Edge vs. Fog vs. Cloud Computing – What’s the Difference

What is fog computing

While computer technology has always been complex, its functions have greatly diversified as the digital age progresses. The prevalence of cloud computing has given rise to other forms of processing and storing data.

Edge and fog computing fulfills the same purpose as cloud computing but in different ways. These differences might make them great for other purposes but lacking for others. Here are the fundamental differences between cloud computing, fog computing, and edge computing.

Cloud Computing

Most people have heard of “the cloud” in some shape or form. Cloud software is the standard for decentralized computing. Data is stored in multiple network servers rather than one large server, which is what makes it a “decentralized” system.

These servers share data and resources using Internet of Things technology. Users rent space in the network from a cloud service provider — similar to renting a storage space for personal belongings. 

In addition to being able to store more data, a decentralized network is much more secure than traditional server storage. Having data stored on multiple servers limits how cyber attackers can steal data and the amount they can get away with. Hackers would have to get into every server to steal your data, which gives security professionals more time to intercept the attack. 

Cloud servers are also protected by end-to-end encryption, so even the company that provides the service cannot access their client’s data without permission. 

Many types of cloud services have their own features and applications. The main differences between these services are the type of digital infrastructure they are built on and the platform they use. 

Out of the three types of computing services currently available, cloud computing is the most prolific, stable and fast. However, that’s not to say it is without flaws or vulnerabilities. 

The biggest issue is its lack of physical data backups because all storage in the cloud is virtual. While cloud service companies implement the most up-to-date standards in cybersecurity, there is always the risk of data loss or a breach. Without physical backups, data lost from the cloud cannot be recovered. 

Fog Computing

Fog computing is a lesser-known method of computing and storage. Functionally, it serves as an intermediary between cloud computing and using edge devices. Like the cloud, fog computing uses a decentralized network — referred to as “fog nodes.” 

Nodes form a network of both digital and offline servers. This enables fog computing to provide one of the services that cloud computing cannot — data backups to physical servers to prevent data loss. 

When data is received in the “fog layer,” the system decides which data goes on digital servers and which is stored offline. Less sensitive data typically gets stored on digital servers, while more important data goes to offline servers for extra reliability. 

Being able to access data offline is also helpful when a client’s internet connection is not stable. Cloud computing requires clients to always have an internet connection — they cannot access their data otherwise. Fog servers can allow people to access at least the most important data even if they don’t have an internet connection.

However, fog computing comes with its own drawbacks. While being able to choose between digital and physical servers is better for protecting data, it also makes managing that data a more tedious affair. Data has to be decrypted and encrypted to change servers — a process that can take time. 

Plus, processing speed is typically slower than cloud computing due to the complexity of having two types of servers. Congestion can occur between the user and the fog node, slowing downloading and uploading speeds. 

Edge Computing

Edge computing is the most unique form of decentralized computing because it uses no digital storage systems. All servers and processing devices are offline — with no cloud component. That means edge computing networks use hundreds or possibly thousands of devices simultaneously.

Since there is no cloud component, Edge computing is the fastest of the three options. It allows for immediate responses to clients — with upload and download speeds being near instantaneous. 

Edge computing networks are also the most secure computing and storage options. Since they’re entirely offline, there is no threat of hackers infiltrating the network through the internet. 

Moreover, each server in an edge network can process data independently. That means hackers would have to find a way to break into the thousands of servers in the network simultaneously if their goal is to compromise data. 

Although edge computing seems to have greater potential than cloud or other fully digital computing systems, they also have its own disadvantages. Edge computing systems are more challenging to implement and maintain. That’s why companies that offer edge computing are usually much more expensive than their Cloud-based counterparts. 

Learn the Difference Between Computing Systems

Knowing the advantages and disadvantages of computing systems is essential for consumers and businesses looking to take advantage of the latest data processing and storage technologies. The flexibility, security, and speed of computing systems will determine which one will lead in the future as computer technology improves. 

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Zac Amos

Zac Amos

Zac Amos is the Features Editor at ReHack, an online magazine that discusses the latest innovations in technology. Zac loves writing about AI, cybersecurity, and any other tech topic that can send him down a rabbit hole of research. If he isn't writing, he's probably playing with his dog, Jack.