Cloud Computing 101: The What, How and Why of Cloud

Basics of Cloud Computing

Over the past several months that I’ve been covering the cloud industry – the segment leaders, what they do and how much money they make out of it – I’ve realized that a lot of people aren’t aware of how big a technological shift cloud really is.

What is cloud computing, how does it work, what are the different types of cloud and how does it benefit the end user and just about everybody else along the line?

That’s what we’re here to talk about.

Over the course of the next few weeks, we’ll get into more and more detail…but not full-on technical jargon. I want this to be a page where people from any industry can visit, learn and share the basics. As we add more to this repository of cloud knowledge you’ll see links to new articles, news items, statistics and data – all focused on the business of cloud.

So, if you’re ready to start your cloud computing journey, I would advise you to first bookmark this page so we can get started right.

What is Cloud Computing?

That’s the first question anyone unfamiliar with cloud is likely to ask.

Cloud computing is the on-demand delivery of various types of technology solutions delivered over the internet. That includes computing power, storage services, software development platforms, software applications themselves and other IT-related services.

It is very similar to the concept of outsourcing, which most of us a familiar with. Most large companies today outsource some of their operations or business processes to a third party company in order to reduce their own overheads, while at the same time freeing up their time and resources so they can take care of their core functions – or spend more time on their customers’ needs.

In its simplest form, cloud computing about outsourcing your technology infrastructure to a company that has the capacity to take it on.

One of the biggest benefits of cloud is that it allows you to access resources that you would otherwise have to spend months building on your own, not to mention that vast outlay of money that it requires.

Cloud computing with a reputed provider not only costs a fraction of owning your own infrastructure, but it is extremely simple to get started on, and you’ll only be paying for what you use.

In fact, that was the selling proposition offered by early cloud providers – we’ll manage your infrastructure, give you as much storage space as you need and only charge you a monthly fee for what you use. No contracts, no penalties for pulling out and no hassles.

How attractive do you think that would be for a company struggling with IT budgets, hiring problems, server space, internal support and a dozen other issues?

And that’s how cloud computing was born.

What are the Types of Cloud Computing?

Cloud computing is broadly divided into three categories:

  1. Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS)
  2. Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS)
  3. Software-as-a-Service (SaaS)

IaaS is the first layer of cloud, as it were. It is the virtual machine or virtual server with the compute power required to run whatever applications you need. That’s where the scalability and elasticity part come in. You can get as many as you need or as few as you need, and that’s all you’ll be paying for.

PaaS is built on top of the virtual infrastructure, and refers to an applications development platform where IT guys can go in and build their apps and then run them on the virtual machines using the compute power that comes with them.

SaaS is the topmost layer – hosting applications on the cloud and serving them or delivering them using the Internet. This is the part that most of us know but may not even be aware of. Your Gmail, your Facebook, your Spotify and your Internet banking portal – all of these are cloud applications, or software provided as a service over the internet. Whenever you access an application on the web that doesn’t require you to download anything, that’s a SaaS application.

Next, we’ll look at how most companies use cloud, and how it works.

What are the Different Models of Cloud Computing Deployment?

  1. Public Cloud
  2. Hybrid Cloud
  3. On-Premises

Public cloud is essentially a shared cloud environment where virtual machines are assigned to different clients. That doesn’t mean it’s open and free for all. There are several security layers and protocols that separate one client’s data from another’s, but the data is basically stored at a shared physical location.

On-premises, also referred to as just on-prem, is the opposite of a public cloud, to put it simply. It means the resources such as physical servers are located at the client’s premises, but managed by the provider. This type of deployment is also known as a private cloud.

The third model is hybrid cloud, and it takes the best elements of on-prem and public cloud to create a blended model, with client’s and provider’s resources working side by side to accomplish much more than what the client’s resources alone can. It’s a flexible model that gives the client more control over where the data is stored, what gets put on the cloud and so on.

How Does the Cloud Work?

A cloud computing service provides users with access to servers, storage, databases and a huge pool of ever growing applications – and all of it is done over the Internet.

Cloud computing providers such as Amazon, Microsoft, IBM, Google, Oracle and other players build and own a network of datacenters across the globe that holds all the hardware that is required to run IT services for thousands upon thousands of companies.

This interconnected network of datacenters owned by each of these providers is the backbone of any cloud computing platform. As a customer of that company, you get to figure out what resources you need and sign up for the corresponding service.

Most cloud providers have a zero-entry-fee model where you can create an online account, get in and test out the environment for yourself before you scale up. You can even run your workloads within that free quota every month and never have to pay anything.

But, of course, that’s not going to be nearly enough to move all your workloads to the cloud. That’s where the pay-as-you-go billing kicks in. From there on out, you can scale up or scale down whenever you like, and you’re typically charged only for the resources you use.

Our next and final topic for this article answers two big questions: “What are the benefits of moving to one of the cloud deployment models? In fact, why move at all?”

Advantages of Cloud Computing

  1. Scalability and elasticity
  2. Improved latency
  3. Built-in redundancy
  4. Risk mitigation, disaster recovery and resilience
  5. Security
  6. Pay-as-you-go pricing, and lower capex and maintenance costs
  7. Quick deployment, leading to shorter times to market for your applications and online services
  8. Access to cutting-edge technologies
  9. High accessibility, increased collaboration, work from anywhere
  10. Better use of in-house resources
  11. Save time and spend it on acquiring new business

Over the next few weeks, each of these benefits will become a full-length article, which is why we once again encourage you to bookmark this page. When you come back, you’ll see links leading to these articles, as well as a ton of other resources such as graphic data, statistical information, useful resources, special cloud offers and so on.

See you soon!

Thanks for reading our work! We invite you to check out our Essentials of Cloud Computing page, which covers the basics of cloud computing, its components, various deployment models, historical, current and forecast data for the cloud computing industry, and even a glossary of cloud computing terms.