Expert Advice: Put your head in the cloud

Looking at cloud computing’s benefits with Jameela al-Jaroodi of RMU’s Amazon Web Services Academy.


The symbol of a cloud is used in computer science as a symbol for internet connectivity. Cloud computing is increasingly common for businesses both large and small. Once used primarily for file storage and email, the cloud now offers infrastructure, platform and application services enabling a huge variety of applications domains like accounting, HR, engineering design, research and more complex functions like machine learning and data analytics.

The cloud is scalable.
Let’s say you’re a small business, and you need some computing power for accounting, HR, or online retail. You need certain computing capabilities for current load, but you also expect growth in a few years. Instead of buying more computer power than you need to be ready for growth, with the cloud you can start with the resources that match your business needs right now. Instead of owning your own server, you just rent it out. When you need more computing power, you can acquire and configure more resources and have them up and running on the cloud in a few minutes, instead of going shopping, bringing new servers in, and configuring them to run your software, which can take weeks or even months. 

The cloud is reliable.
Cloud providers have a huge infrastructure, so they can afford to make duplicate copies of anything they have. Then if anything happens to the original system, they can switch to a backup very quickly. If an email cloud server in one place fails, another jumps in and takes up the work, and clients don’t even feel it. With on-premise systems, if a server fails, anyone relying on it can’t do anything until it’s fixed or a backup server is brought into production.

The cloud is secure.
The general misconception is that systems on the cloud are easier to hack. The reality is that they are probably more secure than on your own system. Even at the physical server locations, security is taken very seriously by cloud service providers. If I want to secure my own infrastructure, I have to buy software and equipment to do that, and because I’m just a single entity, I don’t think I’ll be able to cover every single risk. The cloud service providers have been doing that for years for their own infrastructure and have already created many proven techniques and methods to enhance security.

The cloud can be mastered.
Amazon Web Services introduced Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2) in 2006 as the first cloud service provider, and now controls over 50 percent of market share. RMU was its first partner in Pennsylvania to offer the AWS Academy training program. The course prepares students for AWS certification with classes one night a week. AWS cloud practitioner certification covers the basics and is useful to anyone needing to understand how cloud computing works, how to benefit from it, and how to create opportunities to use it effectively. The second, AWS solutions architect, prepares experts who are qualified to move existing applications to the cloud to achieve optimal performance and minimum cost.

Jameela Al-Jaroodi is an associate professor and coordinator of software engineering in the Department of Engineering at Robert Morris University.  She is an accredited AWS Academy instructor and certified as AWS cloud practitioner and AWS solutions architect.