Top 7 Most Common Uses of Cloud Computing

4 min read

What are some of the most effective ways to use cloud computing to achieve business goals?

 

Cloud computing has been credited with increasing competitiveness through cost savings, greater flexibility, elasticity and optimal resource utilization. As a technology, cloud computing is much more than the sum of its parts. It opens doors to cloud-native technologies, supports more efficient ways of working and enables emerging capabilities in machine learning (ML) and artificial intelligence (AI).

Here’s how organizations are putting cloud computing to work to drive business value.

1. Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) and Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS)

Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) delivers fundamental compute, network and storage resources to consumers on-demand, over the Internet and on a pay-as-you-go basis. Using cloud infrastructure on a pay-per-use scheme enables companies to save on the costs of acquiring, managing and maintaining their own IT infrastructure. Plus, the cloud is easily accessible. Most major cloud service providers — including Amazon Web Services (AWS), Google Cloud, IBM Cloud and Microsoft Azure — offer IaaS with their cloud computing services.

Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) provides customers a complete cloud platform — hardware, software and infrastructure — for developing, running and managing applications without the cost, complexity and inflexibility of building and maintaining that platform on-premises. Organizations may turn to PaaS for the same reasons they look to IaaS; they want to increase the speed of development on a ready-to-use platform and deploy applications with a predictable and cost-effective pricing model.

2. Software-as-a-Service (SaaS)

While Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) is similar to the IaaS and PaaS uses described above, it actually deserves its own mention for the undeniable change this model has brought about in the way companies use software. SaaS offers software access online via a subscription, rather than IT teams having to buy and install it on individual systems.

SaaS providers, like Salesforce, enable software access anywhere, anytime, as long as there’s an Internet connection. These tools have opened access to more advanced tools and capabilities, like automation, optimized workflows and collaboration in real-time in various locations.

3. Hybrid cloud and multicloud

Hybrid cloud is a computing environment that connects a company’s on-premises private cloud services and third-party public cloud services into a single, flexible infrastructure for running critical applications and workloads. This unique mix of public and private cloud resources makes it easier to select the optimal cloud for each application or workload and then move the workloads freely between the two clouds as circumstances change. With a hybrid cloud infrastructure, technical and business objectives are fulfilled more effectively and cost-efficiently than could be achieved with a public or private cloud alone.

The video "Hybrid Cloud Explained" provides a more in-depth discussion of the computing environment:

Multicloud takes things a step further and allows organizations to use two or more clouds from different cloud providers. This type of cloud computing can include any mix of IaaS, PaaS or SaaS resources. With multicloud, workloads can be run in different cloud environments to match unique needs. This also means that companies can avoid vendor lock-in.

To learn more about how these options compare, see "Distributed Cloud vs. Hybrid Cloud vs. Multicloud vs. Edge Computing."

4. Test and development

One of the best use cases for the cloud is a software development environment. DevOps teams can quickly spin up development, testing and production environments tailored for specific needs. This can include, but is not limited to, automated provisioning of physical and virtual machines.

To perform testing and development in-house, organizations must secure a budget and set up the testing environment with physical assets. Then comes the installation and configuration of development platform. All this can often extend the time it takes for a project to be completed and stretch out the milestones. Cloud computing speeds up this process with cloud-based development tools that make creating apps and software faster, easier and more cost-effective.

One of the top benefits of cloud computing is how it facilitates the DevOps process, CI/CD pipelines, and cloud-native advancements (e.g., microservices, serverless and containerization). These technologies have led to rapid acceleration and innovation, but also require a self-sustaining cloud infrastructure to support the hundreds of services.

5. Big data analytics

By leveraging the computing power of cloud computing, companies can gain powerful insights and optimize business processes through big data analytics.

There is a massive amount of data collected each day from corporate endpoints, cloud applications and the users who interact with them. Cloud computing allows organizations to tap into vast quantities of both structured and unstructured data available to harness the benefit of extracting business value.

Retailers and suppliers are now extracting information derived from consumers’ buying patterns to target their advertising and marketing campaigns to a particular segment of the population. Social networking platforms are providing the basis for analytics on behavioral patterns that organizations are using to derive meaningful information. Businesses like these and more are also able to harness deeper insights through machine learning (ML) and artificial intelligence (AI), two capabilities made possible with cloud computing.

Learn more about the intricacies of these technologies by reading "AI vs. Machine Learning vs. Deep Learning vs. Neural Networks."

6. Cloud storage

Cloud data storage enables files to be automatically saved to the cloud, and then they can be accessed, stored and retrieved from any device with an Internet connection.  Rather than maintaining their own data centers for storage, organizations can only pay for the amount of cloud storage they are actually consuming and do so without the worries of overseeing the daily maintenance of the storage infrastructure. The result is higher availability, speed, scalability and security for the data storage environment.

In situations where regulations and concerns about sensitive data are at play, organizations can store data either on- or off-premises, in a private or hybrid cloud model, for added security.

7. Disaster recovery and data backup

Yet another benefit derived from using cloud is the cost-effectiveness of a disaster recovery (DR) solution that provides for faster recovery from a mesh of different physical locations at a much lower cost than a traditional DR site.

Building a DR site and testing a business continuity plan can be an extremely expensive and time-consuming task with fixed assets. When built in the cloud, however, organizations can replicate their production site and constantly replicate data and configuration settings, saving considerable time and resources.

Similarly, backing up data has always been a complex and time-consuming operation. Cloud-based backup, while not being the panacea, is certainly a far cry from what it used to be. Organizations can now automatically dispatch data to any location with the assurance that neither security, availability, nor capacity are issues.

While these top seven uses of cloud computing are not exhaustive, it shows the clear incentives for using the cloud to increase IT infrastructure flexibility, while also making the most of big data analytics, mobile computing and emerging technologies.

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