What is cloud computing?
Cloud computing denotes a service in which computing power or software is temporarily made available via the internet for a fee (rental service). At its core, cloud computing as a service comprises three areas:
- Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) describes the rental of virtual machines, such as servers.
- Platform as a Service (PaaS) offers the option of renting systems such as databases or development platforms.
- Software as a Service (SaaS) describes a service that allows software to be rented.
Another differentiating factor is that cloud computing can run internally on company-owned servers (private cloud) or via public data streams on external servers (public cloud).
Companies benefit from cloud computing in a variety of ways. The costs of renting are significantly lower than in-house IT operations. The software is always up to date, as applications are always opened in a web browser.
Another decisive advantage of the cloud is continual and completely location-independent availability: any user with an internet connection and an up-to-date browser can gain access to the cloud. Additionally, cloud services can be individually adapted to customer requirements.
Security & risks
Company data is highly sensitive data that is not intended for everyone, so data security plays an especially important role in cloud computing. There are various risks:
- External attackers could gain unauthorised access and access company data or customer information.
- The provider platform could be misused, including through brute force attacks, in order to target passwords.
- Lack of transparency and few control options on the provider side for handling data.
- Possible dependence on the provider due to the reduction of internal expertise.
- Incorrect use or application errors by the company’s own employees.
Fundamentally, the cloud should meet the highest possible standards of data security and data protection.
Complexity requires standards
However much the IT sector may change and reinvent itself, common standards and guidelines for cloud infrastructures remain essential in a globalised world. These days, most of the world’s IT companies therefore rely on international standards such as those of ISO (International Organization for Standardization) or ITU (International Telecommunication Union). The Federal Office for Information Security has also summarised the minimum requirements in information security in the key issues paper “Security recommendations for cloud computing providers.”
The following institutions offer further standards or certifications.
- Storage Networking Industry Association (SNIA): The organisation has developed an interface that enables continuous data management at all service levels.
- Cloud Security Alliance (CSA): The Certificate of Cloud Security Knowledge (CCSK) sets out guidelines, including for cloud security.
- MODAClouds: The joint research project develops standards on multiple levels regarding the secure use of cloud solutions and providers for end users. The project has many supporters and is partially financed by the European Commission.
The UK: leading the way for cloud computing
Although cloud computing is steadily increasing in importance, its use varies widely. In the UK, it's been reported by the UK Parliament that 89% of big businesses use cloud computing in at least one capacity. Consequently, it's been named the largest European market for cloud services by the US International Trade Administration, and the second-largest market worldwide for information and communications technology (ICT). Even further, they assert that London, following Silicon Valley (birthplace to giants such as Apple, Meta and Alphabet), is one of the top tech hubs in the world.
See a breakdown of cloud computing popularity in Europe here. It should be observed that the UK is absent from this source, likely due to discrepancies concerning Brexit.
Predictions for cloud computing in the UK
By the end of 2023, it is anticipated that cloud computing in the UK will be valued at over £35 billion, and it is likely that this value will rise over time (given that there was a 78% increase from 2019 to 2023).
Common ways the cloud is currently leveraged by companies include:
- Online document editing
- File storage
- Social networks
- Email and office tools
- Data storage
- IT security software
- Accounting software
- Company databases and software
- Application development, testing, or deployment
- CRM software
- ERP software applications
- Media streaming
Despite mistrust, cloud computing is generally secure, and companies are leveraging it in a variety of ways. It is up to each company to determine how vulnerable its own data and applications are beforehand. They should then assess each cloud provider in terms of their solutions, data protection regulations and so on. If these two aspects are carefully considered, high safety standards can absolutely be reconciled with cost savings.