Cloud and Edge Computing, New Possibilities for Consumers

Cloud and Edge Computing, New Possibilities for Consumers

While many consumers within the U.S. may view edge computing as a different iteration of cloud computing, the two technologies are in fact two separate concepts and forms of computing. Despite the fact that cloud computing was once a form of technology that was largely reserved for professionals within the IT space, the average American citizen now shares pictures, video files, documents, and much more via their cloud accounts. Moreover, as the amount of data that individuals, organizations, and people use continues to grow in the midst of our current digital age, the limitations of cloud computing have led some to seek other alternatives. To this point, edge computing has come to represent such an alternative, as the technology is based upon bypassing the latency that can be caused by cloud computing.

What is cloud computing?

Many American consumers are familiar with iCloud, due to sheer the prevalence of Apple products and services within the U.S. economic landscape if nothing else. However, put in the most simple of terms, cloud computing is defined as the delivery of computing services, which can include software, storage, analytics, and intelligence, among other things, over the internet or “cloud”. In contrast to physical computing methods that utilize tangible hardware, cloud-based computing services provide several advantages to consumers, including improved speed, productivity, reliability, and performance. Moreover, cloud computing also allows for IT services to be accessed and shared on a global scale between countries and nations around the world.

What is edge computing?

As defined by the multinational technology International Business Machines or IBM for short, “edge computing is a distributed computing framework that brings enterprise applications closer to data sources such as IoT devices or local edge servers.” In more layman terms, edge computing refers to computing that is done near or at the source of data, in contrast to cloud computing which relies on large data centers that may be based in locations outside the immediate vicinity of many consumers. As the name suggests, edge computing functions on the edge of a particular data center. One of the primary advantages of edge computing is bypassing the latency that can occur while communicating information from a particular device across the network to a centralized cloud computing system.

What are the pros and cons of cloud computing?

One of the primary advantages of cloud computing services are reduced infrastructure costs. Prior to the development of cloud computing, a business that wanted to send data to consumers around the world via the internet would need to invest heavily into infrastructure that could be used to facilitate such tasks. Moreover, due to the lack of infrastructure associated with cloud computing, business entities and organizations that employ such technologies can also save money on the staff and management time that would be needed to maintain such an infrastructure. Additionally, another benefit of cloud computing is the ability to backup and recover data, as individuals making use of cloud computing can automatically backup their data on a regular basis, as well as restore said data should it be compromised.

On the contrary, one of the primary disadvantages of cloud computing is downtime. As the efficiency of cloud computing is contingent on the availability of higher internet speeds and bandwidths, an internet service provider experiencing inevitable service outages can lead to adverse consequences for consumers seeking to access data they may have stored in a cloud service. What’s more, as iCloud leaks in recent years have shown, the general availability and accessibility of cloud computing services can also result in security breaches, as the sheer amount of data in a public cloud can be extremely difficult to protect and manage. Furthermore, as it relates to technical concerns, some software programs simply are not compatible with cloud computing and must instead be run on an attached hard drive.

The pros and cons of edge computing

Conversely, one of the primary advantages of edge computing technology is improved response times and latency across all devices. As such, businesses and organizations that are looking to send or receive data or information that is time-sensitive will view edge computing as a more efficient means to conduct business when compared with cloud computing. What’s more, edge computing technology is also ideal for business applications that are conducted within remote areas of the world, where connectivity to a centralized location may be limited or simply not feasible. Edge computing services also provide the added benefit of improved security when compared to cloud computing. This is perhaps best evidenced by the privacy and security systems that have been included in recent iPhones, as users of such technologies can secure their devices through biometric identification as opposed to having their login credentials stored in a public cloud.

On the other end of the spectrum, the costs associated with edge computing will be astronomically higher when compared to that of cloud computing. As edge computing will require more hardware and software for both local storage needs and optimal performance, the initial investments that will be required to get such a system up and running will be substantially higher than simply paying a monthly subscription fee for a public cloud computing service. There are also certain barriers to entry to edge computing when taking economic factors into account, as countries with fewer financial and technical resources might not be able to justify investing in such technologies. This is further exacerbated by the costs associated with hiring and maintaining the IT professional infrastructure that edge computing requires in terms of functionality.

In the end, cloud computing and edge computing, while similar in certain respects, are ultimately two completely different forms of technology that will be useful in varying contexts and situations. For example, a large-scale international corporation that has been experiencing service outages within a particular geographic region may see it as advantageous to invest in the infrastructure needed to support edge computing, as these corporations will be generating enough revenue to justify such an investment. However, the average citizen looking to send photos of a recent trip to their friends and family will more than likely be content with a public cloud service provider. As such, the decision to choose cloud computing over edge computing will hinge on the specific needs and desires of the consumer or business that is seeking such services.

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