We live in a world where even the most mundane objects around us can generate data and communicate it to other objects over the internet. From kitchen appliances and car radios to wearable tech, every smart device you own is continuously pumping information when it’s online, which has to be transmitted through networks and stored in a server where it can be accessed again.

However, there’s a limit to the amount of data that networks can carry at any given moment, a property referred to as bandwidth. All the new information created by smart devices needs to go somewhere, but it’s becoming apparent that modern networks may not be capable of keeping up with the growth of data and transmit it quickly and efficiently across devices.

The cloud is one of the places where data that is generated by internet-connected devices lives. Documents, images and other media from end-user devices like a smartphone or laptop are sent to a server in a data centre, which is always online, and can be viewed by the same user or others who have access to those files.

For this type of computing to work, data must be transmitted from the end-user to the server, consuming bandwidth, stored in the server, consuming memory, and then sent back whenever it is requested from the user. This type of network set-up places a lot of demand on the central servers, which have to do most of the work involved in sending and receiving data.

In an age of mass connectivity, where so many devices can ‘talk’, a new type of network called fog computing, or fogging, has emerged.

Fog computing is similar to cloud computing but makes use of the storage and processing capabilities of the devices generating the data themselves. Instead of taking the circuitous route from device to a central server and back again, it relies on making direct connections between devices that exist at the edges of the network, by-passing the server almost entirely. This is similar to the way peer-to-peer networks that are used by torrenting sites work.

While the cloud exists as something remote and abstracted, the fog is closer to our everyday lives. Instead of being made up of large and powerful servers concentrated inside data centres, the fog consists of all the smaller and weaker devices we use to get things done. Fogging turns the cloud inside out by harnessing the combined power of all the computers that are already around us. By lowering the demand on central servers, fog computing appears to be an effective solution to some of the deficiencies inherent in cloud computing.

Shrinking the cloud to a multitude of mini-networks that exist in our pockets, appliances and wearables helps alleviate the demand on servers. It also opens up a whole new can of worms for businesses who are thinking about adopting fogging at this early stage. A new model of data storage and transmission relies on a different infrastructure set-up, which will inevitably have its own vulnerabilities. The main issues surrounding fog computing have to do with security, a very sensitive area for businesses that rely on IT and which has gained more prominence as incidents of privacy breaches and data loss have made headlines.

At the core of the problems involving the security of fogging is the difficulty of authenticating the users and devices at different points in the network, and keeping track who is talking to whom and when. Hackers can take advantage of the confusion this creates and tamper with the network to gain access to private information. If fog computing is going to be of any use to enterprises, which naturally have to face a lot of regulatory scrutiny where data security and customer privacy is involved, then it can’t afford to let these concerns go unresolved. Understandably, business owners are cautious about adopting this system, and for this reason cloud computing is still the superior solution for their IT needs. Fog computing in its present state is not recommended since there could be numerous repercussions which pose too dangerous a risk for any business to take.

While the cloud is not without its challenges, the technology now exists at a far higher level of maturity when compared to fog computing. Cloud solutions are well developed, the benefits they offer to businesses are robust and reliable, and there are several ways to make them safer. Data centres such as BMIT, which owns the largest facility and the most advanced network in Malta, offer business owners a wide range of cloud services, including different types of cloud architectures for different business needs and cost-effective packages with pay-per-use schemes.

Companies like BMIT give business owners the peace of mind to store their data in the cloud safely and access it quickly, reliably and securely through its servers from any internet-connected device. With strong, effective measures in place to combat and avoid data disasters and security breaches, it is only natural that businesses are racing to push their data and apps into the cloud in order to stay ahead of the curve.

For more information visit www.bmit.com.mt.

Independent journalism costs money. Support Times of Malta for the price of a coffee.

Support Us