The Benefits of Cloud Computing
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The National Institute of Standards and Technology defines cloud computing as "a model for enabling convenient, on-demand network access to a shared pool of configurable computing resources that can be rapidly provisioned and released with minimal management effort or service provider interaction." The benefits of cloud computing are numerous, as it allows its users to conserve both time and money. The following will discuss cloud computing in terms of its various forms and the benefits it has to offer.
Cloud Types According to Service
Before we get into the overall benefits of cloud computing, let's discuss the different cloud categories based on the services they provide. The most popular one is Software as a Service (SaaS). Software as a Service refers to when a vendor supplies users with software over the internet to fulfill whatever service they demand. SaaS is sometimes referred to as software on demand because it grants access to users on a pay-per-use basis, but it can also be contracted on a subscription basis.
In exchange for payment, the SaaS provider gives the client software that can be configured to fit their needs. One downside to this type of service is that the client will not be able to modify the software. It does, however, eliminate the need to buy software or do any actual coding in-house. The convenience and value of SaaS is boosted even more by the fact that it usually includes regular maintenance in the form of updates, security, backup, and more. Using SaaS gives users the ability to expand or grow projects quickly as well.
SaaS is commonly used in several areas of business, including invoicing, human resources, and customer relationship management (CRM). Salesforce.com is one popular example of a cloud solution offered in the CRM field. Other popular examples include services from Google, such as Gmail and Google Docs.
Platform as a Service, or PaaS, as its name would suggest, offers clients a cloud-based development platform. The platforms made available to clients can be used for a variety of purposes. Platforms supplied by different vendors are usually not compatible, however. By simply paying a service, fee, PaaS clients bypass the need to worry about hosting and purchasing hardware and software.
PaaS gives clients the necessary tools to build and deliver applications. A solid PaaS should give its clients the ability to execute various stages of the application development process in an integrated environment, such as testing, deployment, hosting, and more. It should also offer tools that simplify the creation of user interfaces. To help promote efficiency, PaaS often provides support for collaboration among members in a development team as well. The Google App Engine and Microsoft Azure are two examples in the PaaS arena.
The third cloud classification is Infrastructure as a Service, or IaaS. It offers whatever equipment they need to operate without the hassle, and is sometimes referred to as Hardware as a Service. Payment to the provider is often based on usage. Examples of items provided under the IaaS umbrella includes servers, networking components, storage services, and more.
The convenience of IaaS gives clients plenty of freedom. They do not have to worry about having a place to store equipment, as the service provider will house it. They also do not have to hire personnel to run or maintain the equipment, as those tasks are outsourced to the provider. Some of the more popular IaaS providers include Microsoft Office 365, Flexiscale, and Amazon EC2.
Cloud Types According to Location
Cloud computing can also be discussed in terms of how it is deployed, or the location of the cloud. The most traditional is public cloud. In public cloud, the client has no control over where the infrastructure is hosted, as it is under complete control of the provider. Multiple organizations will share the infrastructure, with the service being provided over the internet. Any resources are provisioned as needed, and payments are made according to usage.
Unlike public cloud, private cloud infrastructure is unique to a specific organization and is not shared with others. There are two types of private clouds – On-premise and externally hosted. On-premise is hosted on the client's property and involves higher cost, while externally hosted is hosted by a third party. Although private clouds do cost more than public clouds, they do offer more security. Many have suggested that private clouds go against the entire cloud computing theory for a couple of reasons. First, their higher costs eliminate the financial advantages of cloud computing. Second, the fact that they require in-house attention in terms of setup and maintenance destroys much of the convenience that cloud computing is renowned for.
Hybrid cloud results from use of both public and private clouds. This may come in handy for clients that want to take advantage of the best each has to offer. For example, the aforementioned security advantage with private clouds could push a client to use them for their most important applications. Meanwhile, other applications could be hosted on public clouds.
A community cloud allows several similar organizations to share infrastructure. An example where a community cloud could be useful is in a state government setting. If various agencies within the state government operate under similar guidelines, they could all share the same infrastructure and spread the cost among themselves. While community cloud is more expensive than public cloud, it does provide more security and privacy that many agencies might need. GovCloud is an example of a government cloud computing solution.
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