One of the big buzzwords to take hold over the past year or two in the field of web development is the so-called “cloud.” The concept of the cloud is that various elements of developing, managing and operating a website could be offloaded to various online services (i.e., that such services reside in the Internet “cloud.”). Much the same way as the SAAS (“software as a service”) model has changed how individuals and businesses purchase and use software, the cloud can be thought of as an “infrastructure as a service” (IAAS) method of website development and operation.
Using cloud-based services can be helpful during development if your development team consists of a number of individuals who aren’t working in the same physical location. But perhaps more significantly, you can also anticipate using the cloud for the operation of your website, and build this into your development process from the beginning.
A common development and operational issue, particularly for larger scale websites, is data storage. Often times such data takes the form of pictures, downloadable files or streaming audio and visual content. Maintaining the infrastructure for a large amount of data can become expensive and complex (and such complexity itself often leads to further expense). By utilizing a cloud storage service, a website owner can actually save themselves money by having someone else host their data.
One of the largest joint storage and computational issues for some websites is their various databases. Maintaining and accessing large databases (often product catalogs and customer information) can consume a significant amount of resources. Furthermore, if you try to maintain the servers for these databases, and they are not optimized or sufficiently powerful, then your customers may notice significant lag times when they are accessing database information through your website.
Note that if you are in certain types of business (most notably the health care or financial industries, or where you collect and store the sensitive personal information of your customers), then you might face legal restrictions from outsourcing this activity.
Once you have your website or web application up and running, you can use a cloud service to actually host the application itself. There are various ways to interface with the remotely hosted application, and it can free up your own servers to handle other transactions.
Rather than having to purchase and provision new servers (or to enter into expensive long-term hosting arrangements), many cloud storage and web service companies follow a more immediate “on demand” pricing structure. This means that as your business activity goes up and down, you only need to pay for the amount of service you actually use. This can be particularly helpful if you sometimes experience very sharp spikes in activity. Instead of having to overcommit financial resources to handle short bursts of activity, you only need to buy what you actually use.
Cloud storage and computing services are still relatively novel, but they continue to develop as more and more businesses take advantage of what they have to offer. Even if your business does not actually require such services now, it might still be worth familiarizing yourself with them so that you’re ready to use them when the time comes.
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I am a software engineer work as a freelancer specialized in web and software. My interests involves programming, website development and writing articles related to Computer Science/Information Systems.