Cloud computing is becoming much more well known and many businesses and even homes are starting to utilise its services. Cloud computing uses the web and provides users with online storage options and services such as web-based email and video services. Businesses have either implemented cloud computing practices or are considering doing so.
Although cloud-computing practices have been around for some time now they have yet to receive full-blown recognition. Many services utilise cloud-computing practices and perhaps the best example is in free, web-based email services such as Gmail (how long it’s been around will give you more of a sense that cloud is nothing new).
Computer users, likely unknowingly, use the cloud when they contact friends through instant-messaging, video-messaging mediums, and voice-over-IP. Data-backup services also use the cloud and let users store data and files on a public or private online cloud account.
Cloud is increasingly popular
With cloud computing becoming so saturated it seems increasingly prevalent for businesses to utilise its services. However before that happens it’s a good idea to understand as thoroughly as possible the service that your business wishes to adopt. So, to help you get to grips with cloud-based principles, here’s an explanation of the three main categories of cloud computing.
Remember that cloud computing is a broad term that describes a range of services. The term cloud computing is over used and often practices are incorrectly attributed to this service. For cloud-based options to really benefit a business, that business must understand how the technology works.
The cloud is a very diverse term and one that needs to be simplified and defined to allow a business to utilise its application to the best possible potential. Let’s have a look at some of the components that make up the cloud-computing model –
· Software as a Service (SaaS)
· Platform as a Service (PaaS)
· Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS).
The Cloud Computing Stack
Cloud computing has been described as a stack. This is due to the broad range of service that sits under the cloud umbrella. Cloud computing is a service that can be defined more easily in application than in general and although there are a number of definitions circling the internet the best one comes from the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST).
The NIST definition isn’t short so we’ll paraphrase. Cloud computing is a practice that allows for convenient, on-demand network access to a shared pool of configurable computing resources that can be found in the form of networks, servers, storage, applications, or services. Users can utilise and release cloud based services with minimal fuss and oversight making it an economical upgrade.
The simplest way to put it is that cloud computing offers users a bulk storage resource and the ability to access that resource on multiple devices when the user wants, quickly and easily. However, it can also just deliver applications through hosted desktop or it can host an entire organisation’s infrastructure, doing away with the need for businesses to build and maintain their own network.
There are a number of key benefits identified by NIST regarding the implementation of the cloud:
· The end user has more control removing some of the delays associated with traditional IT services
· Responsive design and the ability to access content from a variety of devices (smart phone, desktop, laptop, tablet)
· Resources can be shared and pooled across a number of departments
· It’s easily scalable and can increase easily as your business does
· Easy to monitor service – it’s paid as a metered bill
So, there’s a pyramid structure to legitimate cloud computing practices and it’s good to understand the principles that accompany that layout. There is a number of traditional software vendors offering watered down cloud options – this is known as “cloud-washing.”
The three elements that make up this pyramid are:
· IaaS is the hardware and software that powers everything – servers, storage, networks, operating systems
· PaaS makes coding and deployment much easier by providing a very specific set of tools
· SaaS hosts applications that are delivered over the web and designed for the end user
Let’s look at those categories in more detail. One thing to remember is that although we’re looking at the three categories as distinct, the differences are decreasing as cloud based services become less definable. In fact, specifically the lines between PaaS and IaaS has become blurred. They are still autonomous categories however and by considering them individually you can understand how they work cohesively.
Infrastructure as a Service
This is simple enough and it involves the hardware used to run cloud systems on your networks. Effectively, IaaS is network equipment like routers/switches, data-centre space, servers, and software for business. These data centres are fully outsourced ensuring no increase in workload or decrease in terms of productivity.
Cloud options are simple in application and allow for scalability and reliability. They also provide better security than a local network can provide and additionally cloud services are charged as utilities, making it easily payable and cost effective to what you’ve used.
IaaS vendors purchase in bulk, meaning that the cost is decreased for you the user. It makes sense then that IaaS provides cheaper access to infrastructure.
Platform as a Service
This provides users with full hardware architecture and software frameworks for enterprise applications to run from. Many customers desire flexible, robust, web-based applications and PaaS provides them with that opportunity. There has to be a platform for cloud services to run on and that’s what PaaS does. Developers can write code with no worry about an incompatible OS as the software is being written for a development environment – not Apple, Windows, or Linux.
Software as a Service
SaaS is a process of provisioning commercially available software and providing access to that data over the internet. The service provider ensures that all licenses are covered, meaning that the user has little to worry about. The provider also will handle upgrades, patches, and bug fixes.
Everything is now online and users can rent email services, contact management software, and scheduling software. It’s easily available on the internet and businesses can save money through not having to pay for expensive hardware to host the software, or get the software. A business doesn’t need its employees to develop cloud-based options and the SaaS provider handles the implementation on the back end. This frees your IT staff up to work on projects that are more worthwhile to your business.
So, cloud based services are a cheaper alternative to traditional IT support and infrastructure. With a better understanding of what it is, businesses can utilise this new service and free up hardware space and cost, make its workplace device-agnostic, and focus on more pertinent considerations.
The cloud allows businesses to save money, increase reliability, and make its networks more secure and highly scalable. Understanding the options will help considerably when implementing cloud based business practices.