The Internet of Things has exploded in popularity. The number of connected IoT devices worldwide is expected to exceed 29 billion by 2030. Edge computing will become as important as cloud migration for enterprises that need to monitor and respond to incoming data.

However, for businesses, the choice between edge and cloud is unlikely to be binary. “It’s not an either-or, as you’re not going to just have cloud capabilities, and you’re not going to just have edge capabilities,” says Michel Pelino, who leads Forrester’s edge computing and IoT research.

Rather, in a decentralised world, many businesses will need to carefully assess their needs. “You have to think about the use cases that will be useful in your own organisation, the ones you’re already deploying, and the ones that may come later,” says Pelino. Here are some of the differences between edge and cloud computing, as well as which option is best suited for which business need.

Difference Levels of Latency

The cloud can minimise latency well enough for many enterprises with minimal computing, data handling, and local machine requirements. An organization using, for example, a customer relationship management program is better served by maintaining strong control of data centralized in the cloud.

The extremely low latency of edge computing becomes necessary for organisations when their data is more distributed (think IoT devices) and they are more reliant on real-time data processing and responsiveness. Companies that use autonomous machines, face recognition, predictive maintenance, or sensors in manufacturing and agriculture are examples of such use cases. Poor latency can be disastrous if a self-driving car is about to hit a pedestrian or a warehouse robot is about to make a critical error.

Nonetheless, the cloud is frequently present. “There is still a need for information to be centralised,” says Rob Clyde, former ISACA board chair and board director of IoT cybersecurity firm Crypto Quantique. “For example, you could perform some functional capabilities, such as processing, at that edge location to make a decision right then and there.” However, you may also send some of that data back into the cloud environment for further artificial intelligence and machine learning.”

Handling Cybersecurity in the Cloud Versus at the Edge

Cloud service providers are responsible for protecting corporate data, so they offer a lot of security to companies with cybersecurity. However, edge computing makes cybersecurity more complex.

Forrester’s Pelino said: As a result, adoption of edge computing (and its widely distributed endpoints) requires significant investment and ownership. Creating and implementing a strong cybersecurity strategy that allows protection and monitoring requires money, time, and the involvement of his IT department in-house or an external partner.

Edge Computing Can Incur Additional Equipment Costs

Benefits of the cloud include cost savings by eliminating expenses such as hardware, IT staff, and electricity. Everything your business needs is provided by a cloud service provider.

Edge computing reintroduces the need for large-scale physical infrastructure and management. “In practice, you may want localized servers and data storage near the edge,” he explains Clyde. “You’ll need a powerful computer.” The cloud alone is no longer enough. Organizations must return to owning, managing, and monitoring their own equipment, all of which add to the final cost.

This means that there are alternatives. “Device management can be outsourced to another vendor who can provide racks that don’t introduce unnecessary delays. They can manage and protect that location and provide remote hands if something needs to be restarted.” he says Clyde. “Well, you don’t manage racks. They do.”

There may also be savings to offset additional costs. Especially by reducing the cloud his storage requirements. “You don’t have to put everything back in the cloud for further processing,” Pelino says. “They only send certain things back to the cloud, which avoids some of the additional costs.”

Ultimately, adding edge computing to your existing cloud initiative is an investment. Research firm Gartner has found that by 2025, approximately 75% of business data will be created outside of the cloud or centralized data centers. The sooner companies get involved, the better.