What Is Cloud Computing?

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By Bhanujith Wijesinghe
Last updated on September 22, 2023

How does cloud computing work? Learn about cloud computing — the types of cloud services, degree programs, career opportunities, industry growth, and more!

Two international students going over some code they've written on their laptop

What is cloud computing? Cloud technology provides on-demand data storage and computing power that does not require direct user management. In the fast-paced world of information technology (IT), cloud computing is quickly becoming the preferred way to store, manage, and process data, both for individuals and organizations of every size. Compared to traditional IT infrastructure, cloud technology has proven to be more flexible, secure, and easily implemented while also being a more cost-effective solution. 

International students interested in STEM degree programs will find that expertise in cloud computing is a lucrative, in-demand skill set. Read on to learn more about what is cloud computing, how it works, and why it is so important to organizations around the world - and how you can become qualified to work in cloud computing roles.

How Does Cloud Computing Work? 

What is cloud computing and how does it work? Cloud technology refers to storing or accessing computing services, like files, data, and networks, over the internet (instead of the computer or hardware you are using). Because of the flexibility and accessibility of cloud technology, many organizations now use it extensively, particularly for data storage purposes.

It’s likely you use cloud computing software in your everyday life — every time you send an email, watch a YouTube video, or order something online, you are accessing a cloud service.

The word “cloud” refers to physical servers in data centers owned by cloud service providers, located anywhere in the world. Through a method known as virtualization, cloud computing providers are able to cater their cloud services to many different users at the same time without the users or their data interacting with each other at all. 

Cloud services offer many benefits, including:

  • Cost efficiency — Businesses are no longer required to own physical servers on site, which can be costly to install, maintain, and manage. Cloud computing providers handle all that. Companies may also pay only for the services they need, making their IT infrastructure far more affordable. (This is especially true for small businesses.)

  • Reliability — When a cloud provider stores data, it is backed up in multiple servers at other data centers, which protects what’s stored from most cyber security threats (even in the case of multiple servers being compromised or lost). Cloud service providers are also better equipped to deal with any threats to data, as they tend to devote more resources to security than most other businesses.

  • Convenience — Through the cloud, users can access their data services anywhere, on any device, regardless of location. This especially benefits businesses operating in multiple locations around the world, as their data is centralized and accessible through the internet.

Once you have a general understanding of what is cloud computing, let’s take a look at the multiple ways to deploy cloud computing services.

Private Cloud

A private cloud is for the exclusive use of a single organization. Its servers can be established at both the cloud service provider’s data center or the organization’s own location. Private cloud infrastructure sacrifices the cost benefits of cloud computing for the sake of security. They can be managed by a cloud service provider or by the organization itself (often at a higher cost).

Public Cloud

Public clouds are managed by a third-party cloud provider who owns and handles all its IT infrastructure, which greatly reduces costs for users. Servers are located at the provider’s data centers which can be accessed by anyone over the internet. Due to these servers being shared by multiple organizations at once, security risks involved are higher than with other methods of deployment.

Hybrid Cloud

Hybrid clouds combine the benefits and services of both public and private clouds while offsetting potential downsides. Businesses employing a hybrid cloud infrastructure will have on-site servers that handle the most critical data and business processes. These on-site servers are linked to a public cloud that handles secondary needs and are even used to back up their servers. While this hybrid model has the most flexibility, it is usually very costly unless the organization already has a private cloud infrastructure in use.

While these are the primary types of cloud computing, other cloud services may be available depending on the business’s area of expertise.

Types of Cloud Services

Cloud services provide flexibility for organizations in many industries to meet operational needs and are centered around providing reliable, customizable, and safe online platforms for businesses to use in their activities. Cloud services offered are different for each organization, but usually one of three major categories:

Software as a Service (SaaS)

SaaS applications are hosted by cloud service providers and accessed by users over the internet through a web browser, instead of installing them on their devices. SaaS apps are intuitive to use and offer extensive configurations and customer support. Of the three categories, SaaS is the most prevalent, expected to account for 85% of software used by organizations by 2025. Businesses consider SaaS the most important technology for success. Examples of SaaS cloud computing software include Google Workplace and Microsoft Office 365. 

Platform as a Service (PaaS)

Primarily meant for developers, PaaS provides users with a platform that has the tools required to develop their own software applications. A service provider hosts and maintains everything from hardware to software, plus the infrastructure, which the user accesses through the internet to build, test, and manage new applications quickly. Examples of popular PaaS cloud computing software include Salesforce’s Heroku and Google App Engine.

Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS)

IaaS providers offer users the basic infrastructure to build their own applications, such as a server, network, and storage. To operate with an IaaS, users need to have their own operating systems and middleware in place. Examples of IaaS technology include Google Compute Engine, Microsoft Azure, and Amazon Web Services (AWS).

Depending on the university and program you choose, a STEM degree with a concentration in cloud computing can cover many of these subjects. Students can benefit from learning advanced technical knowledge of software, IT infrastructure, data systems, and more, preparing for growing careers in cloud computing.

What Are the Benefits of Studying Cloud Computing?

Global trends indicate many companies are looking into what is cloud computing and adopting cloud infrastructure within their organizations. Employers are seeking out graduates with specializations in cloud computing to meet the needs of the growing industry. 

Here are some of the benefits of acquiring a STEM degree with a focus on cloud computing:

  • Industry growth — In 2021, the global cloud computing market generated more than $400 billion (US), with projections for strong future growth. As many businesses incorporate cloud computing into their operations, more research, product developments, and innovations in the field can result in a higher demand for employees with expertise in cloud computing. 

  • Career opportunities — A cloud computing degree offers versatile skills applicable to many evolving industries. These transferable skills open up multiple career options in engineering, data analytics, software, and cyber security systems, among many others. 

  • High incomes — Roles in cloud technology are in high demand, with most cloud professionals in the US making more than $150,000 a year. Employers provide competitive salaries and greater career mobility for cloud computing professionals, making it a dynamic field in which to get a degree and pursue a career.

The security and management of cloud computing software are an especially important focus area for global businesses. Most STEM curriculum at US universities offer in-depth technical education with case studies and hands-on learning tools, preparing students to adapt theoretical knowledge in real-world scenarios. Cloud computing students graduate with a wide range of practical skills applicable to many roles in cloud technology, such as cyber security, data analytics, information systems, and more.

What Are Examples of Jobs Available with a Degree in Cloud Computing?

Graduates with a cloud computing degree have a range of career options to choose from. You can cultivate a wide knowledge base in many subject areas and develop interdisciplinary skills that qualify you for a variety of job roles in the field of cloud computing, including:

  • Cloud administrator

  • Cloud analyst

  • Cloud architect

  • Cloud consultant

  • Cloud director

  • Cloud engineer

  • Cloud operations director

  • Cloud sales representative

  • Cloud services director

  • Cloud solution manager

  • Cloud systems administrator

Entry-level salaries for cloud computing-related careers vary based on your specific role. Here are a few popular job titles for graduates with a cloud computing degree.

Starting salary in the US

Cloud Director


Cloud Architect


Cloud Engineer


Cloud Analyst


Cloud Administrator


Starting salary in China

Cloud Director


Cloud Architect


Cloud Engineer


Cloud Analyst


Cloud Administrator


Starting salary in India

Cloud Director


Cloud Architect


Cloud Engineer


Cloud Analyst


Cloud Administrator


Starting salary in Brazil

Cloud Director

R$ 234.690

Cloud Architect

R$ 134.366

Cloud Engineer

R$ 123.706

Cloud Analyst

R$ 105.097

Cloud Administrator

R$ 102.645

Source: Salary Expert, 2022

A degree in cloud computing can be a valuable asset to your resume, providing you with a competitive edge among other candidates applying for IT and other tech-related job positions. Most universities also offer internship and mentorship opportunities as a part of the curriculum. 

Let’s take a look at some Shorelight universities offering an education in cloud computing that you can consider for your studies in the USA. 

What Programs Does Shorelight Have for Cloud Computing Education?

Most computer science programs offer cloud computing as a concentration. With this focus, students will take classes covering core concepts and technologies behind cloud infrastructure, as well as the fundamentals of managing cloud computing systems. 

International student friendly universities work in collaboration with Shorelight to offer computer science degrees and online courses with concentrations in cloud computing.

Louisiana State University

Louisiana State ranks in the top tier of U.S. News & World Report’s Best National Universities rankings for 11 consecutive years. Their nationally ranked engineering program offers a bachelor of science in computer science with a concentration in cloud computing. In addition to cloud related careers, LSU computer science graduates have found success as software engineers, software developers, cybersecurity specialists, network designers, entrepreneurs, web developers, and more.

St. Thomas Aquinas College

Located in New York’s metropolitan area, St. Thomas Aquinas’s undergraduate School of STEM offers a computer science degree with a concentration option in cloud computing. Their computer science degree also opens up other careers in IT, such as: 

  • Software engineer

  • Web developer

  • Network administrator

  • Systems analyst

  • Database administrator

  • Video game designer

  • Security specialist

A degree with a concentration in cloud computing prepares you for many careers in the field of computing and technology. From the basics of ‘what is cloud computing’ to advanced knowledge about cloud computing services, curricula are designed to provide on-demand industry skills graduates need for career growth and success.

Shorelight advisors can guide you through every step of your academic journey, including choosing schools with programs supporting your career goals, application assistance, and visa support. You can discuss how to compare schools and talk to experts on curating career development strategies, taking you one step closer to a career in cloud computing!

Apply for a degree in cloud computing with Shorelight >