Edge Computing vs. Cloud Computing: What's the Difference



Edge and cloud computing are both ways of connecting internet-enabled devices to remote servers for powerful data processing. However, there are some key differences between the two types of  computing. Learn more about why each has its own role to play in the modern world of computing:

What Is Cloud Computing?

Traditionally, companies and individual technology users stored files and software on their local hard drives. This process is known as on-premises computing. Although many people still take advantage of on-premises options, an alternative approach has gained popularity in recent years—cloud computing.

Cloud computing uses remote servers—typically centralized in large data centers managed by cloud services providers—to store, manage and process data. 

Cloud computing provides on-demand access to computing resources through the internet, so someone in an office across the country can access their files or software-as-a-service (SaaS) application from any internet-enabled device. 

Drivers of Cloud Adoption

Approximately half of all corporate data is now stored in the cloud. In 2020, spending on cloud infrastructure overtook on-premises spending for the first time, further demonstrating the continued shift toward cloud computing. While a variety of factors have contributed to this shift, some primary drivers of cloud adoption include: 

  • The rising prevalence of the SaaS model and cloud-based office tools like Google Workspace.
  • The convenience and efficiency companies enjoy when accessing tools and documents from various locations.
  • The scalable data storage the cloud enables.
  • The backup data protection provided by cloud-based storage.

What Is Edge Computing?

Like cloud computing, edge computing involves the use of remote servers to process data. However, rather than processing data through large, centralized data centers, edge computing processes data in real-time near the originating data source, or at the “edge” of the network. In this way, edge computing is an extension of cloud computing.

Edge computing is particularly useful with time-sensitive data and Internet-of-Things (IoT) devices. For example, a virtual assistant device could provide a quicker answer by processing the search query locally, rather than through a distant data center. Likewise, a phone that uses facial recognition can rely on edge computing for a more immediate process. 

Drivers of Edge Adoption

Most enterprise-generated data is processed in centralized cloud data centers, but Gartner predicts that by the year 2025, 75 percent of this data will be processed at the edge. Edge computing has also gained traction in recent years for many reasons. Some of these notable reasons include:

  • The need for low-latency processing.
  • The introduction of 5G.
  • The growing prevalence of IoT devices.
  • The increase in cloud loads.
  • The major uptick in remote work and distributed teams, due in part to the global pandemic.

Discover how modular data centers bypass the skilled labor shortage, new energy  regulations and the rising cost of real estate.

Cloud Computing vs. Edge Computing — What Are the Benefits of Cloud Over Edge?

When comparing edge computing vs. cloud computing, we see that both offer their own distinct advantages. 

Cloud computing is a mainstay in the modern world, and it stands to remain this way for a few key reasons. Compared to edge computing, cloud computing offers:

  • Powerful analytics capabilities
  • Scalable capacity
  • Reliability through redundancy

Edge Computing vs. Cloud Computing — What Are the Benefits of Edge Over Cloud?

Edge computing offers a few unique advantages of its own. Compared to cloud computing, processing data closer to the source means you can achieve:

  • Better data management
  • Lower connectivity costs
  • Enhanced security
  • Reduced latency

Will One Form of Computing Become Dominant?

Overall, the key difference between cloud computing vs. edge computing is due to the fact that cloud computing centralizes data processing, whereas edge computing brings data processing closer to the source to process lower volumes of data with greater speed.

Neither cloud nor edge computing is likely to eclipse the other because these forms of computing serve different roles. Both forms are essential and will continue to co-exist moving forward.

By combining the data gathering capabilities of the edge with the processing power of the cloud, businesses can benefit from fast, reliable applications and robust analytics capabilities.

Modular Data Centers Can Empower Both Cloud and Edge Computing

With rising demand for both cloud and edge computing, providers need to build out existing facilities to keep up with demand. 

Regardless of which type of data center you build, the modular approach to data center construction can accelerate your time to value. Compared to traditional builds, this turnkey solution can get your data center up and running in a fraction of the time and with far fewer variables that could impact your project.

Learn more about the future of data centers and the modular approach in our e-book, The Complete Guide to Modular Data Centers.

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