The Cloud Demystified

Unless you happen to be living under a rock, chances are you have heard about “The Cloud”. Now, whether or not you know what the cloud means exactly, is another thing all together. The cloud itself is an abstraction of the set of services that can be accessed through an internet connection, such as applications, files, or data. The beauty of the cloud is that these services can be accessed anytime, anywhere, and from any device.

Imagine you are an executive at a large corporation. One of your many responsibilities is to ensure that all of your employees have the right hardware and software they need to do their jobs. That involves not only buying computers for everyone, but also purchasing software, and/or software licenses for everyone who is going to use it. Whenever a new hire is made, you would have to either buy more software for them, or make sure your current software license allows another user. This is the old way of doing things, and it is both stressful and complex, with lots of room for error.

Now, there is an alternative. Instead of installing a suite of software for each computer, you’d only have to load one application. That application would allow your employees to log into a web-based service, which hosts all the programs they need to perform their jobs. Suddenly, there’s a significant workload shift. You are no longer responsible for the hardware and software demands of your company. That is the power of cloud computing.

As you might imagine, the potential benefits of this approach to computing are enormous. The cloud frees the user from dealing with traditional computing issues such as maintenance, infrastructure upkeep, and repair of in-house systems. Instead, the cloud service providers are responsible for meeting increases in demand and ensuring that service is reliable.

There are three basic types of service in cloud computing:

Software as as Service (Saas)

If you’ve ever used Gmail or Google Docs, you have used software as a service. Web-based applications such as these are aspects of cloud computing, although many people don’t realize it. Essentially, SaaS is a software application hosted in a central location and delivered via the internet. So, rather than purchasing a program and installing it on individual computers, a company could simply pay a subscription fee to a service provider, and have their users log on a website to access it.

Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS)

Think of IaaS as an outsourced data center with the benefits of scalability and limitless capacity. Storage, hardware, servers, and networking are all owned by a third-party provider that is responsible for maintaining and operating them. Since the cost of these services scale with the amount of computing power required by the customer, a company only pays for what they need. This is a far more efficient method than buying, maintaining, and housing servers to meet periods of peak demand, only to end up continuing to pay for that excess of computing power when such demand wanes.

Platform as a Service (PaaS)

PaaS is a term used to describe a software-development platform that is stored in the cloud and can be accessed via a web browser. It makes a variety of programming languages, operating systems, and tools available to developers, saving them the cost of purchasing, installing, and updating everything themselves. Many companies prefer to develop their own software tools, and can do so far more quickly and inexpensively using a PaaS provider, than via traditional methods of software development.

Cloud computing is the future of how businesses will be done. (Click here to read our blog post “Is ‘The Cloud’ Right for My Company”). It is important to get an understanding of it while it is still a relatively new technology, or the forecast for your company could be a stormy one.

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