Cloud-based technology has become a mainstay for both web and mobile development in the 21st century, but its evolution has come a long way.
In the early days of computing, the most common model was central processing through public or private enterprises. That eventually grew into the client/server system that we know today, where the majority of data is housed on someone’s computer.
Cloud computing, on the other hand, works more like the central processing of yesteryear, though maybe with a fancier name (and much fancier tech). You can now access data over the Internet instead of needing to access a specific computer’s hard drive.
While “The Cloud” is a buzzword, there are plenty of reasons having data stored via the Internet is actually a good thing for developers.
Pros and Cons of Cloud Tech
While there are many upsides to using cloud tech, that doesn’t mean the system is perfect.
Benefits of the Cloud
Cloud computing offers a number of features that are significantly more flexible than traditional computing, such as:
Global network access – Any user can access the cloud from any mobile device, laptop, or desktop, from anywhere in the world.
Added security – The user doesn’t know the exact location of the resources stored on the cloud, so no one will go poking around the hard drive. Users also have access through a series of secure IDs, preventing unwanted persons from accessing secure files.
Flexibility – As the user’s need expands, the cloud expands along with it. It can provide access and resources on demand, and can quickly scale to fill the needs. Unlike hard drives, which have space restrictions, the cloud can allocate nearly unlimited space for projects as needed.
Lower costs – There are many different cloud service providers that offer competitive prices on different services, so it’s easier to find exactly what you need in your price range. Many providers offer flat fees or metered services, too.
Scalability – It’s easier to scale your business when you’re not locked down to a single location. You can hire devs and other IT personnel from anywhere in the world, or run your business entirely online without needing a physical office.
Reliability – On the whole, cloud technology is far more reliable. You won’t have to worry about your servers crashing or uninterrupted service. Most cloud providers guarantee a certain percentage of availability (usually around 99.95%), which means that at most you will only see roughly 12 minutes of downtime per month.
Automated backups – Never forget to update your system and apps again! Most cloud providers offer automated backups for all your data.
Downsides of the Cloud
But even if all of those things sell you on using cloud tech, you should also know that some dev projects aren’t necessarily ideal for using cloud tech. Here are a few of the things to consider before making the switch:
Poor integrations – Some apps aren’t ideal for development using cloud computing. Eric Knipp, a principal research analyst at Gartner, says, “The more hard-to-access or hard-to-replicate systems an application integrates with, the more difficult it is to develop and test it on cloud computing resources.” Integration can also be more difficult in general, so if you have a high need for it, consider using a more robust cloud provider.
Metered charges – While cloud tech can save you quite a bit of money for the most part, if you’re using metered services, you can easily run up overage charges for leaving things running on the cloud for a long period of time. If you’re prone to forgetfulness, look for a provider that offers a flat fee.
Constant changes – Cloud tech will keep evolving, and while this isn’t a bad thing in itself, it can mean that devs will have to keep up with new technology and new tools on a yearly basis.
Best Practices for Using Cloud Tech
If you do decide to use the cloud for your development needs, there’s a few things you should keep in mind to get the most out of it.
Choose the right deployment option
There are essentially three different choices: Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS), Platform as a Service (PaaS), or Software as a Service (SaaS).
IaaS provides infrastructure, so you can host on a virtual machine with the operating system of your choice. The cloud provider will setup the space (and the OS) but you do the rest.
PaaS runs on top of IaaS and gives you everything except the code, users, and specific data. The provider maintains the application, databases, and OS, so you just have to worry about the code.
SaaS, everything is already provided except the users. The provider already has the code set up, and the developer has access to modify it as needed.
Most devs choose a PaaS, as it provides enough support with equal amounts of flexibility and control.
Make sure your cloud provider is global-friendly
While you want your applications to be accessible from anywhere in the world, you still want the application code as close to the end user as possible, so there is no delay in responsiveness.
You want to choose a cloud provider that will help you deploy your app in multiple geographical locations without compromising your target market’s experience.
Utilize continuous delivery and integration
When deploying applications to a cloud-based infrastructure, you should have workflows in place so that code can be deployed across different environments with as little complication as possible. Thankfully, many build systems already have plugins that integrate with the top cloud provider, so it’s easier to configure your code for specific markets.
Just be sure to choose a cloud provider that allows for continuous delivery and integration tools on their platform. They should allow you to deploy your own system or at the very least, help you integrate with existing systems outside the cloud platform for maximum results.
Even though “The Cloud” is still relatively new and growing every day, the benefits of using cloud tech can far outweigh traditional computing if the circumstances are right.
The cloud provides complete mobility and flexibility in terms of how you build a team and develop an app. It can even save you money, as long as you don’t forget to turn off your digital workspace at the end of the day.
While you should still make sure that your projects will be effective before you start using cloud tech (especially if you’re using integrations), you may find that it’s a lot easier to use and more helpful than you thought.