May 1, 2020, by The Digital Research Specialist Team

Cloud computing – an introduction

In this blog, we discuss how researchers can use cloud computing to enrich their analyses and overcome challenges of remote working.

COVID-19 is forcing us to rethink processes and develop new digital skills. An attractive option is cloud computing, which can help researchers perform specialist tasks on virtual, “rented” computers.

Microsoft Azure is one of the largest cloud computing providers, offering AI-powered services, platforms for machine learning, web and database hosting options, as well as infrastructure for building customised virtual machines. You can see some impressive case studies of Azure-supported research here.

Our researchers have already begun exploring the possibilities. Dr John Burford from the School of Veterinary Medicine and Science has been using Azure for an app that monitors survival rates following life-threatening joint disease, researchers in the School of Geography have harnessed cloud computing to massively upscale their modelling of species populations, Prof. Maiken Umbach from the Department of History has been experimenting with computer vision to recognise objects in historical photographs, Rob Shipman in the Faculty of Engineering has been taking advantage of cloud computing to monitor household energy consumption using the Internet of Things, and the Digital Research Specialist Team has recently collaborated with Microsoft on three cloud-based projects: Genomics as a service, computer vision for cell tracking, and automated sentiment analysis.

Cloud computing does have a learning curve, but now is a great time to spend a few hours exploring the technology and seeing how it could enhance your research, or even open up new avenues. There is help on the web, from free courses by academics at Coursera or developers at Channel 9, to webinars and Microsoft courses (here and here). We also recommend checking out Pluralsight, who are offering free Azure training for the next five years (if you sign up via this link and choose the University of Nottingham as your institution).

Information Services and the Digital Research Service have staff with cloud computing expertise to support funded research (and prepare for COVID-19 initiatives, such as Tech against COVID). If you’re interested in discussing how cloud computing might boost your work, or are just looking for a simple explanation of what cloud computing is, please get in touch with a Digital Research Specialist.

Posted in Advice and GuidanceCloud computing