Background to the Literature Review
The deployment of information technology in the education sector is one of the crucial measures for improving students’ learning experiences. Cloud computing is among the advancements that have been identified as playing a vital role in the delivery of services in contemporary educational settings. Particularly, cloud-computing services allow academic institutions to store, process, and manage data virtually through a cluster of servers, networks, applications, and other resources.
Hence, its adoption in institutions of learning is marking a shift from web-based computing services to a system that boosts performance and technology efficiency. Web-based computing involves the use of remote locations to manage data and server spaces of a single client to allow them to execute their web projects.
This paper presents cloud data storage and management as a more advanced system compared to web-based computing since the former uses remote servers operated vendors who may have several clients. According to the critical literature review presented in this paper, despite delivering similar outcomes, cloud-focused data centers and web-based computing have some key differences, which parties in the education sector should understand to identify the system that best suits their educational needs.
Amid providing numerous benefits to teachers, students, and staff among other stakeholders, the application of the concept of cloud computing in learning institutions has been slow. This situation is contrary to findings by Benlian, Kettinger, Sunyaev, and Winkler (2018) who expect the cloud-computing market to advance rapidly to more than 236 billion USD by 2020. The current trend implies increased demand for cloud-based systems, as opposed to traditional web-based computing systems.
One of the reasons for the reluctance of learning facilities to adopt cloud computing is due to the lack of awareness of the underlying benefits when compared to conventional web-based technologies. Hence, it is crucial to discuss the differences between cloud computing and web-based systems to identify the advantages associated with the former approach.
The Significance of the Problem
Recently, academic centers have been embracing cloud-computing systems to improve learning outcomes among students. Nonetheless, according to Paul and Ghose (2012), the transformation from web-based computing to cloud computing in the academic environment has been marked by problems ranging from the lack of resources and awareness of the underlying benefits to security issues.
Consequently, it is important for institutions of learning to establish measures for streamlining the adoption of cloud computing as “a critical IT infrastructure for almost all aspects of people’s everyday lives” (Benlian et al., 2018, p. 720). Identifying the differences between the two systems is the first step towards facilitating the transformation from conventional web-based approaches to cloud computing. Overall, the literature review is based on the following research question: What are the differences between cloud computing and web-based computing?
Critical Literature Review
Various scholars have attempted to define the concept of cloud computing. According to Paul and Dangwal (2014), cloud computing is a combination of “hardware, software, networks, storage, services an interface combines to deliver aspects of computing as a service” (p. 89). This definition is in line with the views by Attaran, Attaran, and Celik (2017), although the authors fail to specify the specific needs solved by cloud computing.
Benlian et al. (2018) seal this gap by including elements such as communication, teamwork, and business management as among the areas enhanced by cloud computing. However, Pike, Pittman, and Hwang (2017) provide a more precise definition of cloud computing. They describe it as a service model, which facilitates widespread, convenient, and on-demand network access to a common pool of configurable computing infrastructure that can be promptly processed and offered with little service provider involvement or management effort (Pike et al., 2017). These definitions depict cloud computing as the use of a web of remote servers that allow users to store, supervise, and process data effectively.
Cloud computing presents an array of benefits to present-day learning settings, which require information technology to flourish. According to Pike et al. (2017), the technological concept of cloud computing is ranked highly in the list of priorities in institutions of higher education since it offers benefits to students, faculty, and staff among other stakeholders. In a similar view, Attaran et al. (2017) attest that cloud computing provides advanced academic centers with effective ways of content delivery, communication, and teamwork. Hence, it suffices to regard cloud computing as a vital tool in the education environment due to its ability to streamline the provision of services to various investors in the sector.
Cloud computing is a cost-effective way of storing, managing, and processing data. According to Pike et al. (2017), the adoption of cloud computing in the higher education learning environment is beneficial because it provides cost savings to support operations.
Concurring with this view, Attaran et al. (2017) reveal the extent to which cloud computing reduces capital investments in software and hardware systems in academic centers. Nevertheless, Paul and Dangwal (2014) offer conflicting findings. They view cloud computing as a concept that requires substantial budgetary allocations to service providers. However, this drawback does not outweigh the associated benefits discussed above.
The integration of cloud computing into the academic environment ensures that students enjoy uninterrupted learning processes. According to the findings of a recent study by Attaran et al. (2017), cloud computing permits students to access a wide range of resources and software tools that fit their learning interests and styles.
However, this study fails to specify how this goal is achieved. Gutiérrez-Carreón, Daradoumis, and Jorba, (2015) identify the use of e-learning systems as one way through which learners benefit from cloud computing. In support of the above study, Hariadi, Sunarto, and Sudarmaningtyas (2016) reveal how cloud-computing services enhance the combination of conventional learning and e-learning to improve the quality of education provided.
Cloud computing fosters the collaboration aspect of management. According to Attaran et al. (2017) and Benlian et al. (2018), it enhances the cooperation of dispersed faculty members through virtual meetings that allow the sharing of information appropriate for improving the delivery of services to students. In a different point of view, Gutiérrez-Carreón et al. (2015) argue that cloud-computing systems provide users in an educational setting with collaboration tools, including communication platforms, which underline the role played by the technology in enhancing the sharing of information. In addition to promoting teamwork, cloud computing goes a long way in bolstering learner-teacher interactions in learning facilities.
Although cloud computing has been found to have numerous benefits to stakeholders in the learning setting, its adoption is facing several challenges. The notable challenges undermining the speedy adoption of cloud computing in academic institutions include the inadequacy of expertise and resources, security threats, and compliance issues (Attaran et al., 2017). Paul and Ghose (2012) conduct a study to identify the possibilities, challenges, and opportunities posed by cloud computing in the education environment.
