My Cheat Sheet for Understanding the Benefits of Cloud Computing

To take full advantage of the cloud, you first have to understand its benefits as described by a marketer.

Here’s my take on the benefits of cloud computing. You can search and find several, but I thought I’d share my perspective from a typical end-user. Early on, I used this free Microsoft online course to understand the benefits: Cloud Concepts – Principles of cloud concepts. It does a great job of explaining the benefits (and more) that everyone markets and sells. And again, many of these benefits require 100% code and it is not blatantly stated in the course. My cheat sheet builds on this specific page to help you understand what the heck it all means. 

Elasticity – You pay for the computing power when you need it vs. all the time. I always think about this example: A Pizza Co. website on Superbowl night can add “enough power” to ensure the high volume of orders is processed in a manner that makes the customer happy.  With elasticity, you don’t have to pay for the high ceiling of computing power 24/7/365; however, you have it available whenever the need arises. 

I’d like to note, I use the term “power” instead of the technical term “resources.” If you are working from home now and you don’t have enough resources allocated to you, it means you might experience lag time when clicking between “stuff” you are working on. System elasticity is one thing that could help solve this problem for you.

Also, you may be learning more about VPNs (virtual private networks) and VPCs (virtual private computers). The VPN is where several people are accessing your company’s secure private place to work and the VPC is literally your “virtual computer” in that network. It’s a real-time copy of all the things you do on your company-provided desktop or laptop.

Scalable – This always felt the same as elasticity to me, but it’s where IT chooses to add resources so you have enough power to get stuff done. When adding to a server it’s vertical scaling and adding another server in addition, it’s horizontal. When you do it horizontally, you can leverage where better. 

An example for where to scale horizontally, ties nicely to the next benefit…

Accessible from anywhere – You can add power anywhere using horizontal scaling, which makes your environment  more accessible. 

Your teams in the Eastern Hemisphere can work from a server in that region (faster processing power). When they log off and leave work, you reduce “computing power” on that server and increase computing power for those working in the Western Hemisphere on a different server. This also applies to a business operating in the United States from coast-to-coast. For example, east coast workers access the cloud providers database located in the eastern region. 

I find visuals really help. You can view region maps for the major public cloud providers: AWS, Azure, and Google Cloud. A properly managed cloud enables accessibility using this flexible benefit. Your company can buy and locate its servers wherever it wants from day to day, hour to hour, and yes, even minute to minute.

Reduced infrastructure and maintenance costs – You also aren’t paying to maintain computer hardware which gives your people capacity to innovate rather than constantly completing hardware setup, upgrades, and other IT-related tasks. Historically, you needed huge server rooms that frequently needed updated and maintained. The cloud removes those needs.

Reliable – Redundancy can be built in. However, it can be done more effectively and efficiently if done in code. This means you have backups and backups of backups to ensure uptime for your people and your customers. So if for some reason, the public cloud service provider has a service failure in one region, it has a backup in place in another one. So you never miss a customer transaction or a team member can always login and access their files and applications. 

I learned about this when writing up a project description for a client who needed a roadmap and implementation for a centralized and automated solution for role-based access that allowed for rotating credentials every certain number of days and it needed to be highly available.

Human terms: A process to notify employees that they needed to change their login every 30, 60, or 90 days and that it always works with backup and redundancies in place. (Highly annoying, but very critical nowadays.)

By using HashiCorp’s Vault and Terraform (100% code), the client’s process was automated and set up to achieve 99.99% availability with the least amount of human interaction. Meaning it should only experience 8.64  seconds/day of downtime, shown in the chart below. 

Learn how you can build a Centralized Automated Vault Solution.

If you want to sound extra smart, you can refer to this as “four nines.” Think about the impact on your business: If you sell pizzas and have 97% availability, consider how many potential lost orders could occur in 43 minutes of downtime on Superbowl night.

Possibly more relevant: Consider all the employees working from home now, how does 43 minutes of downtime impact your business when multiplied by the number of employees logged on at a given time?

Availability Chart

Highly Available Chart
Source: Wikipedia, Highly available

Physically Secure – Physical security is provided by the cloud service provider. If you go back to those maps, these companies have fortresses to secure the data centers located around the globe. However, it’s still your responsibility to mitigate logical security risks and threats in your implemented solutions. What do I mean by logical? This is an entire article in itself that I’m planning to write next. Or you can read this article on becoming a Security-First Organization or Cloud Breaches Prove DevOps Needs Dedicated Testers.

Regulatory Compliant – Many public cloud providers publish their current compliance against domestic and international standards across many industries including HIPAA, HiTrust, PCI, NIST-CSF, NIST 800-53, SOC Type II, etc. By leveraging a provider that has already achieved these standards, it frees you up to concentrate on the compliance of the software stacks you put on top of their infrastructure ecosystems. 

Clarity on cloud computing

In writing, How to Truly Transform Your Business with Cloud Computing, I found the need to explain the full advantages of moving your business to the cloud in the most simple terms. If this cheat sheet sparked thoughts or questions, I’d love to hear them by connecting with me via LinkedIn or email.