Edge Computing vs. Cloud Computing: Understanding the Key Differences

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Edge Computing vs. Cloud Computing

Edge computing and cloud computing are closely related to the underlying technologies. However, they’re pretty different when it comes to the actual implementation. Cloud computing focuses on processing data in offsite data centers. On the other hand, edge computing brings the processing closer to the end-user in edge devices.

Edge computing has been around for more than a decade. However, recently, businesses and telecommunication companies, in general, have started investing in edge computing technologies to save on bandwidth and deliver exceptional experiences to users.

Edge computing vs. cloud computing is an ongoing debate, with each side mentioning many benefits. However, to make an informed choice between the two, you need to go into some detail about these technologies, particularly the difference between cloud and edge computing, and some fact-based comparisons that will help you decide which of the two you should opt for in 2023.

Table Of Content

  1. What is Cloud Computing?
  2. What is Edge Computing?
  3. What is the Difference Between Cloud and Edge Computing?
  4. Edge vs. Cloud Computing – Which Should You Use?
  5. Will 5G Replace Cloud and Edge Computing?
  6. Actual Use Cases and Examples of Edge Computing
  7. Final Takeaway

What is Cloud Computing?

Cloud computing is a storage and computing solution that allows data to be hosted and processed in data centers across the globe. Users can access relevant information anywhere in the world without worrying about the costs and hassles of maintaining on-premises infrastructure.

Cloud computing is the most widely used form of processing and storage processes. It currently hosts 60% of the world’s total corporate data.

Now that we have established the fundamentals of cloud computing let’s talk about edge computing and the advantages of edge computing over cloud computing.

Also Read: 6 Key Differences: Cloud vs On Premise Computing Revealed!

What is Edge Computing?

By definition, edge computing is a more localized version of a standard cloud computing model. As opposed to performing computations in off-site locations, edge computing brings the computing close to the user in the form of devices that process data through edge devices.

Certain cloud computing disadvantages can be a deal-breaker, sparking the edge computing vs. cloud computing debate. What exactly is the difference between edge and cloud computing? Let’s talk about that.

What is the Difference Between Cloud and Edge Computing?

For any cloud-based computing model, there are a few main factors that we always have to consider; security, scalability, cost, latency, volume capabilities, and general flexibility. Let’s compare these services to these factors.

  • Latency: Processing speeds and latency are key advantages of edge computing over cloud computing. By reducing the bandwidth required to process a specific user-generated request, you can effectively reduce the time an action might take. An end-user might need to communicate with a data center worldwide to get relevant responses in a cloud computing implementation. Edge computing can provide the same results by communicating with a server or device located much nearer to the user.
  • Cost: Implementing a cloud-based computing model is much cheaper than edge computing. Edge computing requires dedicated, highly-capable resources that require significant investment in setting up and maintaining. This is often beyond the budget of SMEs. These costs can seriously multiply if you plan to implement edge computing networks in multiple locations. On the contrary, cloud computing is cheap because of the remote capabilities of off-site data centers.
  • Security: Due to the localized nature of edge computing, it is much more secure. Since accessing the devices in an edge computing model requires physical access in most cases, you can effectively eliminate many of the potential security threats you might face in a cloud computing implementation.
  • Scalability: Edge computing networks are complicated to scale. Even if the initial cost of edge devices is ignored, energy consumption and cost-efficiency soon become problematic when the network nears the top capacity.
  • Volume Capabilities: Storing large amounts of data on edge devices is not a practical solution. If you have significant amounts of data to be stored and computed.
  • Flexibility: Edge computing is limited regarding the applications that can benefit from the model. Very few organizations have use cases that specifically require edge computing. Cloud computing is more generalized and can support a broader range of applications.

Here’s a quick summary of the points mentioned above.

