A Beginner’s Guide to Edge Computing

Henry Bevan, September 15, 2020

Since the dot-com boom, workplaces have seen their technology shift during the 21st century.

Over the last two decades, CDs replaced floppy disks, broadband replaced dial up, and cloud computing replaced traditional IT infrastructure.

Cloud computing has transformed the working world over the last decade, enabling businesses to operate remotely, more securely and more cost effectively. It has helped digital transformations and prevented unnecessary damage caused by dated legacy systems.

But the age of cloud is coming to an end.

We’re entering a new era of technological development: the age of data is here, and we’re not talking about data in the cloud or a data centre. We’re talking about data that happens where business is done, the data at our fingertips in our laptops and phones.

It’s called the Edge, and it’s the latest technology that has the power to help companies level up their operations.

But what exactly is the Edge and edge computing?

Edge computing happens near the source of the data (as opposed to on the cloud at a random data centre miles away).

This doesn’t mean the cloud will disappear. In fact, edge computing brings the cloud to you.

Simply put, edge computing reduces the distance data needs to travel, which can boost the performance, speed and reliability of applications and services.

It's growing in popularity because it can help make up for potential latency issues.

A perfect example of a latency issue is your Amazon Echo. When you ask Alexa to start streaming The Killers’ latest album, she must process your speech, send a compressed version to the cloud for the cloud to decompress and process your request – which includes pinging another API somewhere – before sending your Echo the answer and enabling you to listen to some stadium rock.

Sometimes, this gap between command and action (a form of latency) is noticeable. By making the data available nearer the Echo, Amazon will increase the speed in which The Killers play.

Now, imagine how this will help technology in the workplace. Essential, power-hungry applications will work better when the processing happens close to the data source - and edge computing enables that to take place.

So will we still need the cloud?

In short, yes.

The rise of “the Edge” and the benefits that come with it doesn’t mean we can move away from the cloud.

Organisations who embrace both technologies will get the best results and set themselves apart from laggards.

The tricky part is for a company’s IT department to decide the best ways to use the cloud and edge computing as a combined solution to suit the organisation’s needs. Most businesses will require expert help with this, and will have to keep a close eye on their network.

Why? Because it’s predicted devices at the Edge will generate 79.4ZB of data by 2025. This will put a lot of stress on business networks.

In the future, it is likely to be the case that devices which run apps which require heavy-duty processing and speedy access will rely on edge computing.

Meanwhile, the cloud will be kept for less urgent apps and storage of data.

What do businesses need to do to prepare for the changes?

Businesses looking to prepare for edge-to-cloud should, as a first step, investigate the resilience of their infrastructure.

Security should always be a top priority, but especially when changes are planned.

24/7 monitoring from a reliable IT support provider will allow any threat of a cyber attack to be detected - and dealt with - before it happens. A disaster recovery plan is also an essential for businesses that want to be prepared.

For edge-to-cloud computing to work well, connectivity at your organisation needs to be fast and reliable. It’s worth bringing in experts to check your wireless network is operating optimally.

So what’s the bottom line?

The Edge is an exciting step forward for medium and large businesses who currently use the cloud, but would like less latency and more data insights.

However, balancing the use of the cloud and edge computing to suit a business’s unique requirements isn’t straightforward. It requires experience and expertise.

To get the best of both worlds when it comes to edge and cloud computing, businesses will need to be ready to ask for support.

If you’re looking to explore opportunities at the Edge, get in touch with ITEC today

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