Cloud Computing Basics - What Every User Needs To Know About Their Cloud App

1 January 2012
Cloud Computing Basics - What Every User Needs To Know About Their Cloud App

As more and more applications begin to leverage the cloud as a major part of their architecture, it makes sense to take a step back and understand just what is going on in terms of cloud computing basics. Much of the cloud is abstracted away from both the app developer and especially the end user. But it is a good idea to explore exactly which services the cloud is providing and how. Here is what every user needs to know about their cloud app.

Building Your App Is Much Easier

When you use cloud services, your app automatically becomes easier to build and maintain. Why? Because pre-built services mean you have less code to not only write but also less code to test. Cloud services tend to be mature and robust offering good documentation as well as error handling and a standardized interface. These are the things in life developers tend to struggle with or don’t enjoy doing.

Having the ability to pick and choose best of breed cloud services, your app becomes less of a monolith and more flexible, giving you the ability to change things around without having to re-work or write new code. You can get more accomplished in a shorter period of time, something IT managers will praise you for.

Testing Your Application Is Faster

With the ability to spin up a virtual testing infrastructure in the cloud literally in minutes, you gain a tremendous advantage in testing speed. Moving code through the various testing environments is no longer a tedious and burdensome task that requires three or four people to validate. You simply create (provision) what you need from pre-configured templates using cloud infrastructure management tools and voila, instant infrastructure and near-instant testing.

Once your testing infrastructure is set up and you have your testing process honed in, future testing becomes almost a joy since all the baggage that comes along with a traditional environment is gone. You can get something into the end user’s hands quickly and be able to validate requirements, functions and features more efficiently.

Your App Becomes Location Aware

One of the benefits of using cloud infrastructure is that the app’s static files like images, JavaScript files and CSS files can be served to the end user from the closest server location to the end user. This is called a Content Delivery Network (CDN) service where the location of the user is computed and provided to the CDN service. The service then finds a server closest to the user’s location and serves the file from there.

Why is this important? The Internet has no set route that data is transferred by. It does its best to route traffic in the most efficient manner possible but sometimes it’s not the fastest route. Using a CDN ensures that the best opportunity for data to travel the least distance and therefore arrive faster is achieved. Your app appears faster and more responsive to your end users.

Your App Requires Careful Attention to Security

By moving to the cloud, it is imperative that you know exactly how the cloud provider handles security, both physically and with data. Using storage services is one thing, but knowing how the data is stored and what steps are taken to ensure ongoing access integrity is paramount. If your app stores and retrieves sensitive data using cloud services, then your app must take additional measures to secure transporting and storage of the data.

Your App Relies Heavily on an Internet Connection

Building an application that consumes cloud resources over the Internet means your app is dead in the water without an Internet connection. This may seem obvious but many apps don’t degrade gracefully when a connection becomes unavailable. The app simply times out without allowing the user to do anything else.

If your app is mission critical, it should allow for reduced functionality when a connection is unavailable and sync back up with the cloud when the connectivity is restored. This way, your users can still be productive and you don’t look like a buffoon even though it’s not your fault.

But Wait. There’s More.

Now that you know cloud computing basics, you know that cloud computing is just a fancy term for using someone else’s computing resources. With the future evolution of the Internet is leaning heavily on cloud computing, you must take a step back and take in just what this means. The way apps are built is changing rapidly and forever. The more you know about how your future as an app developer will change, the better you can be at meeting ever-changing business demands.

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