service.
Scene 6 – Tips for using cloud services
While there may be a few drawbacks to using cloud services, the benefits usually far outweigh the negative aspects. In order to make the most out of using cloud services you should consider the following items.
If you are using a cloud based storage service for storing and sharing files, be sure that you make regular backups to keep onsite. While it is very rare, cloud providers do experience data loss, service interruptions, and even data breaches. Some cloud storage services offer the option for users to create their own encryption keys. If this is an option, be sure to take advantage of it. By setting your own encryption keys, you can ensure that you alone have the ability to view your data. Special care should be taken in these cases though. If that key is misplaced or lost, the provider will not be able to help you access your data.
If more than one person is given access to a cloud service, it is important to monitor that access and to restrict it as soon as a person no longer needs it. Unlike computer systems within a facility that require a user to be physically present to use them, cloud service can be accessed from anywhere.
Finally, always have a plan B. Because internet access is required in order to user a cloud service, if internet access becomes unavailable, it is critical that plan exists within your organization that allows it to carry on business through alternative means or backup connections. Making these plans are essential when choosing to use cloud services within an organization.
Scene 6 – Lessons Learned
In this lesson we discussed cloud services, what is meant by the term cloud and how you interact with it on a daily basis, the benefits and risks it creates for businesses, and tips for using cloud services in a safe and responsible way.