Edge Computing Cloud Computing
Latency The localized nature means that edge computing is faster. Cloud computing is fast but slower in comparison to edge computing.
Cost Edge devices are expensive to set up Cloud computing is cheaper and cost-effective
Security Edge computing is safer Cloud computing is safe but has a lot more security threats than edge computing.
Scalability Edge devices are challenging to scale It is easy to scale cloud computing resources
Data Storage & Transfer Edge computing is not suitable for large volumes of data to store Cloud computing is an excellent alternative if you need to transfer large amounts of data
Flexibility Edge computing is limited in terms of supported scenarios Cloud computing is highly flexible

Edge vs. Cloud Computing – Which Should You Use?

Here are some apparent benefits of edge computing in comparison to cloud computing.

  1. Edge computing has faster processing speeds and lower latency than cloud computing.
  2. Due to the localized nature of edge computing, it is much safer. Security concerns remain, but edge computing networks are less vulnerable than cloud networks.
  3. Faster latency ensures that your employees can process relevant data faster. This can result in increased employee productivity.
  4. Even though edge computing is not cost-efficient, it can save you a lot of money, thanks to bandwidth efficiency.
  5. Edge computing is much more reliable and has improved uptime compared to cloud computing.

Will 5G Replace Cloud and Edge Computing?

An iPhone reaching up to 1800 Mbps with 5G

Image Credits: Frederik Lipfert via Unsplash

5G, cloud computing, and edge computing are completely different technologies. They might be different, but they complement each other in some ways.

The purpose behind 5G technology is to improve internet speeds and help individuals access data faster. The idea behind 5G is the same as edge computing, i.e., improving the latency and, thus, the user experience. In the future, these two technologies will work hand-in-hand and might eventually partially replace cloud computing.

It’s essential to put some emphasis on the word ‘partially.’ There will always be room for cloud services because not every application in the world requires super-fast processing speeds promised by 5G and edge computing models.

So, will 5G and cloud computing replace cloud? No, not. But, they will slowly grow and tilt the edge computing vs. cloud computing debate in favor of edge.

Actual Use Cases and Examples of Edge Computing

We’ve discussed the various benefits of edge computing. Let’s take a minute to talk about some use cases of industries that stand to gain from edge devices.

  • Smart Cities – The main idea behind smart cities is to use technology to make real-time data-driven decisions and create a self-sustainable environment to improve quality of life. Edge computing can effectively reduce latency and the capability to make real-time decisions.
  • Healthcare: Due to the time-sensitive scenarios, the healthcare industry is a niche that stands to gain a lot from the faster response time of edge computing. A great example is designing a system that quickly accesses patient information for faster diagnosis.
  • Petroleum Exploration: High-risk industries like drilling for petroleum are prone to catastrophes if potential failures aren’t identified in time. Edge computing can help engineers avoid these issues by identifying instances of failure before things go south. Oil drilling sites are usually in the middle of large bodies of water with little access to high-speed connectivity. Localized edge computing models can help overcome processing requirements.
  • Self-Driving Vehicles: Autonomous vehicles must process tons of data in real-time. The entire idea would fail if they had to connect to a remote server to make decisions about routing, identifying objects, and understanding road conditions. In practical terms, an autonomous vehicle is an edge device with local computing capability to make decisions on the go.
  • Cloud Gaming: The idea of cloud gaming is only suitable for individuals with high-speed fiber connectivity. Cloud gaming aims to make gaming accessible to everyone. That’s not the case right now, with the kind of bandwidth required to ensure a good gameplay experience. By placing edge servers close to gamers, cloud gaming vendors can effectively reduce latency and improve responsiveness.

Will Edge Computing Replace Cloud? – Final Takeaway

The industry will always have room for cloud vendors. This technology is efficient, and it’s highly unlikely that edge computing will replace it. As edge computing becomes more mainstream, it can potentially hijack a considerable market share from cloud computing. Until we reach a point where edge computing is affordable for everyone, edge computing vs. cloud computing will still be an arguable topic.

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