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The "Cloud" is a very widely used term in the IT world of today. Although most have heard it, many do not fully understand how it works. This article will give you the base knowledge about cloud computing technology and help you decide if (and which one) will you need to begin using.

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Jul, 19

What is Cloud Computing a.k.a. "The Cloud"?

Despite the name, the cloud has nothing to do with the white fluffy things you see floating in the sky. In the field of IT, the cloud describes a global network of servers, each with its own unique function. Unlike a server, it is not a physical thing but a vast network of servers spread all around the world. All these servers operate as a single ecosystem. The cloud has many uses such as storing and managing data, running applications or delivering content and services like video streaming and social media. These services can all be accessed online from any internet-capable device. Just about any IT resource can be stored on the cloud, be it a software program, a service, or even an entire infrastructure.

We can split cloud technology into two main parts, cloud storage, and cloud computing. Today we will discuss the latter.

Nowadays, cloud computing is quite a vague term, as it can mean different things. Nevertheless, there are three main categories that cloud computing services can be split into:

  • Software as a Service (SaaS) – software is licensed on a subscription basis and is centrally hosted.
  • Platform as a Service (PaaS) – delivers hardware and software tools (usually ones that are needed for application development) to users over the internet.
  • Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) – self-service models for accessing, monitoring and managing remote datacenter infrastructures.

Now let’s go into more detail about the aforementioned cloud computing services as well as some of their advantages and disadvantages.

Software as a Service (SaaS):

It is a software distribution model where providers host applications which are created specifically for SaaS use and make them available to users over the internet. Customers receive network-based access to a single copy of the software. The applications’ source code is universal for all users, thus when new updates are rolled out, everyone receives them simultaneously. Users’ data can be stored locally on their machines, on the cloud or both.

Cloud computing which uses the SaaS model is essential for most modern businesses, as there are applications which are fundamental to running them. These include email, sales management, financial management, human resource management, and billing. With all of these being available through the cloud, businesses no longer need to build their own infrastructure in order to install and run applications.

As the IT industry moves to SaaS, there are some important potential disadvantages to using it. Customers are reliant upon providers to deliver the software, keep it up and running, and implement security updates. In cases of service disruptions or security breaches, the software might become unavailable to use. Unwanted changes to the applications could also occur, leaving the customers stuck using the new version of the software or having to pick a different SaaS provider.

Platform as a Service (PaaS):

PaaS is a cloud computing model in which a provider delivers hardware and software tools to users over the internet. It is most common for these tools to be used for application development. The PaaS provider hosts the hardware and software on its own infrastructure.

Typically, a business does not use PaaS to replace its entire IT infrastructure but relies on PaaS for services such as application hosting or Java development. The provider creates an optimized environment where users can install software and data sets. This allows users to focus on app development without having to worry about building and managing the underlying infrastructure and services. Since most PaaS products are focused on software development, they often offer compute and storage infrastructure, text editing, as well as code compiling and testing services. It is also very comfortable for development teams to collaborate regardless of geographical location, as it is a cloud computing service.

Although PaaS is a very efficient service for application developers to use, it also has its downfalls. Since information is stored off-site, data security is something not to be taken lightly when choosing a cloud provider. The client must verify that the right measures and data practices are set in place in order to keep the information confidential.

 Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS):

IaaS provides virtualized computing resources over the internet. The cloud provider hosts the infrastructure components typically in an on-premises datacenter. They include servers, networking hardware and hypervisor layer. There are also services provided related to the aforementioned infrastructure components.

Despite its long history and modern-day widespread use, cloud computing is still in the early stages of adoption. Many businesses are still unsure of which apps to move to the cloud. Nevertheless, studies’ prognosis states that usage will likely grow exponentially as more and more organizations get comfortable with storing their date elsewhere than on on-site servers.