September 26, 2018
What is the Cloud?

By Mariah McKenrick

Good question, and we’re here to answer it. In the 90’s, if you were at a New Kids On The Block concert and someone asked if you knew what ‘the cloud’ was, you’d probably answer something along the lines of, “The clouds? They block the sun and produce rain. Why are you asking me this in the middle of a concert?” Nowadays, that question has a more complicated answer. Unless you work in the tech industry, there is a pretty good chance that you’ve heard of it, but you are not exactly sure what it is. That’s where we come in, to help you better understand the cloud.

Essentially, the cloud is a vast global network of servers that all serve a unique purpose. All information accessed through the internet through sites like Facebook, Wikipedia, and YouTube is stored on remote servers in a physical data center somewhere. These servers are designed to store or manage data, run applications, or deliver content and services such as streaming videos, email, or social media. The cloud is really just a metaphor for the internet, but in case that still doesn’t make sense, let’s break it down a little more.

At OVHcloud, one of the solutions we offer is known as Public Cloud. The public cloud is a fully virtualized environment with a multi-tenant architecture that enables users – or ‘tenants’ – to share computing resources. Each tenant's data in the public cloud, however, remains isolated from other tenants. Think about it like renting an apartment in a complex. You have your own space to store your things, but share common areas such as the pool, playground and clubhouse. In the case of public cloud, you share the network and bandwidth with your neighbors.

Public cloud relies on high-bandwidth network connectivity to rapidly transmit data. Public cloud storage is typically redundant, using multiple data centers and careful replication of file versions. The storage of multiple copies of your data prevents any damage from occurring if any part of the system were to fail. Public Cloud Instances (or virtual servers) combine flexibility and guaranteed resources, just like how you are guaranteed an apartment in your complex.

In addition, there are several types of storage you can add to your public cloud. In less than a minute, you can get all the CPU, RAM, and storage you need.

Object Storage

This is a general term that refers to a data storage architecture that manages data as objects. With object storage, all objects are stored within a single repository so there is no hierarchical file structure; attributes of a file (e.g., metadata) are all stored together and identified with a unique identifier. Object storage is often compared to valet parking. Think of it like this: you leave your favorite restaurant and walk out to go find your car. Panic sets in as you try to remember where you parked it, and you reach your hands in your pocket to find that your keys are missing! Then you see him, the valet, standing behind the podium, and you feel immediate relief. You grab your ticket (the identifier) out of your wallet and hand it over to him. Moments later, your car (the value) pulls up in front of you and off you go. You never need to know the physical, or even the logical location of your data object; you only need to have the key to access or retrieve your data. 

Block Storage

Block storage is a type of storage commonly deployed by businesses in SANs (Storage Area Networks). Each block in a block-level storage system can be controlled as an individual hard drive, and the blocks are managed by a server operating system.

Think of it like baking a cake. If the similarities aren’t immediately obvious to you, don’t worry, we had him break it down for us. Block storage works by combining portions of storage from multiple physical disks and making the overall storage available to a device. As a result of the storage always being available, a customer pays for it whether they use a portion of the storage, or the entire storage volume. Similarly, a baker combines portions of multiple ingredients to make a cake. The entire cake is available regardless of how much is consumed and therefore, like block storage, you pay for the entire thing. If you go into a bakery and buy a three-tiered cake, but only end up eating the top tier, you don’t just go back and return what you didn’t eat. You stick it in the freezer and save it for a rainy day.

Archive Storage

Archive storage is ideal for data the requires longevity and needs to be accessed infrequently. Unlike other forms of storage, archive doesn’t have automatic data retrieval, meaning it takes a longer time to access the data that you have stored there. Archive storage is a lot like Hotel California, your data checks in, and you probably won’t need it to check out. This sounds daunting, but it’s a good thing, because you can avoid any fees associated with retrieving it. Having your information stored on a network of servers preserves it and allows the data that matters to you to be protected. You use archive storage for data that you may never need to access again, such as old taxes, forms or receipts. You may not need this information any longer, but you can trust that it is always going to be protected.

Even if you’re not an expert on everything related to the cloud just yet, hopefully you have a better understanding of the how it can serve your needs. It isn’t as complicated as it seems, and OVHcloud is dedicated to giving our customers the products they need and the information about how they work. Now go reward yourself with a delicious cake, but you don’t have to eat the whole thing!