Fog computing and the cloud: Which is best for you?
Did you know that 94% of enterprises use cloud services? Considering the global cloud computing industry reached $445.3 billion in 2021, this number isn't hard to believe. With over 3.5 billion global cloud customers, enhancing data processing speed and efficiency with cloud services is now the norm. Cloud computing has earned its reputation and entered the mainstream by helping organizations protect their content, empower their teams, and provide integrated platforms to manage the entire content lifecycle.
But for certain industries, and in particular use cases, cloud computing itself isn't quite the right solution for storing and enabling data. This is where fog computing comes in.
Fog computing is a relatively new paradigm that extends the cloud's connection and computing resources. If you're new to this term, you may be curious about the fog computing structure and how it compares to the scalable and collaborative features of the cloud.
As you read, keep in mind that while fog computing provides several benefits for localized, short-term data needs, it may not be as robust for big-picture content. In this post, we'll compare fog computing with the cloud infrastructure, examine the benefits and use cases of each, and help you determine which solution is best for your content management processes.
What is fog computing?
Fog computing, also known as fogging or fog networking, is a decentralized computing architecture that uses edge devices to deliver significant computation, storage, and communication locally. While the term is often used interchangeably with edge computing, they're not quite the same thing.
Edge computing occurs at the geographical limits of the network, close to the data source's physical location. On the other hand, because fog computing uses millions of edge nodes directly connected to physical devices, the fog “floats” between the data source and the cloud.
Essentially, fogging acts as a kind of extension cord for cloud computing. Because it sits between the edge and your central hub, it shortens the distance across the network and reduces processing requirements in cloud platforms.
The fog acts as the extension cord of cloud computing and consists of millions of edge nodes that directly connect to physical devices. As a result, fogging reduces the distance across the network and processing requirements in cloud platforms. This structure also improves efficiency and the amount of data that must be ultimately transported to the cloud for analysis and storage.
Devices in the fog layer which perform critical networking operations include:
Because of the physical proximity of the edge nodes in fog computing, these devices can provide instant connections and perform computation of a great amount of data on their own without sending it to distant servers.
Fog and cloud computing interconnect because they both deal with pushing data across different networks. Fog computing, however, isn't a centralized platform, which means it often operates on premises. Compared to cloud servers, fogging devices are more resource-constrained and physically closer to the user.
Ultimately, fog networking does not replace cloud computing but instead complements it as a separate architecture.
IoT in the fog
The Internet of Things (IoT) is an interrelated system of computing devices and mechanical and digital machines that transfer data over a network without human interaction. Fog computing is heavily related to the rise of IoT network devices due to an ever-increasing amount of data being generated from a large array of devices. Fog networking significantly supports the IoT concept — it helps connect the millions of devices that humans use daily, like monitoring devices or connected vehicles.
With the evolution of IoT, more and more devices are being added to the network, and each device has its own wireless connection capabilities for data transmission and reception. Because IoT devices are usually resource-constrained and have limited abilities on their own, fog nodes perform cryptographic computations to improve data processing.
With around 13 billion interconnected devices in use as of 2022, the traditional method of handling data has also become a costly, complicated challenge. This is where fog computing comes in. The fog gathers and distributes network connectivity services, enhances data performance, and minimizes energy consumption and latency.
Fog computing helps facilitate effective, efficient, and manageable communication between many smart IoT devices. Between data transmission, virtualizations, segregation, and monitoring, the fog provides many solutions for latency-sensitive and industrial IoT automation.
Though fogging and the cloud work in the same infrastructure, many things set them apart. Let's review the key differences between fog computing versus cloud computing.
Fog (or edge) computing can be used for high-tech, widespread needs, like wireless sensor networks, automating smart buildings, monitoring self-maintaining trains, traffic management, and visual security.
Cloud computing is best used for diverse, organizational-wide applications, including online file storage, encryption, e-commerce software, word processing needs, and content management.
In fog computing, data is received from IoT devices in real time, whereas cloud computing receives and summarizes data in large, centralized server nodes. Fog computing relies on the cloud and engages local computing and storage resources for quick responses to events.
Meanwhile, cloud computing is a powerful global solution that manages large amounts of content across great distances for long-term storage, historical analytics, and big data analytics. When it comes to computing capabilities and storage capacity, the cloud is more powerful than the fog.
Fog computing maintains its own features to enhance performance and storage needs at the end gateways. The fog architecture consists of millions of small nodes, which are located as closely as possible to client devices.
Cloud computing sustains various parts, such as front-end platforms, back-end platforms, cloud delivery, and networks. These components typically include storage and servers, mobile devices, and internet connections that can be located around the globe, thousands of miles away from client devices.
Because fogging segregates data before sending it to the cloud, it has a relatively higher response time than the cloud.
The cloud does not segregate data before transmitting it at the service gate, which increases the response load. However, slower responsiveness also allows cloud computing to perform long-term, deep analysis, while fog computing can only conduct short-term edge analysis.
Fog computing security provides a system with various standards and protocols to reduce the chances of a network collapse. Cloud computing, which runs over the internet, employs a wide range of security control features, from encryption to user authentication, data leak prevention, threat detection, and end-to-end data protection.
