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Cloud Computing vs. Edge Computing: What’s the Difference?

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Read more about author Nahla Davies.

Much has been said about the mass migration towards cloud-based computing, known by most simply as “the cloud.” Organizations worldwide have shifted to the cloud for better security, scalability, and efficiency. However, much less is known about edge computing, another influential technology gaining traction.

Edge computing is increasingly becoming the IT infrastructure of choice for enterprises that process large volumes of data and rely on the quick exchange of it. This article will define edge computing and how it differs from cloud computing. We’ll also discuss how these two technologies can work together to create optimal data processing for organizations.

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What Is Edge Computing?

Edge computing gets its name from its computing location, which is at the physical “edge” of the network, near the necessary hardware and software that is part of the IT infrastructure. 

Edge computing refers to the act of transferring, analyzing, and storing data with the use of what is known as “edge devices.” It allows the generated data, typically from IoT (Internet of Things) devices, to be processed nearer to its source rather than sending it out to a data center, which can take time and resources. 

Edge computing goes beyond collecting and transferring data within a network. It can also collect, process, and analyze data through one or multiple edge devices. Data is received without the typical time lag of sharing data through the cloud (around two seconds at optimum speeds). Edge computing is so efficient that technological research and consulting firm Gartner predicts that over 50% of enterprise-critical data will be processed outside traditional cloud data centers by 2025.

As 5G networks enter the IT landscape, society is increasingly embracing the use of IoT items, which allow everyday objects to benefit from internet connectivity. Any device you can conceive of can be linked to the internet, such as TVs, smart homes, self-driving cars, and health and wellness wearables such as FitBits and heart monitors. All around us, people and devices are collaborating continuously.

The shift from the office to work-from-home settings has fueled the need for online collaboration. Project management and team collaboration now often revolve around cloud-based software that comes with critical features such as the ability to share and work together on documents and roadmaps.

The popularity and increasing complexity of new IoT devices have created a barrage of data and a huge demand for extra computing power. Edge computing can provide a solution for organizations that handle large amounts of data and require enhanced computing power. Data can be received, stored, and processed closer to where it is generated, reducing latency and minimizing bandwidth issues by avoiding sending data to the cloud or to centers where it can be processed.

How Is Edge Computing Different from the Cloud?

Cloud computing is a relatively new technology with massive popularity. It has freed organizations from dependence on physical servers, which are often vulnerable to damage due to natural disasters or accidents. They can also be susceptible to cybersecurity incidents due to their fixed location and are often difficult to scale. 

It is essential to know how to protect yourself from identity theft, hackers, and cybercriminals while using the cloud, as many apps only require the correct username and password to control access to servers. The cloud collects, organizes, and shares IT resources across a network that is not relayed through physical servers but rather through servers located on the internet – “the cloud.” Anyone with the correct credentials can potentially bypass security in a cloud-based document, which is why so many accounts have begun embracing one-time passcodes as an extra layer of security.

Edge computing differs from cloud computing in that data is collected and analyzed through “edges,” which are physical environments made up of hardware outside a data center. Like physical servers, edge computing relies on hardware, but unlike physical servers, edge computing can handle massive loads of data.

Edge computing provides a huge advantage in remote locations with limited or no connectivity. For example, the satellite imagery used on the International Space Station relies on edge computing to collect and analyze data, sorting only worthwhile images to send back to the Earth-based cloud.

While edge computing differs from cloud computing, edge devices can and frequently do send data to cloud-based servers. In fact, edge computing can help edge devices analyze and identify data to be sent to the cloud to avoid overwhelming it with unnecessary data.

What Are the Advantages and Disadvantages of Edge Computing?

Edge computing is a quick and efficient way of collecting, storing, and analyzing data. It allows devices to quickly gather and sort important data, relaying information quickly while avoiding wasting precious bandwidth by sending unnecessary data. 

This technology is immensely helpful in minimizing junk data and helps organizations make decisions without wasting time sifting through useless data points. Edge computing is particularly useful for devices or machines that rely on large volumes of data for making important decisions.

For example, a recent study by McKinsey revealed that a typical oil rig is equipped with 30,000 sensors, yet only 1% of the data received from these sensors is relevant in decision-making. Edge computing can provide computing capability and analytics that are in-device, providing real-time data and insights to improve operations.

Edge devices can work in unison with cloud servers, leveraging the efficiency and power of edge computing with the ease and availability of cloud-based servers. However, it is most useful when it works on its own, processing data to make a decision. Many of us have experienced the frustration felt when you have an IoT device that is struggling to sync or relay information to your mobile phone or laptop due to glitches or poor internet connectivity. Edge computing bypasses that by allowing data to be processed directly from the source.

Some cybersecurity experts argue that edge computing is more secure because data stays close to its point of origin rather than being transmitted to different servers. However, many others say that unique cybersecurity vulnerabilities exist because all important data is held in one device, which can potentially be hacked. Regardless of your stance, it is unanimously agreed that edge computing must have custom security designs that regulate device access control and utilize VPNs and data encryption to help deter cybercriminals.

Conclusion

Edge computing is an exciting new technology that has developed in response to the world’s increasing reliance on IoT devices. Closer proximity to data and the ability to process it quickly can open up incredible business benefits, such as near real-time insights, enhanced response times, and reduced bandwidth. As our society becomes increasingly digitally dependent, edge computing allows us to handle large amounts of data deftly and without wasted resources.

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