Cloud computing is a model for enabling ubiquitous, convenient, on-demand network access to a shared pool of configurable computer resources (e.g., networks, servers, storage, applications, and services) that can be rapidly provisioned and released with minimal management effort or service provider interaction. It provides users with access to a shared set of tools and APIs which can be used to build, deploy, manage, monitor and maintain their own solutions.
It's essentially a utility that allows companies to pay for the amount of computing resources they consume rather than purchasing individual machines. Instead of having to buy expensive hardware, businesses can rent cloud computing resources.
The three characteristics that best define cloud computing are:
On demand self-service the ability for customers to create, modify, terminate, and migrate virtual machine instances at any time.
Resource pooling the dynamic allocation of both computational and networking resources amongst multiple tenants using common underlying technology and an API for making requests.
Rapid elasticity the capability to quickly and easily increase or decrease the number of resources according to fluctuating demands.
The most common way people think about cloud computing is through;
Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS)
In this model, you provision access to computer servers, storage devices, networking gear, and other fundamental computing resources. These resources are then used to support applications hosted on these systems. Examples include Amazon EC2, Rackspace, GoGrid, Joyent, Linode, and Slicehost.
Platform as a Service (PaaS)
In this model, you provision an environment running on a cloud platform. The cloud provider provides operating systems, programming languages, development tools, databases, and other functionality that developers can use to build, deploy, and manage web apps. Some examples include Google App Engine, Heroku, OpenShift, and Windows Azure.
Software as a Service (SaaS)
In contrast to PaaS, where you own the underlying cloud platform but rent its usage from a third party, SaaS involves using cloud platforms that provide pre-built software solutions. Your company rents access to those solutions rather than owning them. Examples include Salesforce, Zoho, and Office 365.
There are many others such as Storage as a Service (StaaS), Applications as a Service (AaS), Data as a Service (DaaS), Networking as a Service (NaaS), Security as a Service (Saas), Management as a Service (MaaS), Monitoring as a Service (Maas), Integration as a Service (Iaas), and Business Process as a Service (BpaS).
Benefits of cloud computing
One of the biggest benefits of cloud computing is that you don't have to worry about buying or leasing physical assets. Instead, you pay only for what they're actually being used. For example, you might be charged $10 per month for 1GB of RAM, but if you never use more than 500MB, you'll only be billed for the amount you use.
Because cloud providers offer virtual machines, you can easily add capacity by allocating additional resources to each VM. As your business grows, so will your ability to handle increased workloads.
With cloud computing, you can start small with just enough resources to test your ideas, and grow into full production environments later. When you need more capacity, you can scale up quickly and easily. You also have the flexibility to move between public clouds, private clouds, hybrid clouds, and even bare metal.
Cloud providers make security a top priority. They monitor their networks and data centers closely, and regularly perform audits to ensure compliance with industry standards like PCI DSS. In addition, they employ multiple layers of protection against malware and hacking attacks.
Cloud computing offers much higher performance than traditional hosting methods because it's designed specifically for high availability and scalability. It's optimized for delivering consistent performance at any given time, no matter how large your traffic spikes. This means less downtime, fewer outages, and faster page loads.
You can take advantage of mobility in several ways. First, you can choose to host your applications in the cloud. Second, you can use mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets to access cloud services. Third, you can connect to the cloud through Wi-Fi hotspots. Finally, you can store files in the cloud and sync them across different devices.
You can always count on cloud computing because it's highly available. If one server goes down, another instance automatically takes over. That way, you won't lose any work in the event of an outage.
The cloud can help you reduce costs, increase productivity, and improve customer experience. But before you decide whether to go with the cloud, there are some things you should consider.
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