Cloud Computing – An Explanation: What is it and Why is it useful?

Cloud computing has become incredibly popular recently. But the problem is that  everybody seems to have differing opinions about how it should be defined. “Cloud” is a much used metaphor for the internet in general, and when combined with “computing”, the meaning develops more significance. Many commentators define cloud computing as an “updated version of utility computing”. Essentially, cloud computing consists of virtual servers available over the Internet.

Many others provide a broad perspective, claiming that anything you engage with outside the firewall is in the cloud, and this includes conventional outsourcing.

IBM Cloud Computing

IBM Cloud Computing (Photo credit: IvanWalsh.com)

Cloud computing can assist in the development of IT by providing a method of increasing capacity or adding capabilities without investing in brand new IT infrastructure or licensing expensive software. There are hundreds of subscription  or pay-to-use cloud computing services that function in real time over the Internet, and these add great value to business IT.

Cloud computing is developing quickly, but is still in its early stages – with many vendors delivering a wealth of cloud-based tools from enterprise-wide business applications to individual storage solutions.
Infrastructure providers are also included in this group, and so are cloud computing providers such as Oracle.
So what is cloud computing exactly? How does it work?

Software as a Service (SaaS)

Software as a Service consists of a single application via the user’s browser to customers using a multitenant architecture. There is no significant long-term investment in computer servers or expensive software. For the vendor costs of running SaaS are relatively low when compared to conventional hosting services. Solutions such as Oracle and Salesforce are large-scale business tools, but cloud computing is also prevalent on common desktops with storage solutions like Google Drive and Dropbox.

Platform as a Service

Platform as a service offers detailed development environments as an online service. It allows the user to construct their own applications that run on the vendor’s servers and are delivered to business users via the cloud. These services are limited by the provider’s infrastructure design, so the user doesn’t maintain complete control or freedom, but there is always the comfort of knowing exactly what they are getting.

Service commerce platforms

Service command platforms are a hybrid between Software as a Service and MSP (managed service providers). Service commerce platforms deliver a comprehensive service hub that users can engage with. These cloud services are most common in trading sectors. This solution handily coordinates the service delivery and the pricing within the exact conditions specified by the user.

MSP (managed service providers)

As one of the oldest forms of cloud computing, a managed service is essentially an application focused on IT rather than on business users, for example a virus scanning service for e-mail, or an application monitoring service. MSP delivered as cloud-based anti-spam services fall into this category. Other examples include cloud-based desktop management services.

Benefits and Drawbacks of Cloud Computing

Cloud Service providers are solely responsible for developing and maintaining core technology within the cloud. Many customers prefer this model because it limits the significant burden of the management of business technology. However, customers do not have direct control over the stability of the system and are entirely reliant on the vendor to maintain and update their application.

Cloud solutions can significantly reduce risk and expense for businesses who rely on digital security. PCI Circle provide a cloud solution for businesses seeking to descope their call centres from PCI compliance. For more information visit their website.

Cloud computing systems are usually designed to closely track all system resources, which enables providers to charge customers according to the resources they use. Many users do prefer the billing-by-use approach in order to save some cash, while others will prefer the more common flat-rate subscription that provides really predictable costs that can be measured easily monthly or yearly.

By its very definition, cloud computing requires the user to transmit data via the internet and to store that data in a third party storage facility. There are some obvious security risks with storing all your information somewhere that you cannot control, especially if it is business-sensitive or highly personal details.

But the advantages of cloud computing are so great that it is often worth this risk, especially as reputable cloud vendors have stringent security measures in place to make sure your data is safe at all times.

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