Edge Computing vs Cloud Computing: What are the Key Differences? – CIO Insight

In recent years, two big trends have emerged in the computing world: edge computing and cloud computing. At first glance, these two concepts may seem similar, but they are actually very different. Edge computing focuses on pushing more of a device’s computation to locations closer to its users. By contrast, cloud computing takes processing tasks away from individual devices and distributes them across multiple servers at remote data centers. 

According to the Harvard Business Review’s “The State of Cloud-Driven Transformation” report, 83 percent of survey respondents admit the cloud is extremely important to their organization’s future strategy and growth. Meanwhile, Gartner predicts that the percentage of enterprises that have implemented edge use cases in production will increase from around 5 percent in 2019 to nearly 40 percent in 2024. Both technologies have unique use cases in business settings, but it’s important to understand the primary differences between the two.

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What is edge computing?

Edge computing is all about enabling real-time interaction with data by moving some of your data analytics closer to where that data is being generated. This could be your cell phone, a city-wide sensor, or even a node on your home Wi-Fi network. 

Edge computing’s goal is to reduce transmission lag and increase connectivity. The result is reduced workload on servers and faster access for users. 

Benefits of edge computing

One of edge computing’s key benefits is decreased latency, which creates more responsive applications and services. Other benefits include:

Timely, local insights 

Edge computing not only lets you process data locally, but it also identifies patterns in real-time—much faster than any traditional cloud service. What’s more, this technology only uses minimal bandwidth to generate these insights.

Lower data transmission costs

With edge computing, the machines used for analysis are close in proximity to where your customers—or your sensors—are located. No need for massive data transmission costs when your processing power is already as close as possible. 

Reduced bandwidth

With some subsets of edge computing like fog computing, application logic happens within localized data centers. This can have several advantages including improved security and reduced latency through proximity.

Keep reading: Edge Computing vs Fog Computing: What’s the Difference?

Cons of edge computing

Despite its advantages, edge computing does have its drawbacks. Some of these include: 

Higher infrastructure costs 

There is a common misconception about edge computing—it might be an inexpensive alternative to the cloud, but it still requires dedicated resources. These resources, in some cases, could prove as expensive as those required for cloud implementation. 

The only way you can negate high infrastructure cost is if you already have an enterprise-grade facility; however, even then there might be some costly changes required to make existing systems work with edge computing. 

Increased risk of data loss

Storing data at local sources can be risky because they are more prone to human error and disasters such as floods, earthquakes, and fires. Moreover, putting all your metaphorical eggs in one basket increases risks significantly since most companies prefer to store backup copies at different locations. 

Storage capacity

Edge computing provides greater flexibility when it comes to storage capacity since it allows you to store information where ever possible without restriction. However, there is always a possibility that you may end up over-provisioning your requirements or under-provisioning them due to a lack of control over processes like offloading, archiving, and compressing.

Keep reading: Top Edge Computing Companies for 2022

What is cloud computing?

Cloud computing refers to a remote hosting service that allows users to access and run programs over an internet connection. This eliminates the need for in-house servers, which can be expensive to purchase and maintain. The best part about cloud computing is its scalability. If your company grows or becomes more active, you can quickly scale up your resources without purchasing any new hardware.

Related: Creating a Cloud Strategy: Tips for Success

Benefits of cloud computing

Cloud computing offers many benefits, from centralizing your data to gaining access to top-of-the-line hardware. Other benefits of cloud computing include:

Access anywhere

No matter where you’re located in the world, as long as you have an internet connection and a device (mobile or otherwise), you’ll have access to your cloud data. It doesn’t matter if you have dedicated IT staff at your location—you can work together effectively because everything will sync across devices throughout your organization.

More storage space

With cloud computing, you can easily scale your storage requirements as your business grows. The only limit to how much storage space you have is how much you can afford.

Flexible pricing 

Cloud computing gives you flexibility in budgeting. Most cloud computing vendors offer a pay-as-you-go model that can be adjusted quickly for developing needs.

Cons of cloud computing 

There are a few cons of cloud computing to keep in mind. These include:

Higher implementation costs

Cloud computing solutions may be cost-prohibitive, depending on how big your business is. If you’re a large enterprise with dozens of employees and massive data requirements, it makes sense to go cloud. However, if you’re a small business with a limited budget, it may not make sense to host all of your data in the cloud. 

Data loss or theft

Cloud computing is hosted on a third-party server. This means your data is stored and managed somewhere you have limited control over, which can be worrisome for some enterprises. That said, most cloud computing providers invest heavily in security measures for their data centers to ensure your data is safe. 

So while there are benefits to using cloud computing, you need to weigh them against potential risks of loss or theft of data—and make sure you backup your files in case anything goes wrong. 

Keep reading: Top Cloud Computing Companies for 2022

How does edge stack up against the cloud?

Compared to the cloud, edge systems have a few key limitations—edge computing is less secure, flexible, and scalable than cloud computing. 

However, edge solutions have some advantages, too. For example, latency in remote cloud systems can be really high compared to local edge systems. If you’re sending messages between data centers, it’s likely you’ll see faster performance if your data center is at an edge location than if it were located remotely.

Similarities between cloud and edge

The major similarity between edge and cloud computing is that they both involve delivering applications to users over a network. They do so in different ways, they use similar high-level delivery strategies. These similarities include: 

Convenience

Although edge computing is relatively less flexible than cloud computing, they share convenience features. For example, both make it easy to access your information via an internet connection. 

Outsourcing 

These two types of platforms are also economical because they let you outsource application hosting needs. Service providers host your applications while keeping them online and up-to-date. This means you won’t have to pay separate fees for hosting and application development—everything will be taken care of by these convenient systems. 

Mobility 

Finally, both options enable mobility in your organization. As long as you have a device with an internet connection, you can access your information. In addition, you won’t lose data whenever you switch to a new system. All your data will remain intact, whether it’s moving from the cloud to the edge or vice-versa.

Edge computing vs. cloud computing: Which is better?

Both cloud computing and edge computing have pros and cons, and both will continue to be used together. Ultimately, the best solution for you depends on your unique needs, where you’re located, and how much control you want over your data. The better question is: how can you leverage these technologies for your business? 

The good news is that a combination of cloud and edge computing provides us with a best-of-both-worlds scenario. These two major technological advances complement each other very well. Each one solves a different set of problems, making up for areas where the other has weaknesses or limitations. 

Combining these two technologies gives businesses a scalable IT strategy that provides unmatched flexibility, efficiency, and cost savings. Businesses that want to get the most out of their infrastructure shouldn’t go full cloud or go full edge; they should pursue an intelligent hybrid model to reap all possible benefits from both sides.

Read next: Top Quantum Computing Companies

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