What Benefits Does the Cloud Offer?

Learn about cloud terminology and cloud principles, like on-demand computing, scalability, fault tolerance, high availability, low latency, and managed services.

Let’s start this section with a commonly heard quote about the cloud: “The cloud is just someone else’s computer.”

There is some truth in that statement, but it falls short of the major benefits the cloud provides.

Yes, unless we are one of the big players, like Amazon, Google, or Microsoft, we probably won’t run the whole cloud ourselves, so we’ll use someone else’s computer.

Benefits of the cloud

  • It’s compute on demand.
  • It’s quickly scalable.
  • It makes it easy to implement fault tolerance and high availability.
  • It allows us to serve users all over the world with low latency.
  • It allows us to develop faster because we can use preconfigured managed services.
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Benefits of the cloud
Benefits of the cloud

Note: Cloud computing is the on-demand delivery of IT resources over the internet with pay-as-you-go pricing. Instead of buying, owning, and maintaining physical data centers and servers, we can access technology services, such as computing power, storage, and databases, based on need from a cloud provider like AWS.

Let’s break down these statements in a bit more detail.

We’ll look at some terminology in the next section, but these will be defined later during this course. So, no need to worry just yet if the context is a bit unclear.

Compute on demand

The cloud allows us to start a new server (or thousand) on demand with a click in a couple of minutes. This is one of the most important benefits of using the cloud.

Just imagine how hard it would be to do this if our company ran its own data center. We’d have to get permission to buy a new server, order it, have it shipped to the data center, have it installed and connected to the network, and install all the necessary software until we finally can deploy the application we want to run on it. This will probably take weeks if not months.

Let’s see the same process on AWS: open the AWS Console (or CLI), click on “New Instance,” set some options, done. This takes a couple of minutes.

Of course, this is also dangerous. If our account gets compromised, someone else could do the same and increase our bill very quickly. We’ll get to that at a later stage of this course and see how we can secure our account.

Quickly scalable

The cloud allows us to scale applications quickly. But what does that exactly mean?

Just imagine we run a big online shop. We have special offers for Black Friday and expect 10 times the usual amount of visitors during that day.

How would we do that with a regular server? There are basically two options:

  • Run a server (or data center) 10 times bigger than it should be for most of the year to be able to handle Black Friday.
  • Upgrade our server (or data center) during Black Friday and downgrade it afterward. But how realistic is that in practice?

With the cloud, this is different. If we set up our website or application right, we don’t need to do anything to handle 10 times more visitors during Black Friday. It will scale automatically based on demand. We’ll get to that in the Load Balancing and Auto Scaling chapter.

The cloud makes it easy to implement fault tolerance and high availability by using its distributed nature. Most cloud providers run multiple data centers—in AWS, these are called regions and availability zones (AZ)—and we can choose where we want to run our applications.

So, if we want to make sure that our website is still running when one of Amazon’s data centers goes down, we just run the website in two or more data centers at once.

Again, imagine how that would work with our own servers and data centers. We either need to put multiple servers in multiple different data centers, or if our company has its own data center, it better run at least two servers in different locations around the world.

Serve users all over the world with low latency

But the internet is global and can be reached from anywhere. How is that different with the cloud?

Yes, we can reach any server on the internet around the world, but have you ever noticed how some websites feel slower than others?

This is because of latency (or just bad website design). If we try to contact a server on the other side of the world, our request and the server’s response will be routed through multiple nodes along the way, and each node takes a tiny bit of time to process the data.

Note: The farther away the server is, the more nodes are typically along the way, and the more time it takes.

To clear up a common myth regarding latency, the speed of light only plays a tiny role in network latency. If our data travels 1,000 km over a fiber connection, it will only take around 0.005 milliseconds (ms) to reach the other end. The vast majority of the latency comes from processing our data packets.

With the cloud, we can bring our servers closer to our users. We can either manually deploy applications in data centers or edge locations close to our users or let the cloud handle it automatically via CDNs and similar offerings.

Edge locations are smaller data centers (or just servers) run by cloud providers and are even closer to the user than their closest data center. For example, we could use one in collaboration with our internet service provider (ISP) to get even lower latency.


If the business we are working for (or maybe running ourselves) has anything to do with the internet or runs its own website, the four points above should make it clear how it can profit from using the cloud.

We should consider using the cloud if we want to:

  • Change our infrastructure quickly
  • Adjust for fluctuating demand
  • Always be online
  • Make the services as fast as possible for the user

Benefits of the cloud


How much time does it usually take to get a new server or instance on the cloud?









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