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Cloud Computing 101

So, you keep hearing more and more about cloud computing and how it’s good for your business, but you are confused as what it actually means? Or, you’re finding your colleagues are talking more and more about it and you’d like to join the discussion?

Well, in this case, you’re in the right place, as I’ll briefly explain to you what cloud computing is and how it actually affects your business, minus the tech slang which can make your head spin.

Cloud Vs. Traditional computing

Let’s start with the name ‘cloud computing’. Even though this sounds like something weather related, contrary to popular belief, the software and hardware you access via cloud computing is not stored in the actual clouds. The expression is actually meant to symbolise the fact that the resources you are accessing can be anywhere in the world.

The difference between traditional computing and cloud computing is that with traditional computing, you will only be able to use the resources you have at hand. This means your own hardware and software – for example, the computer in your office or any computers located near you. By using cloud computing, you can, via the internet, access the resources of a virtually endless number of computers, and hence their storage and processing power. This is what makes cloud computing so special: you don’t need to use a super computer in order to have access to the capacity of one. And you can take advantage of this as a business or as an individual today, as big companies such as Amazon, Google and Microsoft are already providing very mature cloud computing services that anyone use when and where they need it.

Of course, there are many advantages of using cloud computing, which we will analyse in more depth in another blog piece, but for now, I’ll just mention the less obvious ones Forbes have outlined in one of theirarticles. These are well supported by the typical benefits that are often quoted. An example of those can be seen here.

Types of cloud computing

Now that you know what cloud computing generally is, we can take the next step of understanding cloud computing. What usually makes the general public confused about cloud is the variety of shapes in which it comes. However, the easiest way is to categorise it in three main types according to the AWS website :

SaaS – Software as a Service

This type of cloud computing allows users to access software stored in the cloud via the internet, rather than being installed on your local computer. With SaaS you don’t have to worry about configuration or scaling resources; its all handled for you. You might use SaaS every day without knowing it. Examples include: Gmail, Hotmail, Salesforce and Netsuite.

PaaS – Platform as a service


Platform as a Service is one layer down from Software as a Service. PaaS offers access to pre-configured hardware resources and services which act to give you a single ‘platform’ to build on top of. Often used by people developing applications, PaaS reduces the cost of deployment by reducing the amount of time spent on configuring servers and infrastructure. Some examples of Paas are: AWS Elastic Beanstalk, Windows Azure, Heroku, Force.com, Amazon RDS, Google App Engine and Apache Stratos.

IaaS – Infrastructure as a service


As the name suggests, IaaS provides access to a cloud IT infrastructure: the network, a hardware or virtual-stored computer and data-storage possibility. As a benefit, IaaS bring cost savings to the organisations, as they don’t need to invest in hardware or worry about the hardware’s end-of-life. Although it is probably a little more time-consuming than building with PaaS, IaaS is powerful because it gives you ultimate control over the systems you are using. This allows you to configure most aspects of your infrastructure and an ability to fine-tune the environment to suit your needs. A few main examples of IaaS providers include: Amazon Web Services (AWS), Microsoft Azure, Google Compute Engine (GCE)

Co-location Vs. Cloud Computing

Additionally, it’s worth to mention the difference between cloud hosting and co-location as they are often thought as being the same concept. Therefore, simple put, co-location is referring to outsourcing data centre space that you own, but it’s not in the same location as you operate, so you still have to manage the space, equipment and maintenance, while with cloud hosting, you practically rent the hardware and the provider will be responsible with keeping it running.

I hope that helped to make the cloud computing concept more clear for you. If you got any feed back or would you like to see a blog post on a certain topic let us know by commenting below!

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Ric Harvey

Ric leads engineering and technical architecture for Ngineered. He has a vast amount of experience in cloud computing, having been responsible for the delivery of large-scale cloud migration projects at companies like Ticketmaster and Channel 4.

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