Ebook: Democratizing data access and use

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Glossary

Cloud Computing

Cloud computing is the on-demand delivery of IT resources and access to remotely stored data via the internet which scales to match user needs.

Cloud computing is one of the fastest-growing areas of technology, due to the flexibility, scalability and ease of use it provides. Companies do not have to buy and manage their own storage and processing hardware. Instead they can tap into the existing, global infrastructures of cloud providers, buying as little or as much resource as they need at that time. This facilitates the management of very large volumes of data, all while bringing down costs and ensuring security.

Providers such as Amazon Web Services (AWS), Google and Microsoft all offer responsive, global cloud services. At a more local level services such as Dropbox, Google Drive, and Microsoft SharePoint all depend on the cloud for data storage and ease of access. So what is the cloud? What are the different services available via the cloud? What are its advantages and disadvantages?

What is cloud computing?

Cloud computing aims to provide users with IT resources (data, storage, apps, etc.) on demand. There’s no need for companies to host their own servers or worry about their maintenance and upkeep. To access cloud services, all you need is an internet-connected device, such as a computer, tablet, or smartphone.

When it comes to storing and providing access to data, the term data cloud is often used.

All cloud services share these characteristics:

  • Self-service: Users have to be able to access resources in the cloud themselves, without needing to ask a third party for help.
  • Global access: The cloud must be accessible all the time, from anywhere.
  • Resource pooling: All resources are shared, bringing down costs. However, data (particularly confidential data) can be stored on a virtual machine that is only accessible to a single user to add an additional layer of security and protection.
  • Elasticity: The cloud can adapt to changes in workload. This allows users to take advantage of existing resources in an almost unlimited way, scaling up and down as needs change..
  • Continuous monitoring: To ensure optimal service, resource use is measured continuously by both the supplier and the user.
  • A variety of resources: Multiple apps and services can be cloud-based.

All this makes it possible to meet organizations’ need for agility as well as users’ growing expectations.

What are the different cloud services?

Differences in cloud models

There are three main cloud computing service models:

  • Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS): Infrastructure services are provided by a third party. The company pays for these services when it needs them.
    This model is designed for companies that want to create a complete network environment in the cloud.
  • Platform as a Service (PaaS): In addition to providing the infrastructure, the supplier also manages the operating system. This is ideal for companies seeking a ready-to-use environment (particularly for deploying applications in a scalable, global way).
  • Software as a Service (SaaS): The supplier handles everything, from the infrastructure to the application. This is the most common type of cloud service. Google Drive and Opendatasoft are both examples of SaaS applications.

Deployment methods in different cloud models

The deployment method depends on the audience accessing the data cloud:

  • Private clouds: Designed for the exclusive use of one organization. A private cloud can allow colleagues to easily share information and manage data.
  • Public clouds: The same infrastructure is available and used by anyone connected to the internet.

Sovereign clouds are a type of public cloud that are built and operated solely within a single country or region. Data therefore does not leave that country, giving greater security and control.

What are the advantages and disadvantages of the cloud ?

Advantages: A technology designed to handle large-scale data use

Cloud computing delivers major advantages to businesses:

  • Ease of use: You don’t need technical knowledge to take advantage of cloud computing resources.
  • Affordability: Thanks to the cloud, companies no longer need to make major financial investments in infrastructure and software. Since the cloud is a service, all they have to do is pay for a subscription, based on the resources/storage they actually use.
  • Flexibility: Companies choose a cloud computing system based on their needs. If their requirements change, it’s very easy to scale services up and down.
  • Backups: Data is replicated and stored in several cloud locations. If an error occurs, it’s easy to recover any lost data.

Disadvantages: Maintaining control of your own data security

Despite its many advantages, cloud computing raises several issues.

  • The lack of control: When you use the cloud, a third party handles your data management. However, this lack of control needs to be balanced against the fact that cloud service providers invest heavily in data security. This means that it can sometimes be safer to store your data in the cloud than on a local server.
  • Data protection: Your cloud provider manages your data, which raises the question of data protection. Again, service providers are experienced at meeting stringent data protection regulations across different geographies.

Cloud computing at Opendatasoft

Here at Opendatasoft, cloud computing is central to how we operate, as we provide our software through the SaaS model. Equally our solution is designed to easily connect to data stored by our customers in a range of cloud solutions. We also use cloud services (AWS and Outscale for data storage in France) for those who host their data on our platform.

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