‘Edge computing’ is a tech buzzword that has been around for a while, but few really understand what it means. So, we’re going to do what we do best at Babble and break it down into jargon-free simplicity.
So, what is edge computing?
You may remember that when computers started, they would fill up an entire room in an office and individual use was almost impossible because there was one, perhaps two for larger companies, computers shared amongst everyone. Well, that ‘big computer’ held all the data for the entire business.
This quickly changed once we began to create individual devices. However, this ‘big computer’ is essentially what edge computing is: the process of taking all individual apps, data and other technology and processing them all in one central place. Except they’re now a lot smaller… thankfully.
We’ll use this blog to explain a little more detail and go into why edge computing could benefit your business.
A better explanation of edge computing than ‘big computer’
Modern businesses hold huge amounts of data, providing them with valuable insights and information to help them grow and provide personalised experiences to customers and clients.
However, managing such vast amounts of data comes with problems such greater difficulty sharing data, increased security issues and slowing loading times. This has become especially true since the shift to remote working and more businesses than ever before operating internationally. Businesses are responding to these data challenges with edge computing.
In simple terms, what edge computing does is move all data to one central device that is closer to the data itself. This simplifies the storage process, and minimises any chance of disruption, network issues or problems with data being breached or lost.
The big differentiator here is that instead of sending unprocessed data to a centralised data centre for analysis, that work is done where the data is actually generated in the business. For example, through an IoT device or local edge server.
The highs and lows of edge computing
In the IT industry, data security and privacy are always hot topics. Edge computing provides greater data security and privacy protection because data is processed at the edge rather than in centralised servers.
Although edge devices are still susceptible to hacking, especially if they are not sufficiently secured, edge technology only stores a tiny fraction of the data that could be used by hackers, and frequently incomplete data sets, so pose less of a risk to businesses.
When users attempt to use centralised hosting platforms, latency can be negatively affected, meaning there is a greater lag between sending and receiving data. This problem is resolved by edge computing, which keeps the data closer to the devices’ edges for easier access.
Edge computing means that data can be retrieved directly from the endpoints rather than from a remote centralised data centre, then sent back to the endpoints. This means businesses minimise the chance of issues with speed and connectivity because the data isn’t being bounced back and forth like a tennis ball.
Businesses are always looking for ways to improve efficiency, and edge computing can save a lot of headaches when trying to do something as simple as moving data around from place to place.
One of the things that businesses spend a lot of money on is moving data around on cloud hosting services. And the more money that organisations spend; the more data is moved on these centralised hosting providers. A bit of a catch-22 if you ask us.
However, because there is less need to transfer data to the cloud when using edge computing, businesses spend less on operational costs. Additionally, the bandwidth required to handle the data load is reduced because data is processed in the same location it is generated in.
With inflation hitting businesses hard, edge computing could be a real cost saver if the business has the infrastructure to implement it.
BUT – it relies on hardware
Failures in hardware and upgrades do occur, which may result in the requirement for physical maintenance. Even though you can design your applications to reduce the risk of failure, you still need service schedules and action plans for your edge environments because you cannot expect a store manager to be trained in maintaining broken edge hardware.
This can also mean the benefits mentioned above can become a problem. If the hardware is not properly managed and updated, it could end up costing your business money, exposing data to breaches and decreasing performance. All of this can be mitigated through a thorough maintenance plan that keeps that hardware safe, and your business benefiting from the fantastic technology that is edge computing.