Though cloud computing and fog computing share a few similarities, such as helping your organization communicate effectively and efficiently, they are used for very different purposes. Here are the use cases and benefits of fog computing.
Fog computing is generally needed in IoT-heavy environments and specific scenarios, like patient monitoring, high-speed trains, and gas and oil pipelines. Fog computing can also be used in the following industries.
1. Smart cities
In cities that rely heavily on automation, fog computing plays a critical role in intelligent transportation management (ITS) for traffic regulation, garbage collection, and many other tasks. Smart cities contain millions of sensors for traffic signals, speedometers, and road barriers to benefit pedestrians, cyclists, cars, and emergency vehicles.
Many of these sensors rely on connections to cellular towers or wireless routers to provide data and analysis, which makes them part of the fog infrastructure. Fog nodes that process this data can help city developers adjust traffic lights to improve efficiency.
2. Video surveillance
Fog computing is beneficial when it comes to government, private, or public surveillance. Continuous video surveillance can be difficult to transfer across networks because the information is often too large, which can result in network and latency issues. Storing video surveillance can also be expensive. Security organizations can use fog nodes to detect surveillance concerns and alert authorities.
The healthcare industry follows strict regulations, like The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) Privacy Rule, for providing care and protecting patient data. This industry is always looking to address emergencies in real time with innovative solutions.
Using data from wearable devices, health apps, and blood glucose monitors can help providers identify signs of bodily distress sooner. With fog computing, the data transfer won't experience latency issues or cause delay, which can make all the difference in a critical health situation.
The fog computing approach has specific benefits when it comes to IoT and real-time analytics. Here are the top advantages of the fog.
Sensitive team member and customer data can be analyzed locally in the fog instead of being sent to the centralized cloud, which can help control the extent of privacy. This way, IT teams can track and control the fog computing device and decide whether any subset of data needs to be sent to the cloud.
The fog contains multiple interconnected channels, which means it's almost impossible to lose connection and slow down productivity. Fog applications also come equipped with the right set of tools so businesses can make machines function exactly the way they want.
With fogging, pieces of information come from different points instead of one channel, which can make it easier to transmit data. Since fogging allows for processing selected data locally, there are fewer bandwidth requirements, particularly when increasing the number of IoT devices.
When processing data locally, businesses can also benefit from latency savings. Because the fog is located closer to people geographically, data can be processed at the nearest source for faster response times, particularly in time-sensitive or life-threatening situations. For example, sensors in self-driving cars generate massive amounts of real-time data, which the fog can analyze and process almost instantly to prevent delayed data transmissions.
Cloud computing services can be used for a wide variety of organizational needs and provide enhanced flexibility. Users can access the cloud network from any location at any time, making it particularly useful for global enterprises and remote workers.
While cloud services can be used for countless applications on a global scale, here are some of the most common use cases.
1. Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS)
Businesses with pre-established infrastructure may use cloud IaaS services to outsource certain resources, from virtual machines to servers, networking, processing, and storage. Using cloud computing, your business can take advantage of IaaS to compute and store everything in one central location and run workloads and applications remotely. Cloud IaaS services can also help you avoid the high cost of installing and maintaining complex on-premises data centers.
2. Software as a Service (SaaS)
Similar to IaaS, cloud computing offers the ability to access SaaS through an online subscription instead of having IT teams invest in and install the software on individual systems. Cloud platforms enable software access from any location — as long as there's an internet connection — and provide optimized workflows and collaboration in real time.
Think of SaaS as subscribing to a streaming platform that allows you to access a widespread movie catalog rather than making you pay for individual movies and download them onto your devices. The cloud eliminates the costs of installing hardware and provides more scalability for your business.
3. Cloud storage
One of the most common uses of cloud services is using cloud content storage to avoid overpaying for storage needs and maintenance. With cloud storage, customers only pay for the amount of storage they consume, without having to manage storage infrastructure. Customers can access, store, and retrieve content from any device, as long as they have an internet connection. As a result, the business can benefit from higher availability and scalability.
4. Disaster recovery and content backup
Working with cloud services allows your team to access faster disaster recovery by replicating content and configuration settings, which can save considerable time and resources. Cloud-based backup allows your organization to automatically dispatch data to any location without compromising availability or capacity.
5. Big data analytics
Analyzing customer behavior is a primary task of most organizations. The patterns, trends, likes, dislikes, and consumer choices can help create more effective data-driven decisions. Cloud computing brings forth a platform that supports large volumes of content and makes big data analytics easier.
Since IoT connection devices have limited processing power and storage capacity, integration with cloud computing provides many benefits. Even if your organization doesn't have a network of IoT devices, your operations can benefit from cloud integration.
When it comes to scalability, cloud infrastructure provides more flexibility to scale on demand and support fluctuating workloads. Storage capacity and tool selection are just as scalable with cloud computing.
Your business can choose from public, private, or hybrid storage options, depending on its needs. With the cloud, storage space is unlimited and can integrate with massive amounts of content. Most cloud platforms come with a selection of prebuilt tools so your organization can build a unique solution that fits its needs.
