What’s The Difference Between A Software Engineer And A Cloud Engineer? A Quick Breakdown

In today's post, our guest blogger, Victoria Greene explains the difference between a software engineer and a cloud engineer.

Written by Victoria Greene • Last Updated: • Cloud •

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Landing a job in IT can lead to an extremely lucrative career, particularly if your chosen niche is within the realms of software engineering. Coding is complicated, after all, and most people prefer to avoid dealing with it. But following the rise of cloud technology, you may have also heard talk about cloud engineering, leading to understandable confusion.

Maybe you're a professional looking for a change in career path. Perhaps you're a student ready to take the next step in higher education. There's even a chance that you're simply curious about the IT industry and looking for some disambiguation. Regardless of the specifics of your circumstances, we're here to clear things up.

Below, we'll delve into the difference between software engineers and cloud engineers, along with a quick rundown of what each job entails.

Software engineers

Whether it's the word processor I'm currently using to type this or the web browser you're using to view the finished article, every piece of software has a development process behind it, and that process depends on the commitment and ingenuity of software engineers. And since these people build programs used by billions of people on a daily basis, it makes total sense that software engineering is one of the highest-paid career paths.

In the corporate world, companies often require bespoke programs designed specifically with their business needs in mind. These programs are often extremely complex, taking months (or even years) to build from the ground up — and they must be built to last, designed so that in-house engineers can understand them and maintain them as required.

The high salaries enjoyed by software engineers are necessary to reflect the responsibility and high pressure of the job. Think you can handle the pressure? Well, as Monster details, you'll need a wide range of skills to fit the bill. For a start, you'll need to be proficient in various coding languages. As a good foundation, you should look into HTML, CSS, Java, Python, and C++ (this page has some useful tips).

In addition to being able to code in those languages, a successful software engineer will need to be adept at testing and debugging their code before it goes live. The bigger the job, the more important the quality assurance phase. In some cases, minor programming issues can have disastrous consequences for the careers of the software engineers responsible.

Cloud engineers

'The cloud' is a colloquial term used to refer to the cumulation of networked servers accessible through the internet. In recent years, it's gone from a niche matter to something we all rely on daily. Consider how many of us have moved from using locally-installed word processors like classic Microsoft Word to using cloud-based services like Google Docs.

Google, Microsoft and Amazon have all invested a great deal into the technology, and for good reason. There's no going back to how things used to be. The cloud is simply too convenient, with apps like Spotify and Netflix dominating the collective consciousness. But while these systems appear seamless to the end users, they're not so slick behind the scenes, as they require a lot of work to keep running.

Cloud engineers, then, are generally less responsible for creating systems than they are for navigating and upgrading them. Leading systems are too dominant for the focus to be distributed any differently, as there's little sense in most businesses seeking bespoke solutions when there are sufficiently-flexible solutions already on the market. And the systems of interest are more likely to be platform-level in scope.

We must pay particular attention to the platform-as-a-service (PaaS) market, as it's there that the an ambitious business will need to allocate much of its development budget. When the component parts are off-the-shelf apps ready for deployment, the tricky part is fitting them together. Note that an online retailer committing to a PaaS solution like Cloudways will likely need a cloud engineer (provided through the service or consulted independently) to map out exactly how everything will fit together and handle any required migrations.

Put simply, while software engineers are tasked with creating and honing varied programs, cloud engineers focus more on correctly integrating and implementing existing systems in the cloud. This can require them to move vital data, run training sessions covering new dashboards, and monitor industry trends so they can provide relevant recommendations.

So while the there are major elements in common (both types of engineers must understand coding fundamentals and know how to debug), there's a core distinction in workload an expertise. Cloud engineers don't necessarily need to know the building blocks of software in general: rather, they need to know network architecture, complex system integrations, disaster recovery processes, and other core cloud concerns.

The goal of this piece was to clear up the distinction between software engineers and cloud engineers, so hopefully we've achieved that. If you're interested in entering the programming world, each of these paths is viable, with the route you should choose depending on which likely workload interests you more. Good luck!

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Victoria Greene is a content strategist and writer, blogging at Victoriaecommerce. She’s proud to say that she’s built a few websites in her time, picking up a thing or two about ecommerce UX during her journey.

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