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what is cloud

What is Cloud Computing?

You might get a lot of different answers to the question “What is cloud computing?” depending on who you ask. An IT professional might refer to its technical roots, while a member of the general public might refer to a large CSP like Amazon. Many other people will reply that the cloud is nothing more than a fancy term for the internet.

While some of these responses are outright incorrect, the precise definition of cloud computing can actually be a little hard to land on. That’s because the cloud is not a thing that you can put in a box, but rather a computing model consisting of many variables and possibilities. The cloud model is so effective that it’s taking over more areas of technology than ever before — and it’s not going anywhere. Cloud computing has and will continue to influence the IT operations of most organizations well into the foreseeable future.

Definition of Cloud Computing

IT professionals and end users have always looked for ways to make their IT architecture more efficient and cost-effective. As such, the nature of business IT has always been evolving (and often at a pace that’s difficult to keep up with!)

Cloud computing is the next step in the evolution of servers, storage, and service delivery. While it bears some similarities to previous IT models, it’s what’s unique about cloud that makes it so powerful.

To understand those differences and how they work together, we can bring things back to a dictionary definition. Or rather, the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) definition of what constitutes a cloud system:

  • Wide Network Access: This simply means that cloud services must have networked connections between backend infrastructure (such as servers and data storage) and frontend clients (such as workstations). This is nothing new and essentially applies to any networking model.
  • Resource Pooling: This means the pooling and sharing of resources, either physical or virtualized.
  • Rapid Elasticity: Unlike older models, the cloud model allows for quick adaptation to user demands (or resources demands on the system). This is what makes it easy to scale cloud services up or down.
  • On-Demand Self-Service: NIST-defined cloud computing requires that it’s easy for users to allocate resources or spin up new services without outside help.
  • Measured Service: Since resource usage is flexible, it must also be measurable so the cloud provider can know who is using what. Metered usage makes it possible to charge cloud customers for only the resources their using, not for blocks of resources that might go unused.

While these are the general ideas that define cloud computing, it’s certainly possible for end users to leverage only one or two of the cloud model’s assets. For example, migrating to the cloud could save a company maintenance costs and remove the need to buy servers and hard drives — but they may not be concerned about self-service or know how resources are being pooled.

Benefits of Cloud Computing

Since the common approach to IT is to treat it as a cost center, most new technology is ushered in on the red carpet of reducing expenses. That said, cloud can offer other benefits besides a reduction in IT costs.

One of the most common additional benefits is improvement of service delivery. Because cloud providers are experts dedicated to keeping their services running smoothly and securely, it takes a lot of pressure off of the end user. Shifting many operational burdens to the cloud data center also reduces the workload of the internal IT department, if one exists.

Additionally, the cloud helps even small businesses access new technology quickly and affordably. One need only look at how many enterprise-level software solutions are now delivered via a cloud-based SaaS model to see how much cloud has changed the world of business computing.

As technology is integrated more into the business, cloud helps users meet and adapt to the requirements for how that technology is managed. Cloud computing helps with many modern IT goals, as well as the organization objectives of most modern businesses.


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