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What is a Cloud Database?

A cloud database is a database that is deployed, delivered, and accessed in the cloud. Cloud databases organize and store structured, unstructured, and semi-structured data just like traditional on-premises databases. However, they also provide many of the same benefits of cloud computing, including speed, scalability, agility, and reduced costs.

Learn more about how Google Cloud databases are helping create great customer experiences and helping businesses everywhere cover a wide range of use cases. 

Cloud database defined

A cloud database is a database built to run in a public or hybrid cloud environment to help organize, store, and manage data within an organization. Cloud databases can be offered as a managed database-as-a-service (DBaaS) or deployed on a cloud-based virtual machine (VM) and self-managed by an in-house IT team.  

Types of cloud databases

Like a traditional on-premises database, cloud databases can be classified into  relational databases and non-relational databases. 

  • Relational cloud databases consist of one or more tables of columns and rows and allow you to organize data in predefined relationships to understand how data is logically related. These databases typically use a fixed data schema, and you can use structured query language (SQL) to query and manipulate data. They are highly consistent, reliable, and best suited to dealing with large amounts of structured data. 

Examples of relational databases include SQL Server, Oracle, MySQL, PostgreSQL, Spanner, and Cloud SQL.

  • Non-relational cloud databases store and manage unstructured data, such as email and mobile message text, documents, surveys, rich media files, and sensor data. They don’t follow a clearly-defined schema like relational databases and allow you to save and organize information regardless of its format. 

Examples of non-relational databases include MongoDB, Redis, Cassandra, Hbase, and Cloud Bigtable.

Why use a cloud database?

The amount of data generated and collected today is growing exponentially. It’s not only more varied, but also wildly disparate. Data can now reside across on-premises databases and distributed cloud applications and services, making it difficult to integrate using traditional approaches. In addition, real-time data processing is becoming essential to business success—delays and lags in data delivery to mission-critical applications could have catastrophic consequences.  

As cloud adoption accelerates and the way we use data continues to evolve, legacy databases face significant challenges. 

Cloud databases provide flexibility, reliability, security, affordability and more. Providing a solid foundation for building modern business applications. In particular, they can rapidly adapt to changing workloads and demands without increasing the workload of already overburdened teams.  

Advantages of cloud databases

Reduced operational overhead

Cloud databases eliminate the management and maintenance of any physical infrastructure. Your cloud provider is responsible for provisioning, updating, and maintaining all the hardware, operating systems, and database software.

Improved agility and scalability

You can launch a new cloud database or decommission one in minutes. This allows you to test, operationalize, and validate new ideas faster. Plus, cloud databases can dynamically scale as your applications grow and deliver consistent performance under high load.  

Lower total cost of ownership (TCO)

The cloud service provider owns and operates infrastructure allowing teams to focus on building applications. In addition, pay-as-you-go options lets you provision what you need, when you need it, and scale up or down depending on your usage. 

Flexible database options

You can choose purpose-built cloud databases with the capabilities and performance that match your specific use case and application needs. 

Safe, secure data

Cloud providers invest in the best technologies and experts to offer multiple layers of protection and centralized security policies that can help protect customer data  without slowing innovation.

Better reliability

Cloud platforms, including cloud databases, come with a host of built-in features designed to maintain constant connectivity and fulfill SLAs, including high availability, automated backups, and robust disaster recovery.

Considerations for cloud databases

While the benefits of cloud databases can help organizations address many modern obstacles that impede growth and digital transformation, there are some common considerations of cloud databases to keep in mind as you plan your migration to the cloud. 

  • Vendor lock-in 
  • Difficulty integrating data with other systems
  • Complex and lengthy migrations
  • Underestimating cloud costs
  • Possibility of connection downtime 
  • Cloud security concerns

The above isn't necessarily a list of cloud database disadvantages, but rather factors that should be carefully weighed when selecting a cloud service provider. You'll need to take the time to evaluate the best cloud database and service model that meets your specific business needs. 

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Cloud database management

Cloud databases follow two deployment models: traditional self-managed and managed database as a service (DBaaS). 

  • Traditional self-managed cloud databases: The cloud database is installed and hosted on a virtual machine in a traditional deployment model. With this model, you maintain more control over your database, and your in-house IT team is still responsible for database management and maintenance.  

  • Managed database service: The cloud database is accessed as a service. It runs on the cloud service provider’s physical infrastructure, where the provider is responsible for most of the operational, maintenance, and administrative database management tasks. Typically, it includes automated provisioning, scaling, security, upgrade, and health monitoring—everything needed to keep your database consistently available and high performance.  

Take the next step with cloud databases

Google Cloud offers a range of managed database services that are simple to use and fit a variety of business needs, built on the same underlying architecture that powers Google’s most popular products, including YouTube, Search, and Maps. 

We also provide an ecosystem of the most popular third-party database APIs and products running on Google Cloud, such as MongoDB, Neo4j, Cassandra, and more. You get a seamless user experience across management, billing, and support without losing the freedom to build the way you want.  

In addition, Google Cloud offers a Database Migration Program to help streamline the migration journey and help address database migration complexity with comprehensive guidance and expert support. It also includes incentive funding to help offset migration costs, allowing you to accelerate your move to the cloud without uncertain timelines or high costs.