Edge computing is a significant trend in cloud technology today. Recent research shows that over half of companies are either already using edge computing, or plan to begin within the next year. But what exactly is edge computing, and what does it mean for your business?

What is edge computing?

Edge is a cloud computing model where more data processing happens in devices that are physically close to where information is collected and generated. Rather than being sent back to a central cloud server, the data is managed at the edge of the network. Most businesses today have migrated much, if not all, of their data storage and processing into third party cloud datacentres run by companies like Microsoft, Amazon, or Google. These data centres are typically located tens or even hundreds of miles away from where the data is originally generated.

That is not a problem for more simple operations (for example, regularly saving a Word document in Microsoft’s OneDrive while it’s edited on an employee’s laptop). However, if you are generating large amounts of data which needs to be processed extremely fast, then the distance between your devices and the cloud data centre starts to become a problem.

Edge computing tries to bridge this gap, by bringing more of that computing power to the edge of the network. It typically involves installing some kind of hardware close to the source of the data. This hardware is still connected to your main cloud datacentre, and can send back data as and when you need.

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Why do we need edge computing?

Not every business will need edge computing. For companies that mainly work on documents and spreadsheets, there is no real need to invest in edge. On the other hand, businesses which generate and analyse large quantities of data can really benefit from the fact that the computing power they need is physically close to where it is generated.

To understand the need for edge computing, it can be useful to consider one of the more classic use cases: autonomous vehicles.

Autonomous vehicles need to be connected to the internet to process information about speed, location and road conditions. They simply wouldn’t have the space to hold all the computing power needed to run them in the vehicle itself. However, if an autonomous vehicle needed to wait for data to be sent hundreds of miles to be processed and sent back for every decision, this latency would make the car far less efficient – and it could be very dangerous. If a pedestrian steps out in front of an autonomous vehicle, it needs to react instantly. Therefore, an edge computing model would be used so that the vehicle can make decisions faster.

Some computing would always happen onboard (e.g. braking suddenly if someone steps out), some would happen in nearby cell towers (e.g. regulating speed), other computing could be sent to the cloud (e.g. route finding).

Edge computing provides several benefits:

  • Eliminates latency when sending and receiving large amounts of data from the cloud
  • Potentially cheaper, since you do not need to send so much information over the network
  • More efficient as you will be using your network in the most productive way
  • Examples of edge computing

To understand the potential of edge computing in business, it can be helpful to consider various scenarios and industries where it could have a big impact.


Many retailers today are collecting huge amounts of information in their warehouses, EPOS systems and directly on shelving units. This information is used for all manner of purposes, including stock management. While sending that data back to the cloud for analysis can be helpful, it would be much faster to use edge computing in each store/warehouse to make instant decisions – rather than waiting several minutes before realising you’re out of stock for a certain item.

Monitoring energy systems

Energy businesses are increasingly using sensors to monitor the health of pipelines, distribution networks or production sites. This infrastructure tends to be located far away from data centres, so once again, edge computing is very beneficial. It could, for instance, be used at a solar panel array, where a local device could calculate the best angle for each panel, minute by minute. This would be more responsive than sending the data to and from the cloud.


Many manufacturers today are using cutting edge technologies such as computer vision for the purposes of quality control. However, if a computer vision system needs to send data from the factory to a cloud data centre and back each time it checks an item on the production line, this could really slow things down. But, an edge computing system lets you do the processing closer to where the data is sourced and therefore benefit from these sorts of modern techniques.

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Where to get started with edge computing

If edge computing sounds like it could potentially benefit your operations, the first step is to analyse what data you would want to process on the edge, then decide how this will be managed. At FITTS, we help companies to manage how their data flows to and from the cloud, and support you to implement underlying technology (such as Cisco Meraki) to use edge computing and advanced networking. To learn more about how you can begin on your edge computing journey, contact us today.