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What is a cloud? And how does cloud computing work?

1. what is a cloud?

The amount of data we process and store every day is growing and growing. And with it, the need for storage space. Even though modern computers have plenty of storage space these days, storing data in the cloud is becoming increasingly popular. But what exactly is this cloud?

Cloud refers to a variety of (large) data centers that are all connected to the Internet. Numerous cloud providers operate these data centers in an automated manner to enable their users, both private users and companies, to store data or handle complicated tasks.

The main advantages of a cloud are the constant availability of data from all end devices and from anywhere, but also data backup outside "one's own four walls". Disadvantages include being tied to an Internet connection, possible additional costs and the fact that data must be entrusted to an external provider.

Everything in that Cloud?

2. how does cloud computing work?

In cloud computing, a large number of computers take over previously defined tasks. For example, this can involve the storage of data as well as the execution of complicated program sequences.

The number of computers or servers involved remains hidden in the background, so to speak "cloudy" and unclear for users, which is why we speak of cloud computing or the cloud for short.

The great advantage of cloud computing is that even if there is an isolated server failure, this has no effect on the execution of the task.

The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) has defined five necessary characteristics for cloud computing:

  1. On-demand self-service - users must be able to have services provided unilaterally and without human interaction.
  2. Access with known technologies ("Broad network access") - The services are accessible with standard mechanisms, i.e. users must be able to access the cloud via their own Internet connection and with their own end devices (e.g. PC, smartphone or tablet).
  3. Resource pooling - users see the bundled resources of the cloud provider as a "cloud" ("multiple mandate principle"). Users therefore have no control and no overview of which and how many servers are performing the respective task.
  4. Resource adaptation ("rapid elasticity") - The resources available to individual users are adapted to the situation - if necessary automatically - and can scale up or down as required. The individual user is given the impression that there is unlimited storage space available.
  5. Monitoring of the service ("Measured service") - The use of the service, not the data of the users, is monitored and controlled by cloud systems on the basis of measurable figures and presented as a report. This is intended to continuously optimize the utilization of the individual servers within the cloud.

3. 11 tips for secure cloud usage

  1. Ensure sufficient basic protection for your access devices such as laptop, smartphone and/or tablet.
  2. Secure access to cloud services with a secure password, or even better, with two-factor authentication (2FA).
  3. Mobile devices that use apps to access cloud services should also be adequately secured against misuse.
  4. Check the privacy policy of the respective cloud provider carefully so that you know how your data is processed. Also consider the server location (keyword "DSGVO").
  5. Find out about liability issues in the event of loss of your data by the provider.
  6. Check the provider's terms and conditions to see whether your data could be passed on to third parties for commercial purposes.
  7. Find out about the cloud provider's security assurances regarding the confidentiality, integrity and availability of your data, for example in the event of a data center failure.
  8. When choosing your cloud provider, make sure that your data is transferred over a secure connection such as https.
  9. If you want to store personal data in the cloud, you should encrypt this data yourself before loading it into the cloud.
  10. If you share data from the cloud with other people, pay attention to the type of sharing. Limit it in time and share only as much data as necessary.
  11. Before you entrust your data to a cloud provider, you should check how time-consuming it is to remove the data from the cloud again.

4. Cloud Computing von A bis Z


Short form of cloud computing, meaning the use of IT services or infrastructures (rented or self-hosted) that are accessed via a network (usually the Internet) instead of local computers.

Community Cloud

In this case, several institutions access jointly used and managed resources. Such a joint project could, for example, help universities to share costs. In industry, the ENX network, an association of the European automotive industry for the secure exchange of critical development, purchasing and production control data, is a good example of a community cloud.

Hybrid Cloud

In a hybrid cloud, at least one private cloud is combined with one or more public cloud solutions. The main advantage here is the agility of the hybrid cloud.

IaaS (Infrastructure as a Service)

IaaS operates at the lowest level. IaaS as a cloud service provides servers, which are then divided into virtual computer networks by the user himself.

Multi Cloud

A multi-cloud enables the parallel use of several (different) cloud solutions and providers.

PaaS (Platform as a Service)

PaaS is located between IaaS (Infrastructure as a Service) and SaaS (Software as a Service). Users are given access to fully configured software environments in which, for example, their own software can be run.

Private Cloud

A private cloud is a cloud on the company's own computers or with its own IT infrastructure. Private does not refer to private use.

Public Cloud

The public cloud is an IT infrastructure - usually rented - that is publicly accessible to others. Of course, other users cannot access their own data stored there. In general, one also speaks of cloud providers or cloud hosts.

SaaS (Service as a Service)

or also: "Software on demand". Here, users can access (and use) selected software running in the cloud. The influence on the software is often very limited.

VPC (Virtual Private Cloud)

This involves accessing a public cloud via a local virtual environment in order to achieve a certain degree of isolation and thus a higher level of security.