As an ever-increasing amount of technology becomes “cloud based”, more and more business owners are becoming confused about what the cloud actually is and how it affects the services that they use. Despite how it may sound the cloud is very much a physical thing, but how does it work and what does everything actually mean?
Cloud computing refers to a system in which several devices such as PCs, laptops, smartphones and tablets can share pooled resources via a network connection. These resources will usually be stored offsite, being accessed via a wireless connection. The use of the word cloud is a metaphor, as the services accessed by a user will not be physically visible, as if hidden behind a cloud.
Many different services can be offered via the cloud such as software, virtual hardware and data storage. Offering services this way reduces the need for physical machines on site, allowing global businesses with several offices to centralise systems, such as their databases, without having to make sure that everything is stored separately at each site.
There are many technological advantages to this too: computer power is maximised whilst limiting the amount of cooling systems and electrical power that a company’s system needs to operate. This saves businesses money in the long-term as well as being beneficial for the environment.
The source of confusion
As with any technology the cloud can be quite confusing and many of the systems used are complex and intricate. As such, cloud systems rely heavily on the knowledge of well-trained experts and technicians meaning some of the main services and systems offered by cloud hosting companies can seem intimidating, especially if you struggle with acronyms and other business jargon.
Below we’ve outlined many of the common cloud based services a business may use, so you can get to grips with the complex world of the cloud.
Software as a service is the name given to cloud based software that can be accessed by a user with an internet connection. Usually this will be accessed via a web browser.
Examples: Gmail, Adobe CS Live, Microsoft Office for Web.
Platform as a Service provides the necessary tools for developers to build and host applications and services in a virtual environment. Like, SaaS these tools will normally be accessed through a web browser, but the tools being used will be created by the provider.
Example: Google App Engine
Infrastructure as a Service is the name given to the infrastructure that actually enables the cloud service to exist. This encompasses everything from the hosting stack and servers to the management software.
The hosting stack refers to the relationship between IaaS, SaaS and PaaS. This relationship is illustrated below.
Colocation is when a company’s hosting resources are based in an external site that is shared by many other clients. This is a normal practice which allows for a great deal of flexibility and scalability. Overall costs are reduced and these resources will be externally managed by technicians and security experts. For instance, Amazon may use an external company for their cloud hosting, which may also be used by eBay, Rakuten, and more.
A form of cloud whereby the hardware, virtual machines and storage is deployed on dedicated hardware for one company only.
A form of cloud deployed on multi-tenant platforms, which are very large and often span multiple locations and countries. These are called “public” clouds because they are accessed over the Public internet and managed through web portals.
A hybrid cloud refers to two or more cloud systems that work with each other, such as a private cloud and a public cloud.
A piece of software that manages virtual machines: the technology that allows several servers to be pooled together and seen as one whole.
Example: VMWare and Microsoft Azure.
LAMP is an acronym of Linux, Apache, MySQL and PHP. These are the four services that together form a server.
A form of Software as a Service in which the application service offered is identical for each customer.
When Software as a Service is bespoke or tailored to a specific customer rather than a standard multi-tenant approach it is referred to as multi-instance.
Virtual Private Cloud
A cloud service that combines elements from both public cloud and private cloud services is referred to as a VPC – or Virtual Private Cloud. A VPC is delivered on a shared (multi-tenant) cloud but the virtual machines are dedicated to the specific customer in the same way as a multi-instance cloud. A VPC will often include firewalling and load-balancing, amongst many other services..