Keep Your Head in the Clouds: The Basics of Cloud Computing
What is the Cloud?
The term “the cloud” is without a doubt a term that we have all encountered in our digitally driven lives. Many of the services that we use on a daily basis such as Google Drive, Netflix, and Apple’s iCloud are all cloud based services. Yet, many of us simply don’t have a concrete understanding of what this magical “cloud” really is. In simplest terms, the cloud is any software or services that runs on the internet, instead of locally on your computer. Take for instance, Microsoft Word that is loaded on your personal hard drive and Google Docs which you access via a web browser.
Instead of storing your files, programs and software on your own device, the cloud allows you to store your assets on a secured server owned and operated by someone else. The company takes on the responsibility of handling the computing power, storage and upkeep costs and all you need to access your files is an internet connection and a browser. This also means you can access your files from anywhere, not just on the device where the files were originally created.
Types of Cloud Services
There are three main ways that cloud services are provided for cloud computing customers and each serves a different purpose. Below are some brief explanations of these services along with examples in each category.
Software as a Service (SaaS)
SaaS is likely the type of cloud computing that most people are familiar with. It allows the user to access an application that is not hosted on their own device, but is instead running on someone else’s system. Any web-based email service would be an example of SaaS. Google Documents and other Google Apps such as Google Sheets and Google Slides are also examples of SaaS.
Platform as a Service (PaaS)
PaaS is similar to SaaS, but instead of a software delivered over the web, it is a platform for the creation of software, delivered over the web. It essentially provides the benefits of SaaS but for the software development community. Google App Engine and Microsoft Azure Services are both PaaS solutions that allow for the creation of web applications without the stress of maintaining the complex software that is typically needed for software development.
Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS)
IaaS allows users to buy access to raw computing hardware such as servers, storage, networks and operating systems over the web. IaaS is most often on a pay-as-you-go basis, enabling users to easily adapt to fluctuating capacity needs. A simple example of IaaS would be ordinary web hosting. Users pay for a certain amount of storage while a company hosts and serves up files for the website via their servers. One of the largest IaaS players is Amazon Web Services.
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