Scalability is one of the defining characteristics of cloud computing. It’s the ability to quickly and easily increase or decrease the size or power of a cloud-based solution. Scalability is the reason why you can sign up and start using many cloud solutions in just a few minutes, and why you can add resources (usually data storage) or users to an existing account just as quickly.
To scale an existing cloud solution up or down, you usually either contact the cloud provider via phone or email and ask them to add or subtract x amount of users, CPU, RAM, or storage to/from the solution, or request it via the provider’s online portal or dashboard. There are also ways to set up a cloud solution so that it auto-scales, or scales up or down automatically, when a cloud solution requires significantly more or less IT resources than what it is currently allocated to it.
The scalability of cloud computing lets you adjust to short- and medium-term changes in your IT requirements without having to make any long-term investments in expensive IT hardware. It allows retailers, for example, to hire temporary employees and temporarily increase the size and power of their PoS, e-commerce, and ERP systems during the busy end-of-year holidays, without getting stuck with useless, surplus IT hardware and software for the rest of the year.
It also allows businesses to attempt to expand their business on a more permanent basis without having to worry about being stuck with expensive, unused IT assets if the expansion doesn’t work out.
Why Cloud Computing Is Scalable
One of the reasons that cloud computing is scalable is because many cloud solutions are hosted in virtual machines (VMs). Unlike physical machines such as physical servers and PCs that have a relatively fixed amount of processing, memory, and storage resources, you can increase or decrease the amount of resources dedicated to a VM at pretty much any time.
If a VM requires more IT resources than are available on its host physical machine, it’s easy to transfer VMs to larger or less crowded physical servers and expand them there. You may also be able to host a single VM on multiple physical servers at the same time if a single physical server’s resources aren’t enough.
Another reason that cloud computing is scalable is because most cloud providers already have all of the necessary IT hardware and software in place to be able to deploy new solutions or scale up existing ones. Most businesses that host or install their own IT solutions in-house, in contrast, can’t afford to have surplus hardware on standby, and to deploy new solutions or scale up existing ones they would need at least a couple days to acquire and implement all of the necessary hardware and software.