Cloud computing is a technology which allows individuals and businesses to access software applications, data, hardware processing power and even artificial intelligence from computers or mobile devices over the internet. Gmail, the new Microsoft Outlook, Yahoo Mail, Facebook and Twitter are the most common cloud computing services as they allow users to share and exchange data over the internet. Google Apps, JayCut online video editor, Pixlr online image editor and Aviary online photo editor are other clever examples of internet-based services that allow users to use software and data over the internet.
Some of the typical characteristics of cloud computing are:
- They can be accessed via any computer or mobile device with internet access
- Costs are based on usage of the services provided with no fixed commitment.
- Services can easily and quickly be scaled up or down with no penalty.
- Cloud services can be accessed and used by multiple members of a team or different teams at the same time.
- Cloud services can be easily and quickly be deployed, so users can see added value almost immediately.
- There is little or no start-up cost needed for clod computing and definitely no capital investment, except for membership fees which are negligible in some cases.
Components of Cloud Computing
Software as a Service (SAAS):
Software as a Service (SaaS) is a software distribution model whereby applications/ software packages are hosted by vendors or service providers and made available to customers over a network, usually the Internet. A good example of this is Pixlr.com, a web-based image editor which allows multiple users to easily use the software, provided they have access to the internet.
Pro and Cons:
- Subscriptions to SaaS packages are either free or paid.
- They can be accessed from any computer or mobile device.
- They make collaborative work easy, as in the case of Google Apps.
- Are sometimes generic applications not always suitable for business use.
Platform as a Service (PAAS):
Provides supplier-specific tools and environment that allow users to create their own cloud based applications and software. A good example is Google’s App Engine which allows anyone to create, maintain and use cloud based applications for use on Google. Another is Microsoft’s Azure which allows user to create and run specific applications on Windows based platforms.
Pros and Cons:
- Allows users to rapidly develop cloud based apps at low cost
- Allow apps to be deployed either as private or public
- Limits developers to the provider’s preferred languages and tools
- Risk of vendor lock-in; i.e. apps created cannot be moved to another provider’s platform
Infrastructure as a Service (IAAS):
Infrastructure as a service is where a cloud service provider offers customers online hardware/ infrastructure on which they can create, store and run whatever app/ data they see fit.
Pros and Cons:
- Make sophisticated and otherwise expensive hardware affordable at monthly prices
- Can be rapidly deployed, with ease
- Dynamic and scalable cloud computing capacity to meet your current, seasonal, and future needs
- Can be scaled without huge capital for infrastructure (a “pay-as-you-grow” model)
- Often 24/7 365 days/ year technical support including management, monitoring, and support by experts
- Upgrades are often smooth and rapid with minimum service disruptions
A good way to understand these components is this: whilst software packages run on platforms, platforms in turn run on computing infrastructure or hardware. Hence, for example, whilst the Microsoft Excel software runs on the Microsoft Windows platform, in turn the Microsoft Windows platform runs on a Dell infrastructure or PC.