One of the hottest trends in small business and enterprise-sized IT is cloud computing. Cloud computing represents a major shift in the way companies view their technology infrastructure. This type of approach to IT relies on the Internet, and usually involves provisioned, scalable, dynamic and virtual solutions. Cloud computing pulls the details of IT infrastructure management away from the business and puts it squarely in the hands of true experts.
The Internet is at the core of the concept of cloud computing, and it is the Internet that the term “cloud” refers to. This type of solution gives business application service online via a web browser or, in some cases, a client application. The software and data are stored on servers not on site, but out on the Internet.
There are three general categories of services offered in cloud computing, and they have to do with the type of solution provide. They are Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS), Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS), and Software-as-a-Service (SaaS). While SaaS is by far the most common type of cloud computing implementation today, other types are rapidly gaining popularity as companies see the cost and expertise advantages of each.
It’s important to distinguish cloud computing from several similar models that are often confused for cloud computing. Grid computing, for example, uses a virtual super computer composed of networked, connected computers that act in concert to perform significantly large tasks. Utility computing is a model where computer resources are packaged and provided as a metered service, in the same way that traditional public utilities are packaged and provided. Finally, autonomic computing is often confused with cloud computing. This is a system of computing where the systems are capable of managing themselves.
Cloud computing models may have similarities to these models, and many cloud implementations use grids and have similar characteristics to utility or autonomic computing. Others, like Skype or BitTorrent, have no centralized infrastructure whatsoever.
With a cloud computing model, the company doesn’t own the physical infrastructure. This helps to avoid capital expenditures, and the infrastructure is essentially rented from a third party. The company uses resources and pays for only the specific resources they use. This can improve utilization rates, because servers aren’t typically left idle.
The rise in large bandwidth possibilities for companies is responsible, in part, for the rise in cloud computing. It’s reasonable, in many applications, to get the same response times from remote servers as it is from local infrastructure.
One of the primary benefits of cloud computing is that it can reduce both capital expenditures on infrastructure, as well as operational expenditures on infrastructure maintenance and engineering. In this way, companies pay only for what they use, or they subscribe to a service over time. Cloud computing has a relatively low barrier to entry, a low management overhead, and rapid access to a wide range of application types. Cloud computing providers generally offer service level agreements (SLAs) to insure that the company is able to access the systems they need and that uptime will be similar, or even higher, than locally-based solutions.
Introduction to Cloud Computing
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