They identify the shortage of experts required to manage information technologies such as cloud computing in the education settings as a major challenge undermining the rapid embracement of the technology. Gutiérrez-Carreón et al. (2015) confirm the existence of the above challenge, although they present it from a perspective different from that of Paul and Ghose (2012). According to them, teachers and students encounter technological barriers that limit their access to cloud computing services (Gutiérrez-Carreón et al., 2015). These two studies emphasize the need for universities and colleges to allocate resources to facilitate the incorporation of cloud computing into their learning systems.
Security issues pose a significant challenge to the implementation of cloud computing infrastructure in academic facilities. Cloud computing security concerns emanate from compliance gaps, legal issues, and the loss of control over data (Attaran et al., 2017). The study by Attaran et al. (2017) does not offer a detailed analysis of how each of the mentioned elements interferes with the efficient embracement of cloud computing in learning institutions.
Although Paul and Ghose (2012) do not mention about legal matters, their discussion about compliance and data control is adequate for readers to understand how it hinders the execution of cloud computing in schools. According to them, organizations that fail to observe the required standards regarding data security increase their chances of losing control over the data stored on the cloud (Paul & Ghose, 2012). Kumar and Goudar (2012) support this view by revealing the extent to which data security risks associated with cloud computing mainly arise from non-compliance issues. In the context of learning settings, academic centers have been slow to embrace cloud computing due to security risks in the form of malicious attacks of their crucial data by unsuspecting insiders.
Web-based computing involves the use of Internet browsers to help users to execute computing tasks. Allison, Miller, Oliver, Michaelson, and Tiropanis (2012) define web-based computing as a setting that includes ultra-thin consumers connected over the Internet. Applications in a web-based environment contain codes on servers shared to clients through browsers. Thomas, Redmond, and Weistroffer (2009) provide a broader definition of web-based computing by including the aspect of the user interface in addition to the Internet. Allison et al. (2012) and Thomas et al. (2009) agree that web-based computing is browser-oriented because it relies on Internet Explorer and Chrome to execute the intended functions.
User interface screens created by web applications have to be accessible by the present-day generation of browsers. With respect to the tag language, labels can describe the structure, context, and style of the content. Allison et al. (2012) present HTML as the leading tag language applied to develop web pages. Nonetheless, the study by Thomas et al. (2009) criticizes the above claim because XML, which is a markup language, is more flexible compared to HTML.
Allison et al. (2012) ignore the evident popularity gained by XML in the development of web applications. The execution of web-based applications is conducted through a server. In a study by Byrne, Heavey, and Byrne (2010), a web server is depicted as software item that deploys HTTP to provide XML or HTML pages. Hence, web servers that use particular software facilitate the production and the display of Internet pages.
Web-based computing offers several benefits to users, including better experience, flexible access, well-secured login by clients, easy setup, and increased storage. Multiple academic institutions have established applications and portals, which offer users, including teachers and students, easy setup processes and secure logins to facilitate e-learning experiences. According to Hariadi et al. (2016), web-based applications are not only user-friendly but also can be applied across several interfaces and different screen sizes.
As revealed in the article by Byrne et al. (2010), user-friendliness of web-based computing systems is dependent on consumers’ access to Internet connection regardless of the design of the interface. A study conducted by Pike et al. (2017) to compare the impact of cloud computing and web-based computing on learning experiences revealed that the latter system allows students to complete and submit coursework conveniently through the web portals.
Nonetheless, Thomas et al. (2009) identify a challenge overlooked by the above three studies. For instance, the reliance of web-based applications on specific browsers undermines the flexibility of the system (Thomas et al., 2009). As a result, users may prefer a distinct browser that does not support particular software. Allison et al. (2012) argue that web-based systems are more vulnerable to security risks such as data breaches.
Differences between Cloud Computing and Web-based Computing
An insignificant difference exists between cloud computing and server-based computing. Understanding the underlying variations can help to discover the approach that better suits a learning environment. Paul and Ghose (2012) presented cloud computing as a collection of applications, resources, and services that are made accessible to users via the Internet on a demand basis through web-based tools.
Kumar and Goudar’s (2012) perspective depicts cloud computing as an information system consisting of various components found in the cloud rather than a local data center. Contrary to cloud computing, web-based computing allows the implementation, control, and operation of applications on the server instead of the client (Hariadi et al., 2016). In web-based computing, the server acts like a computer program that delivers services to other computer programs, including users.
Technological differences exist between cloud computing and its web-based counterpart. Cloud computing uses a network technology that permits users to access their private clouds offered by an external service provider (Paul & Ghose, 2012). Such third parties rely on the Internet to offer their computing resources to users who can access them via web browsers. Conversely, according to Allison et al. (2012), a server characterizes the technology involved in web-based computing, which is a program that focuses on managing network resources. However, as Hariadi et al. (2016) argue, it is important to specify that the program is also the client who makes requests to servers while expecting prompt results.
The storage of data and applications in the two systems is different. In cloud computing, user data, business processes, and software are stored in multiple replicated public or private information centers (Paul & Ghose, 2012). Web-based computing is different because it facilitates the storage of a collection of resources in a single data center (Byrne et al., 2010). The accessibility of stored resources is greater in cloud computing compared to web-based technologies. Overall, the above differences depict cloud computing as superior to its web-based counterpart.
Cloud computing and web-based computing are technologies that have similar results. Some of the notable differences in the two computing systems revolve around their meaning, technology, application, and architecture. Nonetheless, there is a research gap regarding variations in cloud computing and web-based computing in the context of education. Currently, no study has been conducted to examine the differences between the two computing systems in an academic environment. Therefore, further efforts are required to fill the identified knowledge gap, hence helping to establish the approach that institutions of learning should embrace.
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