Cloud-based applications and content are accessible from any location through any internet-connected device, which increases efficiency. Cloud platforms enhance the communication speed between data processing systems and IoT sensors, and provide unlimited virtual processing capabilities on demand.
3. Strategic value
Cloud service providers (CSPs) offer regular updates and offers to give businesses the most updated technology and operational benefits. CSPs also manage your organization's entire underlying infrastructure, which empowers you to focus on other priorities. This gives your organization a competitive edge, as you can devote IT resources to other essential tasks.
4. Cost reduction
Because cloud computing platforms work on a pay-per-use model, you only have to set aside costs for the services your business actually uses, which can reduce expenses and offload unneeded storage. Additionally, cloud computing works on remote resources, so your organization doesn't have to invest in the cost of servers and other equipment. License fees for cloud services are generally lower than the cost of installing and maintaining on-premise equipment.
Collaboration from any location is critical for many organizations, especially those that conduct business remotely and globally. Cloud customers can boost their functionality by accessing content from anywhere in the world as long as they have internet connectivity, which means fewer operational disruptions and enhanced collaboration among team members. Improved collaboration also makes it easier to finalize contracts and legal agreements without having to be in person.
Cloud computing employs various features, like encryption and API keys, to help keep information secure. Additionally, hardware failures reduce the risk of content loss, thanks to network backups. Cloud platforms also enable other unique compliance tools, including:
- Information rights management with vector-based watermarking
- People-friendly permissioning roles
- Device trust
- Application controls
- AI-powered, context-aware alerts
- HIPAA compliance
IoT in the cloud
Cloud computing and IoT technologies have become closely affiliated. The cloud essentially acts as a platform for IoT success, allowing your organization to wrangle its connected data and devices from anywhere.
Greater usage of the IoT in the cloud acts as a catalyst for further development and deployment of IoT business models and applications. Cloud providers allow your organization to process and store massive amounts of content for a minimal cost, which opens the door to big data analytics.
IoT in the cloud provides third-party access to the infrastructure, and this integration can help IoT computational components or data operating on IoT devices. The cloud also enables increased scalability and performance — IoT devices require large amounts of storage to share information.
IoT in the cloud provides greater space with a pay-as-you-go (PAYG) model so you can access greater or lesser storage as needed. IoT in the cloud is the communication foundation for IoT devices to perform connect and interact with one another. Without the cloud, aggregating IoT content over different devices and across large areas would be far more complicated.
Which is for you?
Though fog and cloud computing can interconnect in the data management cycle, they provide very different functions, applications, and capabilities. Both fog computing and cloud computing can be suitable solutions depending on whether you're aiming for local, short-term objectives or scalable, long-term goals. The biggest difference between these two architectures — other than the fact that the cloud is centralized and the fog is decentralized — is that cloud platforms are best used for long-term, big-picture data and fog computing is more ideal for short-term, quick data.
While fog computing is specialized to serve a specific purpose, cloud computing enables much more versatility. Even within a fog infrastructure, you may still need a cloud platform for support.
Let's review how fog computing is different from cloud computing once more. In simple terms, the cloud infrastructure tends to do the heavy lifting when it comes to processor-intensive tasks and providing content access to a wide pool of customers from any location. Lighter and localized workloads are allocated to the fog, where there are more modest processing devices.
To better understand how fog computing works, consider a smart home with digitized lighting, heating, and cooling. These homes tend to have many small devices located across the house that interact with each other to fulfill the owner's needs. The fog network acts as the point where data from these localized devices is converged and processed. Necessary actions are communicated to these devices.
The fog network may also be connected to the cloud infrastructure to enhance cloud capabilities for everyone in your organization. Cloud solutions can boost company performance, drive revenue growth, and reduce operating expenses by enabling people to work from anywhere, on any device. Many organizations recognize cloud computing benefits and see how this architecture positively impacts their:
By using a cloud-based solution, your organization can streamline your existing processes, help your teams work more effectively with each other, and avoid the costly issues associated with an on-premise infrastructure.
Fog computing can then supplement your cloud technology by reducing latency and improving connectivity for doing work at the edge. Equipping your cloud solution with fog computing architecture gives your people access to smooth, rapid service anywhere they are, whether they're in the main office or working remotely.
Discover the power of the Content Cloud
With a single secure platform for all your content, Box enables you to manage the entire content lifecycle: file creation, co-editing, sharing, e-signature, classification, retention, and so much more. We make it easy for you to collaborate on content with anyone, both inside and outside your organization. Frictionless, enterprise-grade security and compliance are built into our DNA, so you get total peace of mind that your content is protected. And with 1,500+ seamless integrations — as well as a range of native capabilities, like Box Sign — the Content Cloud provides a single content layer that ensures your teams can work the way they want.
The Content Cloud is a game changer for the entire organization, streamlining workflows and boosting productivity across every team. Contact us today, and explore what you can do with Box.
Learn how the cloud can benefit your organization
**While we maintain our steadfast commitment to offering products and services with best-in-class privacy, security, and compliance, the information provided in this blog post is not intended to constitute legal advice. We strongly encourage prospective and current customers to perform their own due diligence when assessing compliance with applicable laws.