What is Cloud Computing?

Cloud computing is a kind of internet-based computing that gives access to shared computer processing resources and data to computers and other devices around the world, on-demand. If you’ve ever used Gmail or iCloud, you’ve already experienced cloud computing.

It’s the answer to the limitations of traditional computer hardware, meaning it delivers flexibility and convenience for users, along with significant cost savings for businesses.

Just about anything can be done using cloud computing – from colleagues in different countries collaborating on a document to friends using cloud gaming to face off against one another.

On-Demand Computing Resources

People sitting in an office

Cloud computing is the delivery of on-demand computing resources – everything from applications to data centers – over the internet on a pay-for-use basis.

Saying “the cloud” is essentially shorthand for “the internet” because the internet is more or less where most computing services reside. Everything from email to spreadsheets to word processing to file storage happens on computer servers in data centers around the world instead of on your computer’s hard drive (or even in an office building full of servers).

This kind of networked computing – when all software and data are stored centrally and delivered over the network – is called client/server computing. The computers we use at home or in our offices are clients that connect via networks (most often broadband internet connections) to servers that do all of our number crunching and data storage.

Access to Software

With cloud computing, users can access software and databases in a scalable, pay-as-you-go service. It’s also possible to build functional applications without investing in hardware upfront.

There are many benefits to this service:

  • The ability to deploy applications rapidly with minimal management effort or service provider interaction reduces the time it takes to develop new applications, making your organization more agile.
  • The ability to scale elastically. Cloud computing allows you to scale up as user demand increases and then scale down again as demand decreases. You’re only paying for what you use, helping lower your operating costs.
  • The ability to access a broad network of data centers across the globe allows your users to have quick access no matter where they are located. This is thanks in large part to content delivery networks (CDNs).

Types of Cloud Computing

Close-up man writing code

The next step to learning about cloud computing is understanding its terminology. In basic terms, it’s good to know the difference between cloud services and deployment models. Cloud services are divided into three distinct categories: Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS), Platform as a Service (PaaS), and Software as a Service (SaaS).

  • IaaS is the most basic and immediate form of cloud service; it offers virtualized computing resources over the internet. Amazon Web Services provides an example of IaaS through its Elastic Compute Cloud offering, which allows customers to rent virtual systems on which to run their own applications.
  • PaaS provides an on-demand environment for developers to create applications using programming languages, libraries, and tools supported by the provider. Red Hat’s OpenShift is an example of PaaS that provides pre-configured application stacks and integrated development environments users can use to develop applications in Java, PHP, or Ruby. There is no need to set up the underlying infrastructure of server operating systems, web servers, database management systems, or software development tools.
  • SaaS refers to the delivery of a single application through the browser; Google Apps is one example of SaaS. It enables users to access email via Gmail, create documents using Google Docs or manage spreadsheets in Google Sheets all through their web browsers without worrying about installing these software programs on their devices.

The four deployment models are private, public, hybrid, and community cloud.

Cloud deployment models define how private clouds connect with public clouds in order to provide additional capabilities not available from either one alone – all while keeping data safe within each company’s own firewall boundaries by encrypting data while it moves between networks.

Why Choose Cloud Computing?

The main benefits are similar to the benefits of using an outsourced service like leasing equipment or using professional services. You’ll get the latest and greatest technology with minimal effort (i.e., no hardware upgrades or maintenance), and you’ll have predictable pricing as opposed to significant capital expenses. You’ll only pay for what you use.

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