The cloud, in the context of technology, does not refer to a single physical location, nor does it refer to a celestial floating object that miraculously stores our data and makes it available to us when we need it. Instead, it is a virtual infrastructure that enables access to data and services over the internet - a network of remote servers that allow for the storage, management, and processing of data via the web. So, ultimately, the ethereal sounding ‘cloud’ is actually a network of servers located in data centres around the world, which allow computing resources, such as storage, processing power and applications to be accessed from anywhere with an internet connection.
Data centres are an essential component of cloud computing and, without them cloud computing as we know it would not be possible. They provide the physical infrastructure necessary to store and process the vast amounts of data that are used by cloud services. When a user accesses the cloud, they send a request over the internet to the cloud service provider's servers. The servers then process the request and return the requested data or service back to the user over the internet.
A key rationale for cloud computing services is that they are typically offered through a pay-as-you-go model, which allows users to only pay for the resources they use, and to scale their usage up or down as needed. This can be more cost-effective than traditional on-premise computing, where businesses would need to invest in and maintain their own hardware and infrastructure with little in-built scalability. Overall, the cloud offers users a more flexible, scalable, and cost-effective way to access computing resources and services (particularly for less sensitive workloads) and has become an increasingly popular choice for individuals and businesses.
The interplay between cloud and colo
Both colocation and the cloud involve hosting data and applications, albeit it very differently. With cloud computing, the cloud provider owns and manages the hardware and software infrastructure used to run workloads. By comparison, organisations retain ownership and control of their computer hardware when they opt for colocation, and hand control of power, cooling and physical security to the data centre.
Ultimately, most businesses opt for a combination of colocation and cloud services to benefit from the cost savings and flexibility of cloud services whilst also maintaining control over critical applications through colocation. For example, colocation may be preferred by organisations that have significant capital investment in their own hardware, require specialised hardware that cannot be easily replicated in a cloud environment, or make use of mission-critical applications that require high levels of security and control. Cloud services, meanwhile, are often selected for other applications that require flexibility and scalability.
The cloud in its many forms
There are several different types of cloud technology including:
- Public cloud: a cloud service offered by third-party providers like Amazon Web Services (AWS) or Microsoft Azure - resources are shared between multiple users.
- Private cloud: a cloud infrastructure operated solely for a single organisation. It can be hosted on-premise or by a third-party provider, but it is not shared with other users.
- Hybrid cloud: a combination of public and private clouds that allows organisations to benefit from the scalability and cost-effectiveness of the public cloud and the security and customisability of the private cloud.
- Community cloud: a cloud infrastructure shared by several organisations with similar requirements, such as security, compliance, or data privacy. It can be hosted on-premises or by a third-party provider.
- Multi-cloud: an approach where organisations use more than one cloud service provider to leverage the strengths of different clouds, such as the storage services of one provider and the analytics services of another.
Overall, colocation and cloud can be used in combination to create a flexible and scalable IT infrastructure that meets the specific needs of a business. The choice between these two methods will depend on factors such as budget, security requirements, and performance needs, so we would always recommend getting guidance from an expert (such as an MSP, a cloud provider or a data centre partner) before deciding on the best solution for your needs. After 10+ years of running our purpose-built colocation data centre facility, we have substantial experience of developing the best solutions for our clients’ IT and workloads based on a combination of our colocation and the services offered by our network of trusted partners. To find out how we could help you, please get in touch.