What is Cloud Computing?
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Cloud computing is basically using remote Internet servers to store data, allowing you to retrieve it from any computer or device that has Internet access. You no longer need to email files back and forth or transfer them to USB drives. Cloud services can also back up data in case you lose or break your computer.
Companies benefit from cloud computing because it effectively solves the dilemma of purchasing multiple software suites and upgrades. Through the use of a cloud-based application solution, employees can simply log into a Web-based service via an Internet browser and access an application as if it was installed on their computers.
How cloud computing works
Servers that deliver cloud services contain specialized connections to spread data processing through multiple servers, which increases the efficiency and power of delivered services while also providing a more redundant method of storing client information. Data is more secure and less prone to loss because it is stored externally.
Services are delivered and used over the Internet rather than downloaded and installed on each computer. Oftentimes, these services are leased via a monthly subscription model rather than the traditional software license. [Related: Best Cloud Service: Google]
The history of cloud computing
The use of the term “cloud computing” comes from the common practice of drawing a cloud to symbolize networks in a diagram of computing systems. While used largely as a symbol for the Internet, it acts as a concept of the infrastructure it now represents.
The concept of cloud computing came about in the 1950s when a large-scale mainframe was accessible via multiple terminal computers. This mainframe allowed multiple users to share multiple access points to the same computer and software it provided. It wasn’t until the cost of high-capacity networks, personal-use computers and storage devices reduced in price through the 1990s and 2000s that many companies began to take on the cost of purchasing and maintaining the hardware. Leasing hardware and software to customers in an on-demand capability via the cloud quickly gained in popularity and is now a common business model for many technology companies who meet a variety of industry needs.
Software as a service
Also known as SaaS, software as a service is a form of cloud computing in which a single application or application suite is delivered through the browser. Software is hosted remotely as opposed to on a work computer, and any files stored with the application by the user are backed up in multiple locations for data security and redundancy. The software is maintained and updated by the hosting company and oftentimes does not affect the end user. Due to the Internet delivery method, users can access the software application from any computer at any hour of the day. Examples of SaaS applications include Google apps like Google Doc, Google Drive and Gmail.
Infrastructure as a service
A popular option among IT professionals is the availability of IaaS, or infrastructure as a service. This entails a variation on the other types of cloud computing services in which an organization outsources their equipment needs to a service provider. The provider houses all storage, hardware, servers and networking components and assumes all responsibility for running and maintaining equipment. In return, companies lease the use of the hardware for running day-to-day operations. Examples of IaaS include services like Oracle Cloud Infrastructure, IBM SmartCloud and Opsource.
Platform as a service
The third variation to the "as a service" model is that of hosting software operating systems, which can then be distributed and altered over the cloud. This is especially popular among software development teams working on coordinated projects. PaaS allows for companies to move environments for building and running applications to a cloud-based option which allows for greater flexibility and reduced duplication of coding efforts. Examples of PaaS service include Rackspace, Oracle and QuickBase.
Cloud hosting and storage
Many companies offer cloud computing solutions for hosting websites in addition to online storage for file syncs. These companies maintain the core technology needed to help customers utilize the cloud services offered. Many websites online are run through third-party webhosts contracted by the company who owns the website. Examples of webhosting providers include GoDaddy, whereas companies like DropBox fulfill the online storage need.
Cloud computing effectively changes the way in which companies use technology. It assists in eliminating many constraints often found with in-house hardware and software. Companies like Google and Amazon have already made the transition to the cloud due to the long-term value it offers, which means many more companies will begin to make the transition soon.