I know, I know. Just when we’ve gotten on board with the concept of sending our data to a far-away land, aka the cloud, a completely new concept emerges: fog. If fog computing or edge computing has left you feeling a bit hazy, you’re not alone. Businesses worldwide have spent millions buying into the anything-as-a-service (XaaS) model the cloud and hybrid-cloud environments provide. But don’t jump ship quite yet. Both models have important roles to play in the ever-changing tech environment—and both will be here to stay for quite a while.
First, let’s go over the difference between fog computing and cloud computing. When we work in the cloud, the data processing and apps we use are in the cloud, right along with our data itself. This has lots of benefits, as it allows us to access that data wherever we are, something that’s increasingly necessary in a mobile-first business environment. It also frees up lots of space on our local devices and network drives.
Rather than keeping our data, processes, and apps “up and away” in the cloud, fog computing uses a continuum of “fog nodes” distributed anywhere between the device and the cloud environment, to choose the “most logical, efficient place at any point” for data to be stored. What does that mean? Data you don’t need regularly or quickly may be stored in the cloud. But other data you need at your fingertips might be stored closer to your device—on the “edge” of your personal network. This has the benefit of faster access and processing time, but it also frees up cloud space in a jam-packed data-focused world.
Think about it in weather terms: clouds are in the sky and fog is closer to the ground.
If your mind is blown, you’re not alone. The following are five things that will help you clear the haze understand fog a bit better.
Fog Improves Security
Think of something you really love—your dog, your child, your grandfather’s gold pocket watch. Would you rather have that thing sitting close to you, or far away? Most of us would choose to have it close, because it’s easier to keep it safe and to access it if something unexpected occurs. The same goes for fog computing. While tremendous leaps have been made in keeping cloud environments secure, fog keeps data even safer because it limits the process of sending the data so far and wide from the initial user.
Fog is More Reliable
Would you rather drive five miles to work each day—or 50 miles? I think we’d all go with five! A lot less can go wrong in a five-minute commute than it can when traveling an hour through busy traffic. The same goes with fog computing. Because information is stored closer and is easier to access, there are fewer chances of data corruption or other system breaches.
Fog is Scalable
Just like the cloud, fog computing is scalable, allowing you to pay for what you need and to increase that use as your business grows. The only difference is that instead of expanding your space way up in the sky, you’re utilizing the space that’s closer to your device—filling up the invisible “ether” in your office or building, so to speak, rather than sky itself.
Greater Business Agility
Because it’s closer, fog computing also helps your company to be more agile. Systems require less energy and processing time, allowing you to work faster and smarter for your customers. (Yes, I know we say the same thing about the cloud, but fog computing allows you to do it even better.)
Fog is the Future of IoT
It makes no sense for Nest to send your data to the cloud before changing the thermostat or dimming the lights. The systems are in the same house! By using Fog computing, IoT functions can process information at a lower and closer level, allowing them to work faster, with less energy, and keeping them more secure. The same can be said for functions like home assistants, traffic devices, wearables, and other IoT “things.”
It’s never fun to learn that fog is rolling in—especially when it could disrupt the current tech transformation you’ve been working so hard to construct for your business. But believe me when I say, fog computing holds tremendous potential to keep our information safe, secure, and more easily accessible—and, ironically, to “clear the way” for the IoT to do what it does best: keep us connected.
Daniel Newman is the Principal Analyst of Futurum Research and the CEO of Broadsuite Media Group. Living his life at the intersection of people and technology, Daniel works with the world’s largest technology brands exploring Digital Transformation and how it is influencing the enterprise. From Big Data to IoT to Cloud Computing, Newman makes the connections between business, people and tech that are required for companies to benefit most from their technology projects, which leads to his ideas regularly being cited in CIO.Com, CIO Review and hundreds of other sites across the world. A 5x Best Selling Author including his most recent “Building Dragons: Digital Transformation in the Experience Economy,” Daniel is also a Forbes, Entrepreneur and Huffington Post Contributor. MBA and Graduate Adjunct Professor, Daniel Newman is a Chicago Native and his speaking takes him around the world each year as he shares his vision of the role technology will play